Batman Begins

Bomb Rating: 

Here's something that many film producers don't get: A talent for directing drama doesn't necessarily indicate a talent for directing action. Take "Pearl Harbor" director Michael Bay, for instance. He's built a career out of huge action movies coupled with some of the worst drama known to mankind.

Christopher ("Memento") Nolan cannot direct an action sequence to save his life. In fact, he and his editor appear to have so little idea about how to shoot the action sequences in "Batman Begins" that it's hard to imagine that two of any other type of primate could have produced worse. The action sequences are uniquely incompetent. They are the cinematic equivalent of watching NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon plow into his pit crew for no apparent reason.

Like a dark version of Dr. Phil, Christopher Nolan tries to take us into the heart and mind of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and explore Batman's inner demons. Thus, we're treated to Wayne's search for his soul in a Bhutanese prison and his eventual tutoring at the hands of everybody's favorite mentor, Liam Neeson. Here he plays Henri Ducard, assistant to ninja leader Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Watching Neeson provide life lessons to yet another student has all the charms of watching Richard Simmons beg another fat person to stop eating.

After learning all he needs about being tough and seeking justice, Wayne returns to a deteriorating Gotham, where assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) and detective James Gordon (Gary Oldman) fight the good fight, while Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) and Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) work to tear Gotham apart. With the help of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and the good butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Wayne adopts his alter ego.

Several critical action scenes dot the dramatic palette of Wayne's search for his soul: a fight at Al Ghul's compound, Batman's first ride in the Hummer-meets-Ninja batmobile, and the inevitable final showdown. Not once-in any of these scenes-is the audience allowed to see one damn thing, and I mean NOTHING. Was the cameraman being chased by a bear? That's how chaotic the action scenes are.

I've made this point before, but I'll keep making it as long as I have to: The first rule of any action scene should be that the audience gets to see the action. Why isn't this obvious? Could anyone imagine watching a football game in which the camera was zooming in and out so fast that the action was merely an afterthought? Sure, there's such a thing as style, but Nolan has raised his action "style" to a level of ridiculousness that negates every accomplishment in the film.

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