Sunday, 27 March 2011

Batman is always Beginning again (I never thought I'd dip back into this well, but then life happens and there you go.) Heath Ledger notwithstanding, I think it's fairly obvious that Batman Begins is the better of recent reboots. Nolan structures the first film not around an admittedly ingeniuous performance, but around a modified classical dynamic, by which I mean, he abides by his Aristotle. It opens with the most incentive of incentive moments—a boy watching his parents murdered before his eyes—then proceeds to a classic peripeteia*—that moment of reversal when the boy who witnessed his parents' murder decides to forsake revenge and fight all crime instead the responsible criminals. It need not bear mentioning, I don't think, that the deus ex machina, which Aristotle would otherwise despise, in this case fits within "the unity of action," because it has "an air of design" that's well-nigh indisputable. The real crux is the film's anagnorisis—or "revelation" in the I-murdered-my-father-made-kids-with-my-mother-sense—which occurs at a time Aristotle would've approved of, but not in the way he'd prefer. You'll remember that, early in Batman Begins, the recently returned Bruce Wayne takes his horny butler's advice and invites some models to go swimming in a restaurant with him: Nolan's use of a medium-long shot there is deceptive, as these aren't really women so much as beards: I'm not saying they're all legs and hair, the cropped medium shot notwithstanding—but for the purpose of the plot, Nolan certain reduces them to as much. (We're just going to skip over the scene of them skinny dipping, you know, for the kids.) The point is that these women are props, mere things Alfred suggests Bruce Wayne should acquire should he not want to be discovered as the Batman. So, then, anagnorisis avoided ... except: The love of Wayne's life can't even look at him—and not just because I caught bad capture. She's just watched him escort two soaking models from a hotel she's about to learn he bought, so she shouldn't want to look at him. But when she does, he makes a plea: Which you can tell, because he's wearing his best "plea" face, insisting that he "is more," whatever that means ("I'm the Batman") but also because previously Nolan kept him, however blurrily, in frame with Rachel Dawes when she spoke: But when he needs to say something? The camera centers on him and her dark hair turns into an inhuman column: In this shot-reverse-shot sequence, he's clearly the focus. Granted, he may be out of focus on the reverse shots, but he's still recognizably him, whereas when the camera flips, she becomes another dark image plastered on a theater wall. The irony of this portrayal is significant, though, as she's about to utter the most important words in the film: "It's not who you are underneath," she tells him, "but what you do, that defines you." Note that from the beginning of this exchange to the utterance of this line, Nolan's moved from a medium, to a medium close-up, to a...

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