Chicago, Day 2: "Batman Begins" Clips Package Review

Holy #$^&. That was the general consensus.

The four minutes or so of BATMAN BEGINS clips that Warner Bros. screened today were enough to erase a long decade of painful Joel Schumacher memories. The standing ovation at the end of the presentation was proof that it was a crowd-pleaser, too.

(The overview of today's presentation can be found at Newsarama.)

The clips package hit all the necessary parts of the Batman mythos that you need to have in a movie to sell it. The batarang. The costume. (Bruce Wayne pulling on the gloves. Wayne painting the costume. Etc.) The grappling hook. The Batmobile.

And no Bat nipples.

As raw as the footage is at this point, it's extremely promising stuff. There's a cohesive vision seen across all the clips, even as they travel from Gotham City to the high mountains where a young Bruce Wayne trained. The look and feel of the movie doesn't imitate Tim Burton's dark and gothic look. It's more modern and more realistic. It is still, however, stylish and eye-catching. Credit some of that to the cinematographer.

The coolest parts of the clips for me were those with Bruce Wayne in training. Christian Bale pulls that off, looking cool and collected. I love a good sword fight, and including R'as Al Ghul in the movie guarantees at least one of those. There were a couple in the clips, but I think one was with sticks, not swords. Wayne sliding off a cliff in the midst of a fight also looked cool. Yes, of course someone grabs on before they fall and the other person starts swing, but it looked cool.

It's hard to say what the final movie will look like. The clips we saw today were not final edits by any stretch of the imagination. Sound effects were slapped on top of footage, an orchestral piece played behind all the clips (except for bits of dialogue), and very little in the way of continuity was present. This was just a look at the raw footage they've filmed so far.

I can tell you the most important thing about it so far, though: It's all practical. There wasn't a single CGI shot in the package. Obviously, since the film hasn't been edited together, it might be too early for that. But the movie's producer reiterated the point that it's "all real" after the package, and it all looks great. There's no clumsy fight scenes created through hack and slash editing and green screens. If Nolan can create a superhero movie that remains this grounded, he'll have a hit on his hands.

There was only one shot of Scarecrow, but he looked great. It's a spare brown mask over his face. There's not a lot of overly dramatic costuming present. There's no over-the-top campy elements to it. The puff of smoke shooting from his hand was practical and perhaps a bit cheesy looking, but with the right editing and color correction, that won't be a problem.

Even Katie Holmes fit right into this. I know that's the one part of the movie that everyone is most worried about. Heaven forbid a cast member from DAWSON'S CREEK show up somewhere else, right? Need I remind you that the lead doing such a great job on NYPD BLUE today is from SAVED BY THE BELL?

In any case, she's there to kiss Bruce Wayne in the clips. She falls victim to a nefarious ne'er do well. And she stares out at the camera. Her role was minimized in this package, but that's OK. Everyone wanted to see Batman in action, and we did.

The Batmobile received, perhaps, the biggest cheer and the largest punchline in the package, as Bruce Wayne test drives the funky six wheeled supercar. He's seen driving a khaki-colored version of it around in a warehouse setting. The clip cuts to him in the driver's seat asking Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), "Does it come in black?" Huge laughter from the crowd.

There's another nice moment at the very end of the package that struck a chord between the seriousness of Batman's role in Gotham and the dark comedy of his "Now you see me, now you don't" routine. The clips ended with Batman hanging upside down and wrapping his cape around a crook from behind.

It is obvious that Christopher Nolan learned something from working on INSOMNIA. You can see it in the official movie trailer, like where the camera dollies up and over the hill to reveal dramatic snow-capped terrain. You can see it in this clips package, where the camera is placed at all different angles to capture the action as strongly and uniquely as possible. It's amazing footage they've compiled so far, and we haven't yet seen the bulk of the movie or its sets.

Movie trailers and promo clips are funny things. There used to be a truism in the world of comics-to-film adaptations when I first got into comics. The more stupid the promo pictures looked, the better the film would be. Remember how dumb Michael Keaton first looked in the Bat suit? Or John Wesley-Shipp in the Flash costume? Both turned out to be milestone adaptations.

Today, you have to be aware of slick movie trailers. The art of the movie trailer has turned into such a big part of any movie company's marketing compaign that they've learned many tricks to hiding the flaws of a movie with the quick cuts and dramatic music of a movie trailer. (Nothing could save CATWOMAN, mind you, but there's an exception to every rule.)

The BATMAN BEGINS teaser didn't show you much of substance as far as the story and acting goes, but it sure did look cool. The clips package I saw today with 400 of my closest friends backed up that teaser, showing us four minutes of new stuff and strengthening the image of the movie. There's nothing in that package to suggest that this movie is in any trouble. There's nothing there to make us worry that we have another DAREDEVIL or ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR or CATWOMAN on our hands here. Quite the opposite. Today, I saw grown men reduced to piles of mush.

After seeing this package, I'm ready for BATMAN BEGINS. On a day when Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon held solo presentations, I couldn't be happier than with the choice I made to give DC a chance.

It's going to be a very long wait for this movie next summer.

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