Batman had fallen out of favour with the movie-going audience after Batman & Robin, that is, until Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer breathed life back into the Caped Crusader with the Dark Knight Trilogy. In this Rewind Review we take a look at the movie that started it all: Batman Begins.
After seeing his parents gunned down by a criminal, billionaire Bruce Wayne trains with a group of assassins. After returning home, he begins his mission to rid his city, Gotham, of injustice as the one and only Batman.
Christian Bale (The Prestige) stars as Bruce Wayne/Batman, a role that fits like a glove. Bale embodies Batman in a way few have done before and since, with the three different personalities Bruce Wayne has being easily distinguishable. Voice jokes aside, Bale gets Batman, and his performance is fantastic.
Starring as Bruce’s trust butler Alfred Pennyworth is Michael Caine (Interstellar). This interpretation of Alfred is a lot more active and fleshed out, as we see him briefly looking after a younger Bruce, and helping out Batman when needed. Michael does a brilliant job of bringing the character to life and avoids treading the same ground as his predecessors, which could have been very easy to do.
Katie Holmes (Dawson’s Creek) makes her one and only appearance as Rachael Dawes, an original character for the movie. Like Alfred, she’s a lot more actively involved in the plot, helping both the police and Batman. She also has a lasting impact on Bruce by helping him to think about more than just himself. It’s a shame she didn’t come back to reprise her role as Katie did an excellent job.
Batman Begins also treats Bruce’s mission to save Gotham as a team effort, with him relying on the help of Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (another original character, played Morgan Freeman). They’re both involved in an organic way, having important roles in the story, and they are both played superbly by the two Hollywood legends.
One aspect of many superhero films that can be tricky to overcome, is the number of villains that appear. Batman Begins has four big antagonists from the comic books that had never appeared in live action before, and yet, it works perfectly, with each one servicing a different act in the story, but always help continue Bruce’s development.
Batman is trained by Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows, led by Ken Watanabe (Inception) and Liam Neeson (Taken). Both of these actors are perfectly cast as mentors. Ra’s Al Ghul is captured perfectly as well, with a wise aura, but sinister undertones dripping through. This is a brilliant interpretation of the character.
Upon returning to Gotham, Bruce has to confront the horrors of the Scarecrow/Dr. Jonathan Crane, played excellently by Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders). His version of Scarecrow is a lot more grounded than his comic counterpart, and it works very well for the film. We get a few subtle hints of his backstory, but nothing too prominent that distracts from Bruce’s journey.
We also get to see Tom Wilkinson as crime boss Carmine Falcone and Tim Booth as Victor Zsaz. They’re both used sparingly throughout and help flesh out Gotham’s history.
The movie is fairly plot driven, with no scenes included for no reason. Even though its primary focus is a Batman origin, the plot centres around an attempt to destroy Gotham through fear, which only really becomes apparent half way through. Both of these stories are handled in a believable and fluid way.
Batman’s origin is properly explored realistically, by giving reasons and explanations as to why Bruce becomes the Dark Knight, why he uses his gadgets, why he dresses as a bat, and why he develops a public persona for himself.
This is something that many origin stories have attempted to do after Batman Begins released, especially the decision to keep the lead hero out of their suit for a full hour.
Christopher Nolan has talked in depth about his decision to focus on different themes in each of the Dark Knight films. In this one, it’s fear.
Fear is constantly addressed and prominent to the story. This comes from Bruce’s history and phobia of bats, the overall plot as well as the central inclusion of Scarecrow. It’s a good decision to focus on this for Batman’s first outing, and it helps separate this film from the rest. This also helps during scenes where Batman takes out thugs one by one, but all from the terrified viewpoint of the thugs.
The difference in theme also affects the colour pallet of each movie, with Batman Begins having a strong brown/gold tone, which is obvious from the posters.
Batman is well known for being an expert in hand-to-hand combat, and this takes full advantage of that by incorporating some well-staged action scenes. The standout is easily the Tumbler chase, but the battles are just as thrilling.
The only issue is that the editing style is very fast and makes it hard to focus and see what’s happening. These scenes aren’t very long though and don’t distract from the urgency.
Considering the movie is kept grounded with most of the effects being done practically, this does have a few sprinkles of CGI to help. The effects are brilliantly done, fleshing out the city and bringing Scarecrow’s nightmarish visions to vivid life with a realistic twist. They look great and add more to the film.
It also helps show how much of an influence the comics were on the film, with some iconic panels brought to life. There’s no Lazarus Pits or full on trippy sequences like the ones in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but the story and action pays homage in a satisfying way that shows Nolan and Goyer’s love and respect for the source material.
Legendary musical composer Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel) had a real challenge in creating a memorable theme for the caped crusader, after Danny Elfman, Shirley Walker and Elliot Goldenthal as well as the catchy original from the 60’s TV show.
Zimmer struck gold with a darker and more emotionally weighted theme that fits the tone and character so well, it might be the best theme Batman has had so far. The music is subtle and epic in equal measure, and one of the most memorable themes in recent years.
It’s easy to say that The Dark Knight was the movie that forced audiences to start taking superheroes seriously, but this is the one that initially changed that. It was a dark and grittier tale that has a good grasp on who the main character is. It treats the source and audience with respect by creating a story that fans may recognise but doesn’t alienate casual viewers, something that the Arkham videogames took on board.
Overall, this is a perfect Batman movie that understands the character and tells a compelling story that everyone can get behind and understand. The casting, music, effects and action are brilliant, making this a must watch. Not just for bat-fans, but movie-buffs too. This is a fantastic beginning.
Purple Revolver rating: 5/5. “Why bats, Master Wayne?”