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Batman Begins

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 old films.

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.

Rating 4.5/5