April 10, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Batman Begins

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Batman Begins

Today's movie: Batman Begins, 2005 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I recently got a chance to watch again this movie's sequel, 2008's The Dark Knight (thanks again, Jude), which gave me an itch for seeing this one again too. Because it's the greatest superhero movie of all time, precisely because of Warner Brothers hiring one of the smartest directors currently in Hollywood (Memento's Christopher Nolan), then staying the hell out of his way as he busily generated them a billion freaking dollars. Because it would be my first time seeing it on a high-def television*, and I use my year-old HDTV all the time now like this, as a flimsy excuse to rent out silly eye-candy movies I've already seen a hundred times. Because it does highly inventive things with the real landscape of Chicago (where half of the movie was filmed, for those who don't know), making it always a freeze-frame hit with us Chicagoans.

The reality: I'm still astounded at just how surprisingly dark of territory Nolan was allowed to go into with this film, and how it ended up being so phenomenally successful anyway; in particular I'm still shocked at just how legitimately terrifying all those Scarecrow hallucination scenes are, with the one showing a monstrous literal "man-bat" able to give even me as a jaded 40-year-old the willies very badly. And that's what happens when you have smart executives at the helm, as it's become notoriously known now about both of these movies, people who understand that the real job of an arts administrator is to know how to hire the right people in the first place, then to simply stand back while they work their magic; it gives you these astounding results afterwards, shockingly great films that nonetheless become box-office juggernauts too. (Compare this, then, to an event that also happened this week, Joss Whedon's latest show Dollhouse being officially cancelled by FOX; and how it's becoming rapidly apparent that the problems all originated in the first place from over-meddling FOX executives sticking too many spoons into too small a pot.)

Christopher Nolan's Gotham City

Plus I have to admit, as one of those fictional-urban-landscape hobbyist losers, I could stare for hours merely at still shots of this movie's version of Gotham City, which cleverly takes real elements from New York, Chicago, London, Singapore and more to stitch together a fictional "megapolis" of 13 million, all of it in photorealistic CGI and just chock-full of real Chicago landmarks. Even if there were no Batman at all, it'd still be worth renting this out occasionally just for the sweeping landscapes.

If I had watched it when it first came out: I would've sh-t my pants. Oh, wait, I did sh-t my pants when this first came out.

Strangest piece of trivia: There was actually an even more disturbing "second-stage hallucination" version of Scarecrow's mask, but was judged so horrifying that it was cut from the final film. Also, the tank-like Batmobile on display is an actual working vehicle, and gets around seven miles to the gallon.

Worth your time? Oh, of course, especially as a double-feature with The Dark Knight. Too bad more superhero movies aren't like this; but good for Nolan and Warner Brothers, I suppose.

*Yes, you geeky little videophiles, I know, standard-definition DVDs don't output the full high-definition image capable on HDTVs, that you have to buy a Blu-ray player and rent a Blu-ray disc for that; but to the simple naked eyes of those who aren't geeky little videophiles, even the SD version looks 90-percent like the HD version when watched on a high-def television, without needing the special new player and the special discs that are twice as expensive. No wonder the Blu-ray format isn't catching on nearly as much as the industry had expected it to; they're pricing it like it's twice as good as standard definition, when in reality it's only about 10 to 20 percent better to most customers, if they even notice the difference at all. If nothing else, it's without an argument ten times better than watching a DVD on an old analog television, a big part of why I get so excited about re-renting old eye-candy movies these days.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:59 AM, April 10, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |