Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins had a lot riding on it nearly a decade after Batman and Robin practically killed the franchise in theaters.
The Batman origin story that we’ve been waiting for! The film starts with Bruce Wayne and childhood friend Rachel Dawes fighting over an arrowhead, only to end up with Bruce being attacked by a swarm of bats when he falls down a well. We then play witness to one of the tragic deaths in comic book history–the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Cut to 14 years later when their killer is testifying against mob boss Carmen Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), an older but not yet mature Bruce (Christian Bale) has plans of his own. Granted, he gets chewed out by Rachel (Katie Holmes). Regardless, Bruce decides to leave Gotham to train in combat. He’s travels take him overseas, where he has an encounter with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Bruce gets recruited into the League of Shadows led by Ra’s al Ghul.
Bruce ends up training overseas with the League. When the League decides that Gotham must be destroyed, Bruce takes action. He goes back to Gotham and sets up shop in the southeast corner of Wayne Manor. Bruce takes a bigger interest in Wayne Enterprises, working with Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) in the Applied Sciences division. In one of his first acts as Batman, he hands over Falcone and his men to both Rachel and one of the few honest cops in Gotham, Sergeant James Gordon (Gary Oldman).
It all comes to a head when Bruce learns that Ducard and Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) are working together. The goal: vaporize Gotham’s water with a stolen microwave emitter. This would allow Crane’s toxic aerosol to pave way for total hysteria in Gotham. If we know anything about Batman, he’ll find a way to stop this from happening. Oh, he will…with a little help from his friends.
Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer’s Batman Begins script excises what nobody liked from the previous franchise. Drawing influence from the comics, they give us a Batman that is dark and not a campy character. He’s the anti-hero that wants to save his city but also stay within some means of the law. Moreover, he’ll leave criminals tied up or hanging until the police arrive. This isn’t a person who will kill his enemies. Moreover, Nolan walks into the darker territory of the character–played so beautifully by Christian Bale. Bale, over the years, has become one of the best actors of his generation. We can see that through performances such as in this film.
When one looks at the film’s themes, there are a few of them going on. Obviously, we have the confrontation against fear. Whether it’s Bruce’s own fear of bats or Scarecrow wanting to bring out the worst in everyone with a toxic hallucinogen. There’s also to be something about Bruce looking for father figures. There’s quite a few of them for him to choose from.
One thing to love about the film is that Gotham City comes to the big screen by way of Chicago. There’s a lot of visual effects added on but you can see some noticeable parts of the Chicago skyline in the film. Moreover, cinematographer Wally Pfister absolutely deserved his Oscar nomination for his work in the film. It’s stunning cinematography to say the least. Of course, it’s only a preview of the masterpiece to follow in the franchise.
When we talk about the impact and legacy of this film, one only has to take a look at the many comic book films that followed. It’s hard to say if we get an Iron Man or Marvel Cinematic Universe without the success of Batman Begins. After Batman and Robin, the franchise itself was basically a dead duck sitting in the water. Christopher Nolan doesn’t just reinvent the franchise for the big screen but Batman Begins took the franchise back to its roots.
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
SCREENWRITERS: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
CAST: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, and Morgan Freeman