Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphey, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman
Plot: As a young boy, Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents gunned down by a crazed criminal. As an adult, he relocates to Asia to dive into the psyche of criminals. While in prison, he is approached by Henri Ducard to train with the League of Shadows. But before his training is fully complete, he betrays them when he is forced to execute someone. When he returns to Gotham, he decides to adopt the image of his childhood fear, bats, to strike fear into criminals.
(Warning: This review contains SPOILERS! Read at your own risk)
First Thoughts: After the disaster that was Batman & Robin, people started to doubt if a good Batman movie could be made ever again. Then, something incredible happened. Warner Bros decided they wanted to give fans of the Dark Knight the gritty, realistic origin story that they’ve been wanting for. Because even though Tim Burton’s 1989 film was the first in that franchise, it didn’t really tell Batman’s origin story. It gets even better from there. Following the success of Memento and Insomnia, Christopher Nolan was hired to direct and co-write the film. And what we got was what many people consider one of the best superhero origin story movies ever made. And I hardly disagree with that.
Story: Like I said, this film is much more realistic in its depiction of Batman’s origin story, and actually changes quite a few things from the story that’s well known in the comics. But if you haven’t really read any Batman comics before seeing this film (like me), those changes might not bother you. For me, one of the most compelling things about the way the story is told is actually the first hour of the movie. It’s used to set up Bruce Wayne as a character as he trains with the League of Shadows, and it sets up a fairly interesting red herring with you thinking that Ken Watanabe is actually Ra’s Al Ghul, but you eventually find out at the end of the movie that it’s actually Liam Neeson, which is actually a really great idea. After the first hour is when the film really becomes a Batman movie though, when Batman takes down Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone. And of course, you eventually find out that Dr Johnathan Crane has been working with the League of Shadows and using the same toxins found in the blue flower that Bruce brings to them at the beginning of the movie to poison Gotham’s water supply so the League of Shadows can destroy Gotham, and that this isn’t the first time they’ve tried. They actually were responsible for the depression that occurred in Gotham when Bruce was a child. And there’s something else about this film that grounded it in realism. How Batman gets all his gadgets. When he’s talking to Lucius Fox, he says that none of the prototypes he’s made are in production, so that makes it perfect for Bruce to use as Batman. While the film does fall into the typical superhero origin story cliches that we’re so used to now, this is one example of one being done so right.
Technical: I’ve already said this about Memento and Insomnia, but damn can Christopher Nolan direct a good movie! I really love what he brought to the direction in this film, as the grittiness of the story is only elevated by Nolan’s intense direction. It’s also gorgeously shot. Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister completely brought Gotham to life with this film, and it looks absolutely stunning. The action in the film is also really well handled, even though there is quite a bit of quick cut editing in some of the fight scenes, it actually works in the film’s favor, because for Bruce’s first fight scene as Batman when he busts Carmine Falcone and his goons, you really get it from the point of view of the goons, rather than Batman. Whereas that kind of editing would kind of annoy me, with this film, I can forgive it, especially since Nolan wasn’t nearly as skilled as he is now. And I must say, I love the entire finale of this movie when Batman is going up against Ra’s Al Ghul when he uses the microwave emitter to vaporize all of Gotham’s water supply to turn the entire city insane. The fight between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul on the train is absolutely thrilling, really well filmed and edited, and has one of the best supervillain deaths ever with Ra’s just accepting the fact that he’s gonna die. He doesn’t scream, he doesn’t hang on for dear life, he just closes his eyes and decides to go out like a true ninja.
Performances: Almost all the performances in Batman Begins are top-notch. Despite people’s reactions to the casting of Christian Bale as Batman was similar to the casting of Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman, Bale proved all haters wrong and knocked it out of the park as Batman. He really brings a lot to the role, and say what you will about his Batman voice, but I really don’t mind it. Michael Caine also completely nails it as Alfred. As much as I enjoyed Jeremy Irons’ portrayal of the character in BvS, Michael Caine is Alfred. He genuinely cares about Bruce, and he supports him every step of the way. Gary Oldman is also fantastic as Lieutenant James Gordon. He’s one of the few cops in Gotham who isn’t bought out by the mob, and his ideals make him a really great character, and Gary Oldman just makes him all the more likeable. Morgan Freeman is well, Morgan Freeman. He’s awesome! I really don’t need to say anything about him because we all know Morgan Freeman is awesome. Cillian Murphy is also really good as Scarecrow, and he is also written very realistically as a psychiatrist at Arkham who purposefully sends Carmine Falcone’s goons there to use as test subjects for his fear gas. If there’s one performance in the film that is not up to par with everyone else, it’s Katie Holmes. Now look, I’m sure she’s a fine actress, but I personally don’t think she’s all that great as Rachel. Her performance is unfortunately bland and she barely has any chemistry with Christian Bale. I’m legitimately glad that she was replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. Also, little known fact, Jack Gleason of Game of Thrones fame is in this film. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
Final Thoughts: All in all, Batman Begins is one of the best superhero origin story movies ever made. It is exactly what I want out of these kinds of movies. Everything comes together to make a fantastic film. While it may not be as good as the next two films in the trilogy, Batman Begins is just a damn great film, and considering the last Batman movie was full of ice puns and this one was so grounded in reality, I think this was a breath of fresh air for fans of the Caped Crusader.
- Grounded, realistic story
- Top notch performances across the board (mostly)
- Great action set-pieces
- Gorgeous cinematography
- Introduced the best live-action portrayal of Batman to date
- Katie Holmes’ performance
Overall Grade: 9/10