Loki and I saw Batman Begins on Friday night. Christian Bale is an interesting actor, IMO. There is something reserved and tightly contained about him, but his character's emotions are not far from the surface. I felt enormously sympathetic towards his Bruce Wayne, and I didn't expect to feel so moved by a comic book movie.
Great things about the movie: In addition to Bale, Gary Oldman reminded me of what a fine actor he can be. Morgan Freeman doesn't even have to say anything to win the audience over - he is casting shorthand for "good guy".
Good things about the movie: Michael Caine was pretty good, although a little obvious in some of his delivery.
Not so great things: Tom Wilkinson was in the wrong Batman - his performance was jarringly kitschy in an otherwise realistically presented film. Katie Holmes made me really hope she and Bruce wouldn't get together. I couldn't take her baby-voiced self-righteousness seriously.
Things I haven't decided are good or bad yet: Cillian Murphy gave a fine performance, and he his limpid pools of blue are deeper than Elijah Wood's, but I had a hard time buying him as a prominent psychiatrist because he looks like he hasn't started shaving yet.
I recommend, primarily for Bale - he provides an emotional center to the story that I think previous Batman movies lacked.
(Something that made me wish for an alternate universe: imagine Christian Bale playing every big role Tom Cruise has ever played. Bale has intensity to rival the wee Clam, but so much more depth.)
(I was thinking that Freeman should play a bad guy, just to go against type, but then I remembered Nurse Betty, where he's a cold-blooded killer...who I still felt incredibly sympathetic towards. He just emanates warmth.)
I just finished reading Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. The violent faith in this book is the Church of Jesus Christ and Ladder Day Saints. Krakauer weaves the history of the Mormon faith together with a contemporary story of a brutal murder commmitted by Ron & Dan Lafferty, two members of the fundmentalist Mormon community. While Krakauer is careful to note that most Mormons are industrious, cheerful, and wholesome, he explores the history of the religion, which includes fraud, massacres and sexual abuse.
Krakauer's focus is on the fundamentalist Mormon community, which split with the main church when the latter denounced polygamy. There are fundamentalist communities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, which practice "plural marriage", sometimes marrying girls of 13 or 14 off to men who are not only generations older than them, but oftentimes related to them.
The Mormon faith believes that followers have a very personal relationship with God, and they consider themselves "prophets, seers and revelators". In the case of Ron Lafferty, he claims God revealed that he should "remove" his sister-in-law and other people who Lafferty believed encouraged his wife to leave him. He shared this "removal revelation" with members of his fundamentalist ward, yet no one attempted to stop him.
The courtroom scenes were particularly interesting to me. The defense attorney wanted his client deemed not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecutor took the tack that millions of people believe in God, and perform rituals and practices that could be deemed insane when taken out of context (transubstantiation, anyone?). In addition, aside from his religious beliefs, which were way out of the mainstream, he wasn't at all insane - he had qualities of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but he wasn't schizophrenic or psychopathic. He followed the faith her learned from his family and community, and that faith led him to commit an act of extreme violence. Essentially, the prosecutor argued that if we were to believe that Ron was insane, we would necessarily have to deem any person of faith insane.
I recommend the book if you are interested in the topic of fundamentalism.