REVIEW – ‘Batman Begins’

Written by J.T. Johnson

4-12-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2005
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Wally Pfister
WRITERS: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard

After the dismal failure that was “Batman & Robin”, Warner Bros. still wanted to move forward with a fifth Batman film due to the fact that the last film was a financial success. Even Schumacher was set to return as the director. It was called “Batman Triumphant” and it would have had Harley Quinn and the Scarecrow as the main villains. According to Schumacher, after the disappointment of the last film, he wanted to bring Batman back into a darker world.

Instead, Warner Bros. scrapped the idea and decided that maybe they should try to adapt “Batman Beyond” into the next film. Soon, this idea was also canned and Batman was put on hiatus with a few writers coming in and out to take a crack at the script. Eventually, in 2003, director Christopher Nolan and “Blade” screenwriter David S. Goyer began to work on the next film with the idea of rebooting the series and setting a more realistic tone.

The result was 2005’s “Batman Begins” and it single-handedly revived the failing series. Even in comics such as Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, there was a seven year gap in Bruce Wayne’s history that was only rarely looked upon. Nolan decided to tell that story.

True to Batman’s origin story, a young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a desperate criminal. At first, Wayne wants revenge but his old friend, Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), teaches him that revenge and justice are two different things. Wayne eventually disappears and for the next seven years, he trains himself to combat those who would bring harm to others.

While stuck in a prison somewhere in Asia, the young billionaire encounters Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), a man who is a part of the League of Shadows. It is here that Wayne finally learns what he needs in order to return to Gotham and become a symbol for its people. Soon enough, Wayne becomes the winged vigilante known as the Batman.

One of the best aspects of this film is the fact that Bruce Wayne/Batman is finally the main character of his own film. “Begins” is a character driven film that shows how Batman was born in a more realistic fashion. It is also one of the truest adaptations of the comics ever put to the screen.

Bale, an actor who is known for his diverse roles such as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”, is perfect for the role. He is able to play the brooding man who wants to avenge his parents while also tapping into the raw animal that is Batman. On the other hand, he is also great at making Wayne appear to be nothing more than a reckless playboy that everyone thinks he is. For once, fans have the Batman film that they’ve been looking for.

Goyer is a true fan of the comic book and its content. With Nolan, he stays true to the source material with only a few slight changes necessary to make the narrative work. They also made sure that Batman was surrounded by his true allies and they brought in the star power to match.

One of the best supporting roles in the film is Sgt. James Gordon, played by chameleon actor Gary Oldman. Not only does he look the part, Oldman and the writers give the character the spotlight he deserves. In the past films, Gordon was only around to flip on the bat-signal every once in awhile. Here, he’s the last honest cop in Gotham and he finally sees an ally in Batman.

Another great performance is that of Michael Caine as Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred. He is Wayne’s guardian and he knows he can’t stop Wayne from becoming the dark avenger. Therefore, he has no problem helping Wayne remember where his name comes from while also helping the young man become the legend he is destined to be.

Now, the film is not entirely perfect. Once Wayne becomes Batman, there is a challenge involving a microwave emitter that fills like it was just thrown in to give the character a challenge and it is a pretty generic plot-point. However, even here, it ends up being a lot of fun seeing how Batman will solve the situation.

This film is a true origin story done right. Nolan is a director known for getting into the characters’ heads. Batman is the perfect superhero for the director to tackle and “Begins” is a rousing success that only its sequel, “The Dark Knight”, could top.

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