Batman Begins (2005)
Genre: Action, Adventure,
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes
I’ve spoken a great deal about Marvel recently. (In other posts) That is because when Batman and Superman were destroyed by bad movies, it hit DC Comics rather hard. (Though their animated movie/series remained strong throughout.) There had to be a monumental shift in how these Superheroes were created and the characters portrayed on-screen because people (myself included) felt uneasy. Nobody wanted to dish out money to see something ghastly again.
Warner Brothers nailed it by bringing in Christopher Nolan (Director of Memento) to reinvent Batman. Nolan took the approach of making Batman more realistic and gritty. More of the Frank Miller Dark Knight comics appeal.
The next challenge is making Batman interesting again. From the comics, the animated series, (Worth watching!) and the Burton movies, we know how Batman begins. We know the tragedy of Thomas and Martha Wayne that brings a city to it’s knees and how it changes Bruce Wayne’s entire life. What we never saw was the actual evolution from Bruce Wayne to Batman. With Batman Begins, Nolan allows us to view the development of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s character and the no killing philosophy that would drive his life. By taking the mystery out of his path from scared little boy to badass vigilante. Nolan humanized Bruce Wayne and Batman. We feel for him and may even connect on a level we never had before. Considering that he is a billionaire, genius, martial artist/vigilante in a cape, that can be hard to do.
Spoiler Warning- If you haven’t seen the movie and want to. Then skip the next two paragraphs and go watch the movie.
Unlike any Batman movie before, we get to see the dynamics of Bruce Wayne and his parents, his connection with Alfred, and even with Officer Jim Gordon. In previous movies, all of these characters existed, but never before with this amount of depth. We see the younger adult Bruce Wayne going from a troubled man with desire, fire, and rough physical talent to a man with a deep philosophy that has been meticulously crafted through years of harsh training with the League of Shadows and their leader Ra’s al Ghul. The movie also shows us important events from Bruce’s childhood including his friend Rachel Dawes, his parents, and his butler, Alfred. We even see the corruption and how deep it has gotten into the blood of Gotham police and justice department. A full blown infestation.
This infestation drives Bruce to try to fix the society by street justice. An eye for an eye, but through several conflicts with the mob and his friend Rachel, he becomes aware that this style is very limited in what it can do. That’s when he begins soul searching and eventually leads to the League of Shadows.
They did an excellent job casting this movie. Christian Bale does wonderful work as Bruce Wayne. His Batman leaves some to be desired (a little to heavy on the voice), but certainly is an improvement over most that we’ve seen.
Liam Neeson was a great cast as Ducard (Ra’s al Ghul). He has the proper amount of menace and physical attributes to the play character and a wonderful voice to boot. (1990‘s version would have been played by Rick Moranis)
The secondary characters have such depth because of the writing, but also thanks to the people who play them. Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. (I love saying that name, Lucius Fox.) Even Ken Watanabe’s role in this movie was well done. The only exception was Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. I think Holmes looked the part, but I wasn’t as thrilled by her acting in this movie.
The villain was wonderfully crafted as well. While I like Burton’s variations of classic criminals, I really appreciated the new, more realistic version. Scarecrow was a weasel of a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum He uses a hallucinogenic drug on his patients to break out their fear and paranoia to a point it can drive many insane and into violence.
So much of this movie is beautifully crafted. The music by Hans Zimmer creates an eerie, but very effective score, the masterful directing style of Nolan and his ability to make good use of his writers. They used real settings and physical techniques instead of going with over abundant special effects. (One thing Marvel does A LOT.) The acting was solid, and the story well written. It even helps develop stories and characters for future movies and isn’t afraid to have some humor in it as well. (Even dark things can have some dry humor.)
This movie challenges every other Superhero/comic movie to take that next step and not just be great for their genre, but to heralded as among the better movies of any genre ever made.
I have a hard time comparing movies from one era to another. I will always enjoy and appreciate what Tim Burton did with Batman, but for me Christopher Nolan’s super serious, super realistic version will always be the superior one, for me. Everyone has their own taste and desire for movies, but I hold Batman Begins as one of the best comic book/superhero movies ever made. (I don‘t think it tops the list, but it‘s certainly in the conversation.)