Batman Begins, Finally!

Hey, have you heard? A little film called Batman Begins opens today. And you might want to check it out. After, shall we say, some lackluster interregnum years following Tim Burton’s brilliant first two iterations, Batman is back. And this time with some pretty killer reviews.

When even the highfalutin New York Times (Manohla Dargis) says the film is "unexpectedly good," that’s money in the bank. In addition to the millions of fourteen year-old boys that’ll buy tickets (no matter what the reviews), it’s now cool for a 45 year-old NYU renaissance lit professor to take the afternoon off, hunker down with a tub of popcorn and ogle Katie Holmes (who, rumor has it, is Tom Cruise’s new girlfriend!).

Reflecting both an aggressive anti-piracy strategy and the potential dynamism of the international market place, the seventh chapter of the Batman series is opening at nearly 12,000 worldwide over the next three days. Domestically, Warner Bros. has the film in 3,718 locations today, expanding to 3,858 on Friday. Day-and-date, Batman Begins is flying into four international markets (Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Philippines). Over the next three days, 67 other territories will be added to the list. It’s the widest release ever for the studio.

In order to rescue the franchise, the honchos at Warner Bros. pulled out all the stops and hired the smartest film director to come out of England in a generation to direct and co-write. The choice of Christopher Nolan, who made quite a name for himself with the complex brilliance of Memento and Insomnia, seems poised to pay off big time.

"It’s amazing what an excellent cast, a solid screenplay and a regard for the source material can do for a comic book movie," says Dargis in her Times review. Even better for the mainstream market, Ebert and Roeper are wheeling out there slightly silly "two thumbs, way up" imprimatur for the film (as opposed to "two thumbs" sort of up?).

Time was when studios would have a "sneak peak" for a blockbuster on the Friday before a weekend opening. That was edged back to Thursday. Then, as the Harvard B-School types infiltrated the biz we moved back to Wednesday opening before a holiday weekend so a big-budget film could have a six-day run before the first box-office numbers hit the media. If they could, some studios would open their summer tent-pole pics the Friday before their Friday debut and hope no one noticed that that was actually a week.

Rated PG-13, Batman Begins is written by Nolan and David S. Goyer based on a story by Goyer and characters created by Bob Kane. Film also co-starrs Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cilliam Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe and Morgan Freeman. The film features vfx work by Double Negative, Senate Visual Effects, Rising Sun Pictures, Moving Pictures and BUF. An IMAX version of the film will also open in big-screen theaters today.