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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Batman Begins (2005)

I.... was not thrilled when I saw this one come up. But I own it. I remember loving it. I... can't remember why.


A big, big part of it is who I am now. I'm an anti-capitalist progressive who wants to defund the police and this movie is kind of the antithesis of all that. Batman has been my favorite superhero for as long as I can remember. My reasoning was always that "he made himself a superhero out of sheer force of will - no gamma rays, no super serum". And while that's true... he has infinite money and nothing but free time. All the "sheer force of will" for someone like me isn't going to get me even halfway to Batman. He buys 20,000 face masks just to cover his own tracks. Oh, and he has the top notch tech of his billion dollar company at his disposal. If he really wanted to help Gotham he could... invest in the schools? Subsidize housing? Prison reform? No? Okay. Better buy a chain of hotels just to paint a better picture of your glamorous life.


In college, I found myself very fond of James Worthington Gordon. (That's how fond - I know his middle name.) He was a Good Cop. All of Batman's good intentions, none of the money, maybe even bigger heart. So he cheated on his wife and wrecked his daughter's life with his selfishness (depending on the place in the canon you find yourself in). He was a Good Man. And he felt Really Bad about all that. Now... Defund the police is all I have to say. It's not enough for me that Gordon keeps his nose clean while he watches every cop around him work dirty. I get it. It's tough to effect change individually but if we're going to watch a superhero movie, I want to see the "impossible" happen. Police reform, baby. Readily available mental health and social programs for all!


There's also the treatment of women in this movie. Martha Wayne has three lines? Rachel Dawes doesn't get nearly as much focus from the camera as her nipples do. The Bechdal test isn't even administered, let alone passed.


AND the cultural appropriation. What in the fresh Highlander hell is this take on Ra's Al Ghul?? An Irishman playing a (canonically) Chinese man who wanders into Egypt, takes on its culture and then bases his aesthetic entirely on feudal Japan. In Bhutan. Cool. Cool cool cool. There's also the tragedy of using Ken Watanabe, genius actor with endless range, as a goddamn trope who speaks one word of English. No subtitles provided for his other lines just "foreign language spoken." It's all just very very disappointing.


And I feel bad for not being enthusiastic. I did thoroughly enjoy this movie once. I don't want to be a spoil sport but I think I can retire this one now.


I have never liked the lack of design in Nolan's Batmen. Gotham City is a character in its own right and you gave us Chicago. Chicago doesn't breed a Rogues Gallery of theatre kids gone, well, batty. But Gotham? Gotham is a cathedral of noir and architecture and sex and grit and style and timelessness. Is it the 40s? Is it contemporary? Maybe? It's Gotham!

Wait wait one more gripe: Christian Bale is the worst, meanest, jerkiest Bruce Wayne/Batman and how dare you drop wrapping paper on the ground for Alfred to clean up after he saved your dumb ass. Ugh.


The pros! Because there are some. MICHAEL CAINE. The audacity of that man turning in a three dimensional performance in this movie. His face when he's driving a demented, drugged Batman to safety is a whole story unto itself. And ever since Dark Knight Rises' horrible Alfred kicking ending... I just want to protect Alfred forever and ever amen. The score is solid. It's no Danny Elfman fun house ride, but Zimmer built the perfect score for this Batman and it's tense and exciting and I like it plenty. I was left a little cold by Gary Oldman in this viewing but I must recount an embarrassing anecdote about the first time I saw it. As the movie ended, my date and I watched the credits and Oldman's name came up. "GARY OLDMAN WAS IN THIS MOVIE?" I squawked. "You're kidding, Shannon." "NO WHO DID HE PLAY?" *blank stare* "I'M NOT JOKING. WHO???" The man can disappear into a role.


This movie, unsurprisingly, got me thinking about fear. It must be the most uttered word in the film. Discover what you fear, face what you fear, conquer what you fear, become what you fear. When I think about what scares me, the only answer I can really come up with is "myself." Death doesn't frighten me. I used to think failure frightened me but more and more I realize that excelling is the scariest thing I can think of. Really stepping into my own power. Letting the crutches of self-doubt and meekness fall at the side of the road. Forgive me if this sounds like a bit of false modesty. Most of my childhood and hell, into adulthood, my successes and talents were framed by those around me as the things that kept me from friendships. Friends weren't really friends, they were jealous of me. People were annoyed, visibly, when things came easily to me. My least favorite thing anyone can say to me is, in response to finding out a skill or ability I possess, "Of course you do." So dismissive. And so I got really comfy in hiding. In being good enough. I've had a mantra lately of "don't be afraid to be awesome" but a little voice in the back of my brain says "what if being awesome doesn't change anything? what if you're still lonely? that must mean you're deficient." And it's a hell of a thing to overcome. But I'm trying.


Ink on paper (lino print).


Takeaways:

-Meh. I had the idea of this visual but wasn't sure on the medium in which to execute it. Watercolor? 3D paper craft? I opted for lino because I've been missing doing it but I'm not convinced it was the right choice. I also, once again, am reminded that my feelings about a thing always bleed into my work and I think it's pretty clear that I'm unenthusiastic about Batman Begins.

-That being said, I really love this idea and I think I did pretty well with it. I was inspired (once again!) by an Erte print - because Gotham should be art deco goshdarnit - and that was really hard to cut in lino. Even the SPEEDY CUT or whatever stuff I use. Small, tight curves are difficult and I think I did pretty well with that.

-I was Very Disappointed with the quality of the metallic printing ink I got. I used Speedball - if anyone has a better rec, I'd love to hear it.

-I messed around with this printing process more than any other to date. Usually once I get a decent print, I just run with that method. But this one, I kept trying things. I double printed the smoke plate with different values. More ink. Less ink. More pressure with the baren. Less pressure. I built a little frame to keep the plates in place while printing, which I will definitely be carrying forward. I even cut down the plates between prints (smaller is better, I'm learning). It made for a wildly uneven print run BUT I learned so much about 1) what's possible and 2) what I like.

-I didn't consciously make it a caduceus but once I realized I'd done it subconsciously, I was into it. Fear is both the disease and the cure, after all.


I am thrilled and filled with trepidation because the Random Number Generator, in her infinite wisdom, has chosen A Fish Called Wanda for the next movie. A movie that is one of my top five flicks. A movie that it is so funny that not only did a man laugh himself to death watching it, but his family couldn't be mad at the film. A movie that is a hymn to visual gags but is lacking, more than any of my other top fives, in Design. What will it yield? Laughs, I hope.

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