Sunday, August 26, 2007

(DC comics)
Batman Begins When: June 2005
Why: Christopher Nolan & David Goyer How: Christian Bale & Liam Neeson

The story so far...
Having witnessed the murder of his parents by a desperate armed robber in a theatre back alley, Bruce Wayne grows into a man of great guilt and anger.

Channeling his rage, he uses his inhereted fortune to traverse the globe, escaping his celebrity status as a Wayne to face the criminal element on it's own terms, and take it on one man at a time.

During his time abroad Bruce Wayne is confronted by a man named Henri Ducard, who promises to foster his power and hone his efficiency to become a true force of justice. Representing Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Shadows, Ducard eventually reveals a plot to use Wayne as a pawn in the destruction of Gotham; something Bruce Wayne, now Batman, will do anything to stop.

Previous Form:
Batman (#2): Has been an indomitable force for DC, featuring the highest win percentage of characters featured in more than twenty reviews.
Ra's Al Ghul: Making his first appearance in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Ra's Al Ghul 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

Sunday night, two warriors step onto the field.
One of them; the Dark Knight Detective and protector of Gotham -- Batman. Consumate strategist, obvsessive profiler, grim and unrelenting fighter.

The other; the head of the demon and master of the league of assassins -- Ra's Al Ghul. A man who has endured the test of time through the revitalising properties of the mysterious chemical Lazarus Pits littered across the globe.

For Batman, his life is a direct response to crime. His view of the world is simple, black and white, and though he would intervene by methods denied to law enforcement officers, he is essentially reactionary.

Ra's Al Ghul's mission is to save the world from itself through an obscure, controlled, slant on Darwinism. His view is hypothetical, and intends to stem the damage caused by man, and avoid cataclysm.

Each is as obsessive and well trained as the other, but there is a distinct clash of codes between these two men. For Batman, the line is drawn where lethal force is concerned, and he would never willingly sacrifice one man to save another. For Ra's, no cost is too great in the name of the greater good, and his training is in the deadliest of arts. He is conditioned to capitalise on Batman's restraints, no matter the respect he may have for him.

Seperating these two is difficult. Batman, in my opinion, has a physical edge, but Ra's Al Ghul's willingness to do what is necessary gives him the same edge many of Batman's lesser foes have. It's a killer instinct like this that keeps Joker a yard infront every time he goes on a killing spree, leaving Batman to chase him as a response.

The Math: Batman (Meta Class)
The Pick: A draw

What went down...
Having already confront Ra's Al Ghul; who intends to spread a fear inducing toxin by vaporizing Gotham's underground water supply; Batman defeats several members of the League of Shadows, and escapes peril at the hands of escapees of Arkham Asylum. With the use of a pneumatic propelled grappling hook, he finds himself dangling by a line beneath the monorail carrying Ghul and the microwave emitter vital to his plan.

Enduring obstacles beneath the rail, Batman manages to swing himself into an arc ending with a window of the train. Below, the tumbler Batmobile follows along, driven by Lieutenant James Gordon, who has orders to blow a section of the rail to prevent it reaching the hub of Gotham's water supply.

Inside the train, Batman confronts his mentor, Ra's Al Ghul.
Disappointed in his pupil's defiance, Ra's launches an attack, armed with an extendable asp baton. Recalling his training, Batman uses the spiked prongs of his gauntlets to defend the blows, and tie the weapon up. Ghul challenges his student to show him something new, prompting Batman to slide the asp with the ultra durable spikes fashioned into his costume.

The Batman follows with a stiff kick, and heads for the conductor's controls on the rail. Stunned but by no means defeated, Ghul pursues the caped crusader into the cockpit, attacking from behind with little regard for chivalry.

With the broken off asp, Ghul stabs wildly, staking the sharpened edge into the train console. The controls sparking, Batman turns back to his opponent.

Taking advantage of the confined space, Batman reaches up to the train handrails and kicks Ghul with both feet, pushing him back into the train car.

Falling back into the microwave emitter, Ra's falls thoroughly on the backfoot.
Batman uses his momentum against him, launching his own body to send Ghul toppling backward over the bulky machine.

Despite the offensive, Batman's brutal gambit backfires, giving Ra's the opportunity to recover first and throw a solid punch to the gut from the rising position. Using Batman's own response, Ghul spins him around, sending him to a shattering blow head-first into one of the speeding rail's windows.

The advanced design of Batman's cowl protects him from mortal injury, allowing him to absorb a bone breaking elbow to the arm, before launching into his own brutal attack. A combination of short, stiff punches to the face, and a whip toss that pushes Ra's Al Ghul off balance the assault of choice.

Again Ghul uses his defensive predicament to launch an attack, moving from the crouching position to strategically attack points in the leg and mid-section. Brutish, clubbing fists pound the Batman's legs, attempting to spasm the the musculature into undermining his stance.

LIAM NEESON: Can make you hurt with seven shades of jailhouse rock, uuh-huh.Ghul rises to stand at the ready, having toppled Batman with a rising knee to the face; blissfully unaware that on the streets, Gordon was arriving in the position of no-return. The user-friendly weapons system provides Gordon with an all too simple method of blowing out the rails.

Ra's engages Batman, taking an elbow in the name of maintaining focus on an offensive that sees him opening Batman up with a barrage of short, aggresive elbows and fists. Batman lets loose a few sloppy wide shots, giving his teacher the opening to unleash several knees and kicks that again send him to the floor. Ghul pursues it this time, taking a mount position.

He wraps his hands around his former pupil's throat, strangling him whilst taunting his inability to overcome his limitations. Batman turns the tables on his boasts, revealing a plan that did not involve stopping the train; while below, Gordon succeeds on his third try to eliminate the supporting structure of the targetted portion of rail.

Distracted by the explosions ahead, Ghul is susceptible to an offensive switch. Batman rolls him over, turning the mount around in a fashion mirroring the conceptual battle waged by the two strategists.

CHRISTIAN BALE: Sturdy looking teeth.Batman reveals a taunt of his own, repeating the belittling teachings of his former master to, "... mind your surroundings."

Ra's Al Ghul challenges Batman's intent, questioning whether or not he had finally learned to do what was necessary to achieve his goals. Batman denies his philosophical opposition such satisfaction, slanting his actions on the stance of leaving Al Ghul to his destiny, rather than ending his life wilfully.

Batman shatters the windows and tosses explosive batarangs that seperate the car from the rest of the train, providing him an exit. Using the malleable memory cloth of his cape, he exits in grandiose fashion, fully living up to his branding.

With a zen-like acceptance of his impending doom, Ra's Al Ghul faces the front of the train and closes his eyes, the wind blowing against him.
With nowhere to run, Ghul sits as the front cars careen over the portion of the broken rail, plummeting into an underground parking lot. The overloading microwave emitter explodes, presumably obliterating any life within, and the threat to Gotham City.

Batman glides to the street below where Gordon is waiting by the tumbler, responsible for saving Gotham from a scheme that would have decimated Wayne Tower, and exploded the main hub of the underground water maines.

The hammer...
The winner with an implied death -- Batman!

Y'know, I don't know what I'm going to do when The Dark Knight comes around next year, but since I'm following my whims, I've had to add this one to the to-do list recently. Actually, it was after browsing some 'leaked' photography from the set of the sequel that really got me in the mood. That's some great looking sequel!

So, regular readers will no doubt notice that this is a site of subtle nuances. Well, okay, we feature lengthy, clumsily repetitive summaries of comic book superhero fights, but I like to think there's a little something more here.
It's a thought that helps me sleep at night, so humor me, if you will.

Out of some of the subtleties we can learn some interesting things.
We've learnt that if comics were anything to go by, most superheroes are south-paws, with many pencillers favouring left punches over the more traditional right.
We've also learnt, if you're paying attention, that more often than not the villain is the aggressor (usually reflected by being the first name listed). Making Batman not the only hero to attack his foes head-on, but certainly one of the most prominent. You could look, most recently, to a Wolverine for another example of a hero confronting, or even initiating conflict. [Wolverine #50]

So, statistical interests aside, there's also the interesting matter of Ra's Al Ghul's apparent demise. Comic book readers are no doubt well aware of his close association with the Lazarus Pits, which allow the mortally wounded to heal their wounds by bathing in it's mysterious fluid. They are even known to revive the dead, although such a decision comes at the cost of the subject's sanity.

Still, given Ra's Al Ghul's steady calm when facing certain death, you have to wonder if it might not be a little nod to a potential return for the character in future Bat-films. I guess that fact remains one of the most persistent interests of this new, creatively triumphant series of Batman theatrical releases.

In a world where film series rarely out-do the likes of the twenty-eight Godzilla features, or twenty-one 007 James Bond movies, one has to wonder how the enduring serialzed adventures of comic book heroes will adapt into series of major motion pictures.

Certainly Batman rates among the most enticing characters for such a series, representing a franchise essentially anchored by one major character, with a wide variety of successfully proven working parts that can be plugged in and out of the formula. Batman's rogues gallery of villains is widely regarded as one of the best, rivalling groups boasted by Spider-man and the X-Men.

Still, at such an early junction of reinvention, much of Batman's cinematic future likely hinges on the consistency of the material. Struggling to breakaway from the less than satisfying downturn of the previous films, The Dark Knight has already exhibited the first casualty of filmstars, removing Katie Holmes' Rachel Dawes, for the switch of Maggie Gyllenhaal.

One would have to imagine a change to any more crucial a principle, particularly one stemming from the comics, or previously represented in film, would be a severe blow to the franchise's future. A frailty that suggests it might require the commitment of the stars to a fourth feature, to really believe in the on-going pursuit of these films in the current timeframe.

Regardless, I for one am positively silly over the coming sequel in 2008.
Sure, it has it's potential disappointments. It seems like the film has spun down a spiral reminiscent of the previous franchise, suffering toy selling inclusions of "Batpod" motorcycles and unrefined costume changes. There's also the matter of my beef-headed countryman, Heath Ledger, taking up the mantle of the usually svelte clown prince of crime, the Joker.

Batman Begins was by no means one hundred percent, undeniably perfect, but what it was was a triumph for the Batman branding, and superhero films in general. It was a pure and well envisioned take on the character, that clearly drew on many of the most prominent sources, while still injecting a unique streamlined and vaguely commercial interpretation of the material.

In the same way the Tim Burton feature of 1989 helped define the benchmark of superhero films, Batman Begins returns the character to the pinnacle of major motion picture success, both financially, and more importantly, critically.

At first there were many details I was unsure about, but ultimatley Begins has endured the test of time. I rank it among the most watchable of the recent flock of superhero adaptations, stoically detailed, yet diverse in it's economy of characters, themes and locations. Truly a well rounded origin film and story.

One of these days I'll get around to returning to the movie, to summarize another of the fights, and maybe talk a bit more about the content of the film. In all likelihood, a retrospect may come sometime around the DVD release of The Dark Knight, where we can talk a bit more about the film in it's new context.

Until then, let's enjoy what is always a special occasion, a movie entry!
A DC movie entry, no less, something we've been neglecting not only in film reviews, but in reviews in general. Maybe now I can face the DC Nation!

The Fight: 5.5 The Film: 7
[The Keysi style makes for a grounded battle that provides an anchor to the exciting conclusion, but isn't quite worthy of supreme accolade. Even so, Batman Begins is a must-see for action fans, setting an impressive, mature benchmark for future films with similar characters. Believeable fantasy, sublime.]

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