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The Origins of Batman

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And another big name is back. Batman is once again taking on the villains of Gotham City after an eight-year hiatus from movie screens. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says the new movie is worth the wait.

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

"Batman" has finally come home. Not just to a story that painstakingly details his origins, but to an ominous cinematic style that suits the tale.

(Soundbite from "Batman Begins")

Mr. MICHAEL CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely.

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) Which is?

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) A legend, Mr. Wayne.

TURAN: "Batman Begins" disdains the mindless camp and pointless weirdness of its predecessors and positions its hero at the dark end of the street. This is a film noire "Batman," a brooding, disturbing piece of work.

(Soundbite of "Batman Begins")

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) You're getting lost inside this monster of yours.

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) I'm using this monster to help other people just like my father did.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) But Thomas Wayne helping others wasn't about proving anything to anyone, including himself.

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) It's Rachel, Alfred.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) Well we both care for Rachel, sir, but what you're doing has to be beyond that. It can't be personal or you're just a vigilante.

TURAN: Director Christopher Nolan's intention with "Batman Begins" is to create a myth grounded in plain reality. He wants his comic book adaptation to be as much as possible a human drama set in a believable world. This is a film that underlines the notion that Batman is that unlikely comic book hero who does it without superpowers. He's someone the director has said who really is just a guy that does a lot of push-ups, a heck of a lot of push-ups. Christopher Nolan has built a reputation for skillfully made films, including "Memento" and "Insomnia." This "Batman" is a carefully thought-out and well-made movie. It's driven by story, psychology and reality, not special effects. And Christian Bale's performance is an excellent fit for Nolan's conception of the dark night. Always a humorless, almost sullen actor, Bale uses those qualities to create a painfully earnest character driven to a life of crime fighting almost against his will.

(Soundbite of "Batman Begins")

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man from flesh and blood I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol--as a symbol, I can incorruptible. I can be everlasting.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) What symbol?

Mr. BALE: Something elemental, something terrifying.

TURAN: The most encouraging thing about "Batman Begins" is the way director and co-writer Nolan has managed to make a $180 million epic seem like a personal film. Bringing that kind of sensibility to blockbuster material may sound next to impossible, but "Batman Begins" shows it can be done if you're willing to do the push-ups.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is a movie critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.