Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Batman Begins (2005)

A review on Hollywood superhero feature length film, Batman Begins (2005). The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and is the first in The Dark Knight Trilogy. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

+ Crew I

  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Cinematography by Wally Pfister
  • Written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
  • Edited by Lee Smith
  • Produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Larry Franco

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Legendary Pictures
  • Syncopy
  • Patalex III Productions

+ Note

After the critical and financial disaster of Batman & Robin (1997), Warner Bros. took a 8 year hiatus with Batman but during this time, several attempts were made to resurrect him again for the big screen. In 2003, Christopher Nolan (famous for directing the edgy psychological thriller Memento) was hired to direct an untitled Batman film. Nolan and Goyer then began working on a screenplay which would move far away from the kid friendly, silliness of Schumacher’s Batman and give a more darker and grittier look to the caped crusader. Nolan wanted to explore his origin story in detail, something that had not been done on the big screen before and give a larger, more realistic portrayal of Batman in the world we live in. Being a film purist, Nolan wanted more practical effects and high intensity stunts, relying less on computer generated effects and more on hand to hand combat. The film would also consist of well renowned Batman villains Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow which had, till then, never been utilised onto the big screen. For obvious reasons, Ra’s al Ghul’s origin story was reworked in order to fit into the realistic, down to earth tone that Nolan was going for.

The origin story in Batman Begins is loosely inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel Batman: Year One and also Batman: The Long Halloween. The goal for Nolan was to bring Batman back to his gritty “Bob Kane/ Dennis O’Neil” roots of grittness and psychological torture of the vigilante. 

Needless to say, Batman Begins was a huge success, critically and commercially, grossing $ 373 Million Worldwide and brought the character of Batman back into the mainstream pop culture which had been missing since the Tim Burton movies. 

+ Main Cast

  1. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
  3. Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard / Ra’s al Ghul
  4. Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes
  5. Gary Oldman as James Gordon
  6. Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow

+ Plot

After witnessing the death of his parents by a mugger on the street, the young billionaire Bruce Wayne decides to train himself in combat so he could protect the city of Gotham as the masked vigilante, the Batman. Meanwhile Ra’s al Ghul’s army of followers see the corruption of Gotham City as ‘irredeemable’. They want to destroy and rebuild it from the ashes of which the city will perish in. Is the mysterious Batman up to the task of protecting his father’s city and become its saviour?

+ High Points

i – Nolan almost single handedly resurrected and revitalized the character of Batman back onto the silver screens. Considering Batman’s last film was simply an unapologetic Toy commercial, Nolan had a massive task ahead of him and he passed with flying colors. The box office numbers spoke for itself that Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman was what the audiences wanted to see on the big screen. It was the rebirth of Batman that we all patiently waited for.

ii – The direction is excellent throughout the film. From beginning to end, the plot effortlessly follows its main protagonist and as a viewer, keeps you engaged throughout its runtime. The goal of Batman Begins was to simply make the audience believe that a masked vigilante like Batman could exist in the world we live in. And it is quite safe to say that the transition was a success.

iii – With all its talent, the film needed a Batman who was more than up to the task to depict what Nolan had envisioned. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/ Batman was a stellar performance which perspicuously delivered the complexities, past trauma and vengeance that we know and love the character of Batman for. 

iv – The opening half of the film is masterful storytelling. It’s a picture perfect example of how a superhero origin story should be told. Although Batman doesn’t make an appearance till the film’s half way mark, the complexity of the Bruce Wayne character was captivating enough to drive the film through to its second act.

v – Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow serve perfectly as adversaries to Batman’s initial task as the protector of the doomed city. Since Ra’s al Ghul is behind Bruce Wayne’s training to become the dark knight, it adds a much needed drama and personal stakes between the two men on the opposite sides of salvation. On the other hand, Scarecrow’s psychotic hallucinogens perfectly encapsulate the fear they can induce in each individual. This also plays a vital role in Bruce confronting his fear of Bats  (plus Scarecrow has a bad ass looking mask to boot!).

vi – Batman’s slick, combat suit costume design, ‘turnable’ mask, and of course; the Bat ‘Tumbler’ mobile. They all add up to a complete “reimaging” of Batman and his warfare gadgets. Although not my personal favourite, these designs fit perfectly into the realistic world that Nolan’s Batman is supposed to exist in.

vii – I really have to mention Gary Oldman as James Gordon. This might possibly be the best, most empathic depiction of (soon to be) Commissioner Gordon in any medium (outside comics). Oldman has always the knack and tenacity of leading his audience to any side of the coin he so well pleases. 

+ Low Points

i – With all that’s praise worthy about the film, there are some glaring issues that hinder Batman Begins to be a perfect Superhero origin film. And unfortunately, that lies in the second most integral part of any superhero film; the action set pieces. Since this was Nolan’s first action film, his lack of directing fight choreography is painfully apparent. The fight scenes are incredibly disorienting, haphazard nonsense that confuses the viewer as to what exactly he/she is supposed to look at. But as history shows, Nolan’s a quick learner and improved upon it ten fold in the sequel to this film (which I will also be reviewing very soon).

ii – The Editing is pretty amateurish for such a high end film. As mentioned above, this is most apparent during the fight scenes where its just a mishmash of extreme closeups and the fight ends before one can comprehend as to what is even happening.

iii – The love interest of the film; Rachel Dawson is what in film you call a ‘plot device’. She exuberates no character of her own, Rachel is only there to push Bruce Wayne’s character development. Rachel Dawson is another aspect that the sequel improves upon quite well. 

iv – Now this may be controversial but I am not a fan of Michael Caine as Alfred. The loyal butler has always been there to serve as Bruce’s conscious of good. He is what keeps Batman a hero. Alfred always serves best (pardon the pun) as a supporting character and his secret, military, medical past is interesting because it is never fully elaborated on. Since, in this film, Alfred is played by Michael Caine, he is given a lot more needless dialogue and 2-3 minute long speeches, spoon feeding the audience how they are supposed to feel at that moment in the film. Needless I say!

v – SPOILER ALERT! : The third act of the film loses a bit of momentum that the first two so successfully led us to. And I do feel Batman acts completely out of character in order to defeat the main adversary of the film.

I won’t kill you….but I also don’t have to save you!

Uh..yes, Batman. You are committing what is known as “Second degree murder”. This is not what Batman does and this fact is constantly reminded throughout the film so why does he ignore his own conscious late into the conclusion of the film? 

+ Overall

After the horrendous Batman & Robin, Nolan was the saviour of the Batman franchise and blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. With great characters, near perfect origin story and an entertaining story arc, Batman Begins is one helluva way to kick off a franchise. Even with its flaws, the film has really stood the test of time and perfect stepping point to what it was eventually going to be followed up with a masterpiece of a film.

Rate: 3.75 out of 5 stars

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