When 'Batman and Robin' was released in 1997, it forever earned
universal condemnation from critics and Bat-fans alike, made
director Joel Schumacher an outcast to superhero fans and nearly put an
end to Batman's adventures on film. However Warner Brothers decided
that there still might be life to this series and the studio went on a
rocky road bringing Batman back on screen. Eight years later, Batman is back on the big screen courtesy of Christopher
Nolan and David Goyer.
Batman Begins is a necessary story and the reason is that to date, not
a single non comic interpretation of Batman has ever fully showed his
origins. Opponents of the restart, argued that people already knew
about how his parents were killed and that led to him becoming Batman.
The problem with this is that it leaves out other aspects such as his
training and the circumstances that leads to Bruce Wayne choosing to
become Batman. Batman Begins finally answers this question and proceeds
to answer several other questions that non-fans have asked for years.
The film begins with a young Bruce Wayne playing with a young Rachel
Dawes on the grounds of Wayne Manor. While chasing each other around,
Bruce falls into a hole and is traumatized by a swarm of
bats. A scene change finds an older Bruce dreaming in a prison in Asia.
He is then recruited by Ra's Al Ghul's League of Shadows where he is
trained to overcome his inner demons. Sometime later, Bruce returns to
Gotham and decides to take a stand against the evil that is eating away
at his home. In his war on crime, Batman meets potential allies such as
his childhood friend Rachel Dawes, now an assistant D.A, to James Gordon; one of the
few cops who isn't bought out by corruption. At the other end are
powerful mobsters like Carmine Falcone and "freaks" like the Scarecrow.
The strength of Batman Begins is that it is Bruce Wayne's story.
Christopher Nolan and David Goyer crafted an excellent story that looks
at Bruce Wayne from his childhood to his becoming Batman. Goyer and
Nolan went straight to the source material and gave us a multi faceted
character. Their Bruce has a tortured side, a human side and the
millionaire playboy side which was very effective. Bruce Wayne drives
this story and gives us a look into his journey as he tries to come to
terms with his parents deaths and make a difference.
Another strength of the film is that the film makers actually treated
the character with respect. Long time fans of the character will notice
many scenes that are based on stories from the comic books. Nolan and
Goyer actually took the time to research DC's 60 plus years of Batman
material and met Paul Levitz to discuss what was right and wrong.
Perhaps it is because of this that DC has more than given the film
their stamp of approval as they were left out of the production of the
Christian Bale is an excellent Batman and out performs his
predecessors. Bale is a method actor and is really into his role. When
he is pretending to be a millionaire playboy, he invokes laughter
and when he is intimidating hapless villains as Batman, he is commanding and
should not be treated idly. Bale makes it clear that his Batman isn't
in the mood for jokes or silly George Clooney'esque one liners. He is a
force to be reckoned with. Bale has been a veteran when it comes to
acting and this film is probably his biggest yet. Hopefully it will
lead him to bigger roles and more success down the line as he is very
talented and has worked really hard at mastering his craft.
The supporting cast also raise this film to a higher level. Michael
Caine is wonderful as Alfred and is every bit as good and likable as
Michael Gough was. He is a very father like figure to Bruce and his scenes
with Bale are some of the film's finest. Morgan Freeman makes his small
scenes very memorable as Lucius Fox. Like Bale, Morgan Freeman is a
very hard working actor and is a wonderful asset to this film. Liam
Neeson and Gary Oldman enjoyed role switching in this film. Neeson
plays a villain for the first time in his career and Oldman, long used
to playing villains, plays a heroic character. Oldman makes Gordon a
very strong and smart character as opposed to someone playing second
fiddle to Batman. Neeson excels in his very first performance as a
villainous character. Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe,
Rutger Hauer and Tom Wilkenson round off the cast with great
performances. Overall, there were no real weak links acting wise. All of the actors clearly enjoyed the work they did and
it shows. As with other many great films of the past, the supporting
actors enhance the film and the main character with their work and this
film is no exception.
Christopher Nolan, like Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, came into this
film with no real knowledge of making big blockbuster films. Nolan
infuses a smooth paced story and well developed characters with action
and adventure that we would expect in a film like this. The fight
scenes are a little confusing at times but give Nolan credit for being
innovative as opposed to reverting to wire fu like today's films. He
has taken on a more traditional approach to filmmaking relying on tried
and tested techniques as opposed to to today's filmmakers which
rely way too much on CG. The Batmobile chase seals the fact that Nolan
is capable of directing action and a character like Batman.
For years after watching films like Superman: The Movie and Spider-man,
I have always hoped for a Batman film that can stand among those
giants. Batman Begins is that giant. It addresses the mistakes the
previous films made and starts on a clean slate. One which hopefully
will steer Batman on a more successful direction this time around.