'Batman Begins' kicks off movies at the beach
WILDWOOD, NJ - Sitting on the beach as the sun set, dining on a picnic dinner of crabmeat cocktail and a salad, I waited for the night sky to push the final rays of light below the horizon so that Batman Begins could start. That's how this self-titled movie junkie spent last Saturday night at the new "walk-in" movie theater, Sunset Cinema's Movies on the Beach near the Wildwood Convention Center.
New Jersey, the state that introduced the drive-in, now has a venue that combines two of my favorite things, the beach and movies.
Thanks to the vastness of the Wildwood beach, this new adventure in movie-going is possible. The inflated, 52-ft. wide screen is far enough from the boardwalk to keep boardwalk strollers from being a distraction.
To enter the theater, you walk down the side boardwalk along the Convention Center, then down a ramp and onto the beach where a friendly staffer takes your ticket. If you want to buy munchies get them first - they are available, reasonably priced, outside the Convention Center. It is BYOC (bring your own chair) or blanket, and bringing your own food is permitted, although the courteous staff will inspect your bags (no alcoholic beverages are allowed). The movie is projected from a trailer, and movie-quality Dolby speakers below the screen provide excellent sound. During quiet scenes in the movie I could suddenly hear the muffled screams of kids on the rollercoaster further down the beach but it only added to the enjoyment.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under, free for kids four and under.
The quality of the movie helped make the Sunset Cinema experience even better. Batman Begins is just the style of high quality, dark-edged filmmaking that writer-director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) is known for. He has officially recharged the moribund Batman franchise with a top-of-the-line popcorn movie featuring engrossing characters, engaging action and talented, serious actors.
We first meet Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as an angry man looking to find justice in the world. He is befriended by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) who takes him under his wing, teaching him to focus his anger through hand-to-hand combat. There are more than a few "learn-to-control-the-Force" undercurrents in this sequence.
In flashbacks we learn about his childhood with loving parents. An accident down a well leaves him terrified of bats. But his terror will be compounded horribly when he witnesses the brutal murder of his parents, the epicenter of his rage.
Wayne returns to his hometown of Gotham after his training, reunites with his family's loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and creates his Batman persona, hoping to save Gotham from the corruption that dominates the city.
Along the way he finds help from a scientist at Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman); the rare honest cop in the city, James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). With these allies he will battle a mobster, Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), and Dr. Jonathan Crane a.k.a The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). The latter is working with a secret boss to unleash a "final solution" for the citizens of Gotham.
Bale is an inspired choice as Wayne, bringing his gravity as an art house star (American Psycho, Laurel Canyon, The Machinist) to the character. His Wayne/Batman is believable as a man who must battle to keep his personal demons in check. Yet, he manages to provide sly, humorous comic readings as well. Caine is adorable as Alfred and Freeman has a blast playing the equivalent of James Bond's "Q" as the gadget master. Neeson bookends the proceedings nicely as a man whose philosophy of what constitutes justice is in serious conflict with Batman's vision.
The quality of Batman Begins assures fans that Batman will return in the future.
Directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan; Rated PG13 for violence, language
In the end, thanks to a couple of spectacular plot twists, and several crowd-pleasing nods to his previous Batman films, Nolan delivered a finale that not only finished his participation with a elegant farewell, he also generously set up the story for the next filmmaker who takes over.