Warner Bros. certainly had their hands full in relaunching the Batman franchise. Overcoming so much ill-will was not going to be easy. And, I’m happy to report, they succeeded.

Batman Begins is not meant to be an extension of the series, first directed by Tim Burton and then by Joel Schumacher, that ran from 1989 to 1997. It ignores all the plot points set up in those films and starts Batman off from scratch to great effect. Jettisoned are nipples (aside from those sticking out from under Katie Holmes’ shirts) and neon facades. In their place are dark brown rusty tones and serious psychological issues. Most reviewers, including Pete Vonder Harr, have made note of fear being the central theme of the movie. I don’t have anything to add to his or other comments on this point so I’ll leave it to you to read them and get the point.

What I thought was the best part of the movie was the performances from all, save Holmes, the lead actors. Not only does Christian Bale acquit himself more than adequately as a wayward spoiled rich kid who eventually finds some measure of tranquility in donning a bat’s mask but everyone else is just as strong. Michael Caine pulls a Harrison Ford and gets more out of the role than might have been on the page. Cilian Murphy is incredibly believable as a doctor gone psycho. Gary Oldman plays a very believable good Chicago cop without allowing in any of the cliches that so often dominate these types of roles. Liam Neeson especially shows what a great job he might have been able to do as Qui-Gon Jinn if it weren’t for an awkward script and almost no direction. It’s an incredible cast and you can see why they were able to get past whatever trepidations they might have had about being in a comic book adaptation.

My main thought after coming out of hte theater: I can’t wait to see it again.