Batman Begins

As a lifelong Batman fan it's pretty much a given that you're setting yourself up for disappointment by getting excited about the prospect of a new film actually being any good. when the first michael keaton one finally came out (after being announced, oh, about 10 years before it did) i was kind of into it, but the more i went back to it, the more holes appeared and the more i thought "hang on, this just isn't the so-called dark vision that we'd been promised." basically it ended up being the first point at which i started to get annoyed with tim burton's sub-goth meanderings. anyhow. that's another point. quite liked the second one, thought val kilmer and george clooney totally sucked (obviously)...

so with that in mind, i was still kind of holding out for this one to be good - aranofsky sounded like a promising director, but actually i was happier with the idea of christopher nolan - loved memento, really enjoyed insomnia, and thought he was probably someone who would get it right. wasn't too sure about christian bale, but was happy to reserve judgement as he hasn't made too many real duffers.

in a bat-shell: it's as good as it looks in the trailers.

it sets up the bruce wayne mythology elegantly, without resorting to mindlessly mucking around with the established storyline too much: joe chill kills martha and thomas wayne (rather than the joker), young bruce is brought up by alfred (michael caine, remembering he can act).

his wilderness years are handled nicely - throwing himself into the criminal underworld to try and understand where they're coming from, then winding up training with the ninja-like league of shadows lead by the mysterious ra's al ghul. (ok, they're called the league of assassins in the comics, but never mind.)

don't want to get too much into the plot beyond that, as it unfolds in a really satisfactory way that seems to have avoided coming out in spoilers so far, so here's a brief list of other stuff that worked:

the batmobile. an urban tank that rocks.

the batcave. suitably low-tech - it actually is a cave, complete with lots of bats, water pouring down, mud, etc.

christian bale: seems like the right age to be suitably traumatised into thinking dressing up like a bat to fight crime might actually be a good idea. is a way more convincing bruce wayne than any of the other screen versions. also it feels like he's growing into batman, putting on a lower, more growly voice when he's got the costume on etc.

gary oldman. really looks like the jim aparo/ dick giordano version of jim gordon, and here he's a street cop too, so hopefully they'll work up the relationship between him and batman in the sequels (chimp75's got an inside source who says they're all signed up for 2 more...)

the scarecrow. a much less-obvious villain for batman's debut - not so well known, and also fits in with the overall "fight your fears" theme.

the city. actually looks like a living city, rather than some blue screen exercise/studio set. sort of a cross between new york and hk.

wayne enterprises. nicely handled boardroom b-plot.

the effects. very little overt CGI - none of that spiderman stuff where he looks like a computer game everytime he jumps around the city.

katie holmes. always a bonus.