Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay By: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Release Date: June 15, 2005
Run Time: 140 minuets
After five movies (and around 10 hours) of pure, unfiltered crap it is nice to watch a movie that was actually pretty good again. It’s so nice to be watching a good movie again that I really had to stop and think about this review. Did I like this movie so much because it’s simply better than the last five I watched? If I hadn’t forced myself to watch “Superman Returns” and “Batman and Robin”, would I still think so highly of “Batman Begins”? Well…yeah. This really is just as good as I remember it being and it is a kick ass film. It’s not perfect, but this is probably my favorite take on Batman’s origins.
The film starts with our new Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) locked up in a prison somewhere is South Asia. We learn that Bruce has been travailing the world on a vigilante quest of sorts. That is, until he had to commit some crimes of his own in order to survive and ended up getting caught. But this Brice Wayne doesn’t care, no sir. This Bruce Wayne is angry and bitter, looking to beat the crap out of whoever he can get his hands on, so being in prison is almost like being a kid in a candy shop. Or a Bull in a China shop.
But then one day, a man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) comes to him and offers him a better way. Once Wayne is freed from prison he goes and meets with Ducard, who helps him train as a ninja, to become a member of The League of Shadows. The League is an ancient order who have been fighting crime and injustice of ages and who want Bruce to be their man in Gotham City. Everything goes well for Bruce until the time comes for him to prove himself by killing a helpless man convicted of murder. As we all know, Killing is the one thing Bruce Wayne isn’t willing to do (Something some OTHER directors seemed to have forgotten). Bruce manages to burn down the training compound and fight his way to freedom, and also manages to save Ducards life in the proses.
Once free from The League Bruce makes his way back home and we meet our Alfred for the franchise, this time played by Michael Caine. And this man is my definitive Alfred. To me Caine’s Alfred is the perfect blend of all the previous incarnations. He has the Military background like he did in…Year One…i think it was….but is still compassionate and a father-figure for Bruce. I’ve yet to see another Alfred I like more. Continuing with the story: Bruce tells Alfred about his plan, to become an incorruptible symbol in order to bring justice to Gotham. But he has to keep Batman and Brice Wayne separate. Where Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne was a recluse who went unseen by most people, this Bruce Wayne is playboy. This Bruce Wayne goes out with two girls at once and acts like an idiot and…is so over the top you have to wonder how no one sees through the ruse to be honest.
Bruce then goes to Wayne Enterprise, looking for a job in the applied sciences department. The new C.E.O. agrees and Bruce meets Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Fox tells Bruce that applied sciences is basically career dead end where the new C.E.O. Put him and all his projects that would never be manufactured. Fox shows Bruce some of these projects and Bruce asks if he can “barrow” some of the equipment. Fox, seeing through Bruce’s playboy persona instantly agrees, but doesn’t want to know any details.
And with that, Batman is born…nearly an hour into the film. That is one my my issues with the film. While this time is used wisely I do remember asking my self a few times (especially the first time I watched the film) “when is batman going to get here?” Adult audiences shouldn’t have much of an issue with this but I can’t argue to much with those who say they find the first half or so of the movie boring.
After getting his alternate persona established Bruce goes out for his first night as Batman and does pretty well. He manages to stop a drug shipment for coming into the city and also catches not only the small guys helping unload it, but Mod Boss Carmine Falcone as well. The police show up and find everyone tied up with enough evidence to go to court with. That’s one of the things I like the most about this movie and the franchise as a whole: they do bring up the fact that without being able to posses the criminals everything Batman does is pretty much useless.
Unfortunately for Batman, he learns that only half the drugs where heading towards the streets. So the next night Batman goes and catches up to one of the dirtier cops and interrogates him to learn where the other half of the drug shipment was going. And here we come to another part of the film that i’m…still questioning. Like I said in my review for Tim Burtons “Batman”, that incarnation of the character knew he was frightening, and thus didn’t need tom poster so much. In this film this is literally his second night out or so he does kind of need to prove he’s not to be screwed with. But shouldn’t tying up and dropping the cop do that? Did Nolan and Bale really feel the voice was necessary? I don;t hate it as much as others do, but it does feel a little too over the top in my opinion.
It turns out the the other drugs were going to a man named Dr Jonathan Crane, who has been experimenting with the drugs to create weaponized fear gas for his Boss, Ra’s Al Ghul. Crane has been experimenting his drugs on the inmates of Arkham Asylum, even forging his own secret identity, Scare Crow. His mask helps shield him from his own toxins while also helping to scare his subjects even more. Once he had it perfected Craine started dumping the toxin in Gotham’s water supply. This confuses most of the police as the toxin has to be inhaled in order to take effect. We soon learn that Ra’s Al Ghul’s men had stolen a new weapon that superheats an enemy’s water turning it into steam.
Ra’s Al Ghul and his men load the weapon on a train and head towards Gotham’s water plant. As they start moving the water mains begin to burst and the poorer neighborhoods being to get gassed and people start going crazy. Luckily Batman manages to get onto the train and disable the weapon while Gordon blows up the rail way. The train crashes and the day is saved.
There is a lot i’ve left out, because there is a lot going on in this film. I mean a lot. This is one of the most densely packed movies (superhero or otherwise) that i’ve seen in a long long time. And honestly (even though the film and series is rather good), I think that complexity is why Marvel Studio’s has done so well. None of their films have been this heavy or complex. Unlike Marvel thought, this has had the opposite effect of DC’s other films. While “Green Lantern” was never going to be very good, I think the tonal whiplash is part of what turned people off of the film. So much so that when the next Superman movie was announced the heads at Warner Bro’s felt they needed to make it more like these films.
But cultural impact aside, this was still a very good movie. The darker tone fits perfectly with the character and it’s nice to have an actor in the lead who can do a good Bruce Wayne and Batman. However, Nolan’s desire to make the film “realistic” does suck out some of the magic of the comics. For example, in the comics Ra’s Al Ghul is immortal, living forever through the Lazarus Pit. Here, the name Ra’s Al Ghul lives forever, passed down to give the impression of immortality. That is no where near as interesting, but it is more realistic. In the end, the film make not be ashamed of it’s comic book heritage like tomorrows movie is, but it is doing everything in it’s power to not be seen as a “comic book” movie; while it does work, it is kind of a shame to see that idea still being so prevalent in pop culture.