Batman Begins is the first film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, starring Christian Bale as Batman, Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Michael Cain as Alfred Pennyworth. That’s just the icing on the cake really. An all star cast for one of DC’s most iconic characters, not to mention Batman is one of the most iconic characters in all of fiction. Whether they’re a fan of comics, film, TV, animation, books or none of the above almost everyone has heard the name Batman and knows exactly who that is. Batman Begins is the origin story of Bruce Wayne becoming the Batman. It begins with his fall down a well which leads to a cave of Bats that swarm around the young child Bruce Wayne and cause him to panic in fear of the creatures. The film cuts to and from the past and the modern day Bruce Wayne, but for now I’ll continue with his origin.
Nolan’s origin of Batman is a little different from the comic book origin, though only in a few minor details. Young Bruce Wayne and his parents are often known to visit the Movie Theatre to see The Mark of Zorro or some similar heroic film of a vigilante crime fighter. However in Batman Begins the Wayne family visit an opera which just so happens to have people dressed in horrifying bat costumes which scares young Bruce causing him to ask his parents to leave early. This was a good way to alter the origin as it gives the character a real purpose and guilt behind his actions. In this film Bruce Wayne isn’t just going to dress as a bat to fight crime because of what happened, he’s going to do it because he feels like he needs to redeem his own actions. He feels responsible for his parents death and wants vengeance on a larger scale, because his true shot at vengeance…well, got shot. As Bruce Wayne becomes older we see that he comes face to face with Falcone, realises that he has no idea how the other half live and that he must learn the ways of a thief and a criminal in order to truly understand the ways of justice. We see early on a very much changed Bruce Wayne who can fight several men at once in a prison, before watching him travel to train with the League of Shadows to become a highly skilled Ninja, learning to conquer fears and become a shadow in the dark. We watch him defy those who have trained him as he refuses to execute a man who commits murder, claiming that he is not an executioner, that the man must be taken to trial and that the reason he refuses to murder a murderer is because he has to be better than the criminals he fights because that is what separates him from the criminal underworld.
The film is dark and gritty, bringing the world of Batman into a realistic, modern day setting. The criminals are somewhat more realistic than their comic book counterparts. They’re not as eccentric with all the funny superpowers. Instead the theme of the film throughout is ‘fear’. So of course, characters like Batman, Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul will thrive in this film. Bruce Wayne overcomes his fear, using it against his enemies. Ra’s Al Ghul wants to use fear to destroy Gotham City and bring all it’s criminals to his idea of justice, which to him is death. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a Scarecrow, is using Arkham Asylum to conduct his experiments of fear on criminals in order to perfect his toxin ready for the arrival of Ra’s Al Ghul, his employer. This film is possibly my favourite in the trilogy and one of the best Batman films out there, BUT in my opinion Bale is not the best Batman. His Bruce Wayne however is brilliant. The billionaire playboy side of the character is spot on, with him being cocky, but also caring. He’s trying to push away any ideas that he could be the serious, crime fighting vigilante, so that anyone who might put the pieces together will be quickly thrown off the trail because how the hell could Bruce Wayne be Batman, he spends his money on european fashion models and buying hotels so that they can swim on the decorative pool.
My issue with the Dark Knight Trilogy is Batman’s voice more than anything. Yes this is a lot of people’s issue with the film and I may sound like a broken record, but it just bugs me. Billionaire playboy, buys a hotel when he wants, buys Ten Thousand Cowls and ears to go with it (in order to avoid suspicion they order bulk) but cannot buy a voice modulator that disguises his voice. Not even an app that can do it!? I mean even Scarecrow has a voice modulator! (Yes his voice changes because of the fear gas but if they can do that effect for Scarecrow why not Batman?) His gravely voice works ONLY when he is angry, like the scene where he interrogates Flass in order to get the drugs. That is my one pet peeve with the trilogy’s main character. My issues with the rest of the trilogy will be explained shortly here and further in the next two film reviews. So here we go. Batman Begins feels less like a Batman film, and more like a gritty crime filled, action film with Batman in it. The closest character to bring it to a comic book film would be Scarecrow, although as mentioned before it’s less of the eccentric suits and merely a simple mask that brings his character to life. The fact that Batman Begins is less of a Batman film isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take away from my experience of wanting a closely adapted comic book version of the film which in my opinion is better represented in the Tim Burton films.
This article may seem very contradictory as I find it hard explain my experiences with this trilogy, because I do love it but I think it is overrated. I’m not saying the films are adapted from the comics poorly as I believe they bring a lot of the characters to life very well but not in a comic book kind of way, more of a real world criminal type of way which makes it feel like it’s not apart of the comic book movie genre. I think that’s the best way I can explain it for now. I hope you can understand that. I think Bale is a great actor and did great work as a vigilante crime fighter but to me he’s just not Batman. That’s not necessarily his fault because a lot of what happens in films comes down to production and not just actors. Nolan did a great job at creating a brilliant action film with familiar characters brought into a real world setting. The all star cast brought all the characters to life in unique and brilliant ways that all work perfectly on screen together.
Overall this film gets an 4/5 from me. The action scenes are spot on, the story of fear and redemption and as an origin story it works incredibly and is definitely one of the better Batman films out there. The villains are spot on and proves that a film can have more than one villain though yet again I believe Scarecrow is criminally underused as a villain in the film because apart from gassing a criminal, a bit of court corruption and gassing Rachel, he doesn’t do much. He’s my favourite villain in comic books but he very rarely gets the spotlight and opportunity he deserves!