New life for an old hero
An all-star cast re-invents the story of the Caped Crusader
in Batman Begins
By Chris Betros
|Batman Begins director
Christopher Nolan (left) stands with cast members Christian
Bale, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe and Katie
Holmes in Tokyo
courtesy of Warner Bros
You cant keep a good comic book hero
downespecially at the box office. Spider-Man and X-Men
have been big hits, Superman returns next year and now we
see the origins of the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins, directed
by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Liam Neeson,
Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe,
Linus Roache, Tom Wilkinson and Katie Holmes.
Batmanor rather The Batman, we should sayfirst
appeared in Detective Comics as Birdman in 1939, the creation
of Bob Kane and Bill Finger. A camp TV series in the 1960s
and four movies in the late 1980s and 90s have kept
Batman firmly entrenched in pop culture, even for those who
dont read the comics. Nolan, best known for Memento
and Insomnia, acknowledged the task of re-inventing Batman,
especially after Tim Burtons first two films. What
Tim did was very visionary, but it was an idiosyncratic version
and not the story of the comic books that I saw, he
said. If I hadnt seen the character in a different
light, I wouldnt have taken on this project.
Similarly, Bale, the 31-year-old star best known for American
Psycho, felt that his predecessorsMichael Keaton, Val
Kilmer and George Clooneyhad not made Batman as interesting
as the comic book character. The graphic novels of the
Dark Knight were my reference, he said. The image
of Batman was far more threatening. His motivations are questionable.
For me, this is a genesis story. I just pushed the other films
out of my mind.
Batman Begins explores how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, a grim
character driven by vengeance after witnessing the murder
of his parents. As a disillusioned young man, Wayne travels
to Asia seeking the means to fight injustice. In the Himalayas,
he meets the League of Shadows, a ninja cult whose leaders
(Watanabe and Neeson) instruct him in all he needs to know
to fight injustice and conquer his fear.
Most of the castexcept Watanabe, naturallysaid
Batman left an impression on them in their youth. Growing
up in Ireland, Batman was a little bit scary to me,
said Neeson. I didnt really see him as a hero
because he didnt have superpowers like Superman.
Nolan thinks Batman is popular precisely because he doesnt
have superpowers. He is human and driven by complex,
negative impulses, but he manages to channel that rage and
anger into something positive. Anyway, I liked all those heroes
when I was growing up: Batmaneven the TV oneSuperman
and James Bond.
For Freeman, who is having a busy summer with Million Dollar
Baby and Danny the Dog, Batmans biggest appeal is that
he is a disciplined crime fighter who survives by training
all the time. Another appeal is the big paycheck he got. Ive
never been asked to be in a blockbuster like Spider-Man, Superman
or Star Wars, he said. I remember Alec Guinness
telling me once that he got paid more money for being in Star
Wars than he did for all the other movies he did combined.
So I thought, its my turn.
Design blog guru says Tokyo is the only place to be
Webmaster of two of Tokyos hottest
design sites and contributor to many others, 31-year-old Canadian
Jean Snow has an eye for style and a passion to share.
What brought you to Tokyo?
I was in China studying the language where I met my wife,
who is Japanese. She needed to come back to Tokyo to finish
her degree, and weve been here ever since.
What keeps you here?
I am absolutely in love with this city. A quick scan of my
websites will show you why.
Tell us about the sites?
My personal site (http://jeansnow.net)
is a blog Ive been running for more than three years.
Its a guide to design and pop culture in Tokyo. Im
also editor of MoCo Tokyo (http://mocoloco.com/tokyo),
a directory of contemporary design, and I contribute to Gizmodo,
Superfuture and Tokyo Q.
What pays the bills?
Teaching English to children, freelance writing, and (believe
it or not) Google ads.
What are your Tokyo design recommendations?
I am a slave to Mujis flagship in Yurakucho, and down
the street in Ginza check out Ginza Graphic Gallery, Creation
Gallery G8, and Matsuyas Design Gallery. My favorite
area is Aoyama for the cafés, exhibitions and shops.
Office in Gaienmae is a favorite drinking stop.
Where do you live?
Ikebukuro. If not hip, its incredibly convenientthe
two biggest department stores in the world, several Bic Cameras,
the nine-floor Junkudo bookstore, cheap restaurants aplenty,
and some of the tastiest ramen in Japan.
What is your favorite possession?
I have two: my iMac and my iBook. My whole world revolves
around them. What are you reading this week? Time, Metropolis,
Wallpaper, +81, ART iT, Pen, Casa Brutus. Reading is an unhealthy
obsession of mine.
Live Pixies recordings and some Fantastic Plastic Machine.
A lot of anime, The Daily Show, and my favorite weekly comedy
shows like Mecha Mecha Iketeru. Yesterday I watched a terrific
film, The Taste of Tea (Cha no Aji), featuring my favorite
actor, Tadanobu Asano.
Wheres your favorite place in the world and why?
That would be Tokyoits such a rich and exciting
city to live in with a curatorial spirit that cant be
Whats the strangest thing you ever saw here?
While I was looking for a bar in Shibuya, I turned into a
dirty, narrow backstreet to be confronted by two sailor-uniform
wearing girls in their 20s playing badminton. AV
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