Sunday, July 3, 2005

Batman Begins / Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Of the Tim Burton Batman flicks, my favorite is "Batman Returns", mainly for Michelle Pfeiffer's inspired turn as Catwoman. And I liked the onscreen chemistry between her and Michael Keaton. Tim Burton's vision of Batman is naturally independent from the source comics material -- I'm sure between you and me we've watched enough Tim Burton to identify his surreal style (check out "Edward Scissorhands", "Nightmare Before Christmas", etc.) -- so it's useless to argue with purists about how closely he adheres to the Batman mythos. There is simply too much heated discussion going on about Batman's rubber nipples for people to just plain enjoy what's on the screen. I guess the problem is really about people's expectations.

With Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" what we are really seeing is the genesis of the DC comic universe's Batman. This is NOT a prequel of the Burton franchise. This is more Dark Knight than Superfriends Batman. Once we're beyond that piece of information, we can go ahead and enjoy the rest of the movie. And here we've got a definitive Batman movie, with a strong storyline showing the moral growth of a conflicted hero. The film is character-driven, very well-edited, with a good ensemble cast. And it has lots of action WITHOUT depending too much on CGI (see "Revenge of the Sith", which suffered from a surfeit of it), and good hand-to-hand battle WITHOUT depending on Matrix-style wire-fu.

I believe Christian Bale ("Equilibrium", "American Psycho") was perfectly cast; he's hot and hunky and is a very good actor who doesn't let his stardom overshadow his acting (I mean, George Clooney was more Clooneyman than Batman). I liked Michael Caine as Alfred, although I laughed when a friend told me he couldn't stop thinking of Michael Caine as Austin Power's dad. Morgan Freeman didn't even need to act here, he was plain enjoying his Q-like role, what with the armor, Batmobile, weapons and all. The Batmobile was magnificent! I don't blame Detective Gordon (Gary Oldman) for admiring it. For once we have Gary Oldman playing a good guy. Katie Holmes looks too young to be an assistant DA though, but gave an otherwise ok performance. [If you wanted to discuss nipple distraction in Batman movies, then look closely at all of Katie's sweaters. I find it strange that in such cold weather, an assistant DA would wear thin sweaters over an unlined bra.] Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe were interesting villains, but Cillian Murphy is the delicious surprise here: for a villain, he is simultaneously so COOL and creepy. Dig the iconic shades! I tried to think of the last movie I saw him in, and realized he was in that virus horror movie "Twenty-Eight Days".

I would definitely buy "Batman Begins" on DVD. Worth watching over and over.

As for the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", I would say a Pinoy wouldn't understand it much without having read the book/series beforehand. The humor is very British; as I understand from the credits, Douglas Adams was still alive when the screenplay was written. Alas, the humor doesn't translate to the big screen very much. It is also not a kid's movie, as the story's deliberate absurdity goes over their heads. For instance, the best part of the movie (for me) was where Zooey Deschanel (Trillian) says something like, " Go ahead, aim the point-of-view gun at me. It won't work; I'm already a woman." That is still way too deep for kids. Still, the star-studded ensemble (John Malkovich, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, etc.) tried their best.

Too bad. I love British humor in films, it just depends on who's writing it. My favorites are the Monty Python films (particularly "Holy Grail" "Life of Brian" and "Erik the Viking"). Still, there's also a lot of really good British humor in the contemporary "The Full Monty", "Four Weddings and a Funeral", "Notting Hill" and "About A Boy."

The "Hitchhiker's Guide" was interesting but doesn't really cut it for me.