I am embarrassed to admit this, but I had absolutely no interest to see “Batman Begins”. I remember seeing the first image released the films website. All it was the image of the “new” Batmobile. Then the TV spots started coming out and it looked cheesy to me. As far as I was concerned Michael Keaton would always be Batman. Who the hell does Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale think they are? Batman would always remain in my heart as Michael Keaton. At this point in time I had grown tired of the mediocre (at best) comic book films hitting the theaters, “DareDevil”, “Hulk”, “Catwoman”, ect. Boy was I wrong! “Begins” changed comic book films forever. It made the industry make them with more sincerity. But what is really commanding about the film is its cast. Nolan took the semi-unknown Christian Bale and tossed him into a pool of sharks. Two-time Academy Award winner Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters” and also for “The Cider House Rules“), Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, and Academy Award nominees Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”), Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”) and the ultimate Heavy, Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”). Holy great European cast (minus two) Batman!
“Begins” brought sheer realism to the world of comic book films. The excellent story was sometimes outlandish at times, but what made it believable was the stellar cast. I truly believe that if you had the entire cast minus Neeson, the film wouldn’t have been as good. Neeson has almost typecast himself as a mentor or Heavy in recent films like “Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Breakfast on Pluto”, “Gangs of New York” and “Batman Begins” but he has been able to still break out in excellent lead roles such as “Kinsey” and “Taken”. Neeson’s role is vital to the film, since he as Henri Ducard seeks out and finds Bruce Wayne in a Chinese prison and teaches Wayne how to channel his anger and aggression and use it for good, for justice. In a sense, Ducard is responsible for the birth of Batman. Neeson’s vital part doesn’t end there, he’s also a major player in the thrilling climax that leaves you wanting to see more Henri Ducard.
Iron Man – 2008
Robert Downey, Jr.? Really? You’re getting that guy from “Swingers” to direct it? No not Vince Vaughn, the other guy. Wow…this should be interesting. I remember reading about this project and seeing that. Then Marvel signed Terrance Howard who was hot off his Oscar nomination for “Hustle & Flow“. I still wasn’t sold. Then they announced they signed Gwyneth Paltrow? Come on! She’s the least deserving Best Actress winner next to Halle Berry. Then Marvel announces four-time (soon to be five time for “Crazy Heart“) Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges. SOLD! I was so excited, even though Bridges was playing the cliché mentor/father figure who eventually becomes the villain.
The cast had only slightly interested me prior to Bridges joining since Downey was on a come back with a brilliant performance in “Zodiac” but think about what Marvel and Paramount must have thought. This was their first production with their new film studio. And they are putting the studio in the hands of John Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. Before you jump on my case about slightly bagging on RDJ, think about it in their perspective. RDJ was hot when he was younger, being nominated in “Chaplin” and being a box office draw until things took a turn for the worst when his addiction to drugs and alcohol took hold of him. He was out of the lime light, and in and out of jail and rehab for a couple of years. He became sober and his first real test was “Iron Man”.
I can almost imagine Favreau sitting in a darkly lit board room, a spot light on him, and all the men who are have egotistical and financial investments in the film sitting at a huge board table in darkness, smoking cigars and drinking Johnny Walker Blue Label, and Favreau is sitting there just sweating.
JF: Well…um…we have Terrance Howard.
Big Wig #1: Who?
JF: He…uh, was just nominated for “Hustle & Flow”.
Big Wig #2: What’s that?
Big Wig #1: For a Grammy? Is this guy a rapper?
Big Wig #3: Oscars don’t mean anything to my grand kids.
Big Wig #1: Look we can get Michael Bay and (insert up and coming popularish good-looking shitty actor’s name here).
Big Wig #2: Look Kid, what else ya got for us?
JF: (Nervously sweating and getting dry mouth from the heat of the spotlight on him)…Jeff Bridges…?
Big Wig #10: (coughs on his cigar, exclaims in excitement) The guy from “Tucker“?!
Big Wig #5: He was GREAT in “The Last Picture Show”!
Big Wig #35: Wasn’t he in some Eastwood flick…? What was it…um…
JF: “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot“.
All Big Wigs: Yes!
Big Wig #1: Alright kid! You get Bridges and you got yourself a three picture deal with all the actors you want. Here’s a blank check. You name it kid you got it!
JF: Well, I had a thought about the villan for the next installment.
Big Wig #2: You mean Bridges won’t be in it? Alright kid. Who?
JF: Mickey Rourke.
Big Wig #15: Don’t push it.
I’m sure it didn’t at all happen like that. But it’s fun to think it did. Bridges ties this film together nicely, but it is RDJ that does make the film. He is Tony Stark. He is the only actor that could play Tony Stark. He and Bridges play off of each other so nicely, it’s as if they are actually father and son. They have this great banter and a give and take with their performances. The idea of the Heavy, in this case Bridges, is to attract people like my Dad’s age. Older movie goers who comics don’t really appeal too. But the fact that Jeff Bridges is in it may steer them to the theaters, and more likely to the DVD rentals.