Proof Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Release Date
June 15, 2005
Director
Christopher Nolan
Screenplay
Christopher Nolan
David S. Goyer
Distributed By
Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget
$150 million
Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements
140 minutes

Batman Begins
09fourhalf-stars

“…this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn’t realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed.”

–Roger Ebert, Review of “Batman Begins”

Christopher Nolan has a vision. A superhero genre grounded in reality. No more wacky villains with the same cockamamy tricks and no more flashy theatrics. No, Christopher Nolan wants to breath life into every single character and though he is definitely not the first director to take a stab at it, he is probably the most successful.

For starters, Nolan’s choice of creating a believable Batman is fairly straightforward, since Batman, in fact, does not really have any superpowers besides a harnessed fear of bats and loads of cash. So, “Batman Begins” as an origin story where Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) disappears into Bhutan after failing to kill his parents’ murder and training with the League of Shadows is a perfect way to begin. Led brilliantly by Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), the entire opening of the film actually takes place nowhere near Gotham City.

Like any great superhero story, the age-old tale of a split-life runs most of the film’s plot, with Bruce Wayne convincing the public that he is a hotshot playboy during the day and prowling the streets of Gotham at night, masked as the bat, even protecting childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) in the process. Aligning with Sgt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of the only clean cops left in Gotham, Batman sets his sights on Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), the head mob boss of Gotham.

The supporting cast of Batman helps carry “Batman Begins” (and superhero films, in general) to the next level, placing Michael Caine as the Wayne family butler, Alfred. Caine delivers some of the best dialogue and most memorable lines in the film. Also, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a once trusted advisor turned Applied Science Division director, who helps supply Bruce Wayne with all the high-tech gadgetry he can get his hands on. Even Rutger Hauer delivers the perfect amount of evil to be believable, as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises.

With all these pieces in play, Nolan does a stand-out job connecting everyone in what comes off as a grand game of chess, with not just one central villain but several, introducing characters like Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and Ra’s al Ghul, who fit right into everyday life, yet have a complete and valid explanation as to why they are the way they are. The streets are gritty, the characters of flesh-and-blood, and with an eventual twist that brings the film full circle, Nolan reveals his slight of hand with the greatest of ease.

With spectacular graphics, an engaging story, and visually stunning cinematography, “Batman Begins” sets the bar for superhero films and can practically be pin-pointed as the film that turned the superhero genre into a household name, although I feel Christopher Nolan will never receive that credit, despite deserving it (“The Dark Knight” came close). With “Batman Begins” being only the start of Nolan’s vision, his future endeavors emote promise.

 

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