The Dark Knight Returns

Growing up Batman was my superhero of choice. There were several things I found more appealing about The Dark Knight than other superheroes. First was the fact that he had no superpowers. Sure he had a lot of fancy gadgets but there was no super strength or powers that could save him. Eventually it all came down to his training, skills, and (yes) gadgets to help him out of a situation.

Second was that Batman worked alone. (Yes, I know about Robin but I refused to buy any comics book with Robin in it. It was the lone Batman tales I purchased.) As somewhat of a loner growing up, I like reading stories about him saving Gotham or taking down the Joker on his own.

Finally the was the fact that Bruce Wayne chose to be Batman. Most superheroes (or supervillans for that matter) never choose to be who they are. Most of their powers or unique abilities are a result of fate: radiation, a genetic mishap, or an accident. But not Bruce Wayne. He wanted to be The Dark Knight. He made the choice to put on the mask and go out every night.

So it goes without saying when my dad volunteered to watch Aidan for an evening so Marathon Girl and I go out and have some alone time, we went and watched Batman Begins.

I had heard good things about Batman Begins but was a little hesitant about it since the last two movies (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) were absolutely horrible.

But Batman Begins is different that the first four Batman movies -- it's better. Way better. In fact I'm confident in saying this is by far the best Batman movie ever made. And if Warner Brothers is looking to make more, I hope they follow the winning template they have with the latest movie.

Christian Bale makes a great Bruce Wane and Batman -- a critical ingredient that the first four moves never had. (Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Val Kimler were great with the mask on but couldn't pull off a decent Bruce Wayne.) And the directors have dropped the corny comic book aspects of the first four films.

The movie also goes where the comic books have only lightly treaded -- the reason why Bruce Wayne decided to become Batman and why he chose to dress as a bat. By delving into the reasons behind his actions, we start to understand the mind of Bruce Wayne better and he becomes a more real and believable character instead of just some rich guy in a Bat costume -- something the first four movies didn't address very well.

The movie is dark and intriguing -- as is Batman himself. Gotham is now a real city instead not the crappy prop city that Tim Burton gave us in the first two Batman movies. The acting is solid. The special effects, epically some creepy Scarecrow effects, are great. The acting is rock solid. It seems like the guys have made this watched the Spiderman movies and took their cue on how to make a comic book character come to life in a believable way.

Now the bad. I wish they would have done a little bit more with The Scarecrow. One of my favorite and most disturbing bad guys in the comic books, I felt Scarecrow was given just light treatment. His true psychotic nature was never shown. And the scenes where Batman is taking out a room full of bad guys was edited with MTV-style close-ups so you couldn't see what was really going on. Come on guys. Quit being cheap. Show us the action.

But those were only minor blips on the screen. Batman Begins was thoroughly enjoyable for both Marathon Girl and I and well worth a rare night out together.

Batman Begins 4 stars (out of 4).