– Notice how the Gotham City muggers are blond?
– This time, Gotham City looks more like Chicago than New York, with all the liftable bridges over the river and the art deco Wayne Tower looks like a bigger version of the Board of Trade building at the end of Lasalle St. A lot of the underground road footage was shot on Lower Wacker Drive, a rather ominous-looking shortcut under the Loop that I took to work every day for years. However, Chicago is lacking in blond muggers.
– As a boy, Christian Bale starred in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 “Empire of the Sun,” which was a rare box office dud for Spielberg ($22 million domestically, but I thought was one of the greatest movies ever made. Bale plays an English lad living in the wealthy European suburb of Shanghai on December 7, 1941 who is interned in a brutal camp by the Japanese. Objectively, he’s a pitiful victim of the war, but he finds World War II to be a blast. Spielberg took the script by Tom Stoppard and augmented Stoppard’s trademark “surreal realism” — a style Stoppard invented in “After Magritte” where a seemingly impossible tableau is later explained. For example, the remarkably memorable scene that begins with Bale’s Japanese friend on the other side of the fence singing a Shinto hymn and climbing into his Kamikaze was largely Spielberg’s invention. Stoppard couldn’t imagine spending the money the scene cost, but Spielberg came up with the most Stoppardian segment in any of the many movies Stoppard has worked on.
– Gary Oldman doesn’t have much to do as the only honest cop in Gotham City, but he gives a seminar in acting solely through facial expressions when he is pressed into driving the Batmobile. Oldman was great way back in 1986’s “Sid and Nancy” (he beat out Daniel Day-Lewis for the role of Sid Vicious), but Chloe Webb was even better. But there aren’t a lot of roles for funny-looking girls (other than as Danny Devito’s girlfriend in “Twins”), so her career never amounted to much. Too bad Tim Roth turned down the role of Johnny Rotten.
– Practically the entire cast of “Batman Begins” is from the British Isles, other than Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, and Ken Watanabe. The British are still just better than we are at the kind of classy showmanship that this kind of film demands.