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More real than other supermen



WITH DARK SHADES: Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Genre: Action/ adventure
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary
Oldman, Ken Watanabe
Director: Christopher Nolan
Storyline: Batman saves Gotham city.
Bottomline: This knight has chinks in his armour.

Watching Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins makes you wonder why there's never been a real-life Batman. Because Batman is more real than the other superheroes. For starters, he's from the same planet as us and his powers do not originate from a spider bite.

The truth is the winged, dark avenger of Gotham City has no special powers that would have the early Christians baying to have him burnt at the stake. He has money and guts and there are several people of that ilk — take the millionaires who have taken to ballooning across the globe for thrills.

It wouldn't take much for some eccentric, rich, do-gooder to get the black outfit, the flattering hose pants, the gadgets and the zippy batmobile. A fun way to spend a couple of millions and play protector. Though there is the need for a good enough motive.

It's this motive that separates Christian Bale's Batman from the one that used to go ``zap" and ``pow" across our TV screens in the Nineties with the masked boy wonder Robin in tow. There are dark shades to his character, something that has never been captured so effectively in the last six movies. He's haunted by his fears — his parents' deaths before his eyes, his thirst for revenge that he confuses with justice and his all-pervading fear of bats. And although the director meant to make Batman the real identity and Bruce Wayne the mask, ``Batman Begins" is effective solely because Wayne is so clearly defined. And Bale makes the perfect Wayne; aristocratic and disconnected from the poverty that caused the actual decay of his Gotham City, something he wants to understand.

As Batman, the screentime doesn't really give him a chance to be effective. There are fine performances from Liam Neeson, Batman's mentor, and Michael Caine as the Wayne's faithful butler.

Caine's character, Alfred, injects a few good laughs into the movie. And although he is the only character who knows Bruce Wayne's secret, he doesn't cross the line from faithful employee to father figure. This is important because it is the pain of losing his father that helps morph Bruce into Batman.

The actual crisis in the film isn't very impressive. That takes up the second half of the movie, so be prepared for a decline in the plot quality.

And about Tom Cruise's girlfriend Katie Holmes, let's just say she really needed all that off-screen hype. At least now you'll remember her name.

SUSAN MUTHALALY

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