There is a movie that has come out this weekend, it’s kind of small, you may have heard of it before: The Dark Knight Rises. As most film junkies do, I am chronologically revisiting previous films in this trilogy so that the newest film can be watched in sequence. Thus we begin with Batman Begins. It may not have been the fuel to put The Dark Knight Rises on the radar for everyone to see, but it still has its merit for being a decently well put-together superhero origin story. But how does it hold up after seven years?
At one point Batman Begins sticks to a lot of of the source material when it comes to characterization and Gotham City, but at the same time, this is all Christopher Nolan‘s vision. Without the man behind the camera we would have never come to where we are today. From the beginning you get a great sense of depth with beautifully rich shots and a strong, powerful score by Hans Zimmer.
As an origin story, we all know how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, but Christopher Nolan goes beyond what Tim Burton’s Batman accomplishes. (I love Burton’s, but Nolan’s is in a whole different ballpark.) The build up of training to become the savior of Gotham is nothing to be rushed in Nolan’s adaptation, but it isn’t long enough to drag on for too long. From strong dialogue between Christian Bale and Liam Neeson, we are able to appreciate the sense of morality that is instilled within Bruce Wayne.
Rocking back and forth Bruce’s training and the history behind his guilt towards his parent’s demise, we see a very conflicted man. We learn a lot about who Bruce is and who he wants to be, but fear is holding him back. Thus brings us to the underlying theme inherently prevalent throughout this film.
“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Every superhero franchise needs that one memorable phrase to light the fire under our hero’s ass. This quote is the perfect counterbalance to fear. It gives us reason to believe in Batman’s cause and his willingness to continue.
When we reach Gotham City, we are presented with an incredible feeling of environment and place. We feel like we are actually in Gotham City and not Chicago. Throughout Batman Begins there are mentions of the city’s past and present. Everything correlates back to Gotham City, which makes it its own character. Wayne Manor, the railway system, the corrupted city, the Narrows, Arkham Asylum, Wayne Tower, and more. They are all pieces of the puzzle that is Gotham. It works incredibly well.
Continuing on his mission to fight fear with fear, Bruce is able to symbolize his fear in the form of The Batman. Believing that you must conquer fear by becoming it, our caped crusader is born. Everything fits perfectly in Nolan’s world. Sticking to hyper-realism, Batman Begins does a great job at establishing rules in this Batman universe when he is testing out what works in his armor and utilities.
The story continues strong up until the point to where we are introduced to the main conflict that threatens Gotham. Fear has been a great motivator to push Bruce into fighting those who cannot protect themselves, but once we hit a certain point in the film, and discover what’s really going on, the theme loses its steam and we are presented with a full on action film. About right after the first moments of when Bruce becomes the Batman, we are never really presented with his feelings of guilt or anger. Did he overcome his guilt? Sorta, kinda?
Both the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul are both tremendous villains from the history of Batman that didn’t overcrowd the story like in Spider-Man 3. They worked well together, each with their own agenda to cause conflict with Batman. Cillian Murphy is a fun Scarecrow, enabling the psychotic and the genius freak that he is. Ra’s is one of Batman’s greatest foes and his sense of duty to The League of Shadows and the relationship between himself and Bruce was spot on.
One big complaint I have about this film is that the villains had a deus ex machina on their side, whereas their plot could not have been carried out without obtaining this magical microwave emitter. It isn’t entirely cheap, but it sure is a random piece of tech. The other problem is that we believe that Bruce Wayne isn’t incapable of killing anyone out of injustice, but some of his actions directly cause the demise of many, i.e. escaping from the League of Shadows. That’s a lot of red in your ledger Mr. Wayne.
From the cleverly calculated origin story at the beginning to the incredible inter-workings of the source material and character, Batman Begins does right as a intelligible comic book film adaptation. It works great as a standalone piece, but the end of the film is such a tease. If they never followed through with a sequel, fanboys/girls would be up in arms, but that’s not the case. Batman Begins made up for a lot of the slack that Joel Schumacher had inflicted on the brand, and Chris Nolan was able to manage a solid piece of work.
PRS (POST REVIEW SPOILERS): And another thing. How did those thugs manage to get the microwave emitter off the boat if it evaporates the surrounding water supplies and completely wrecked the boat it was on. It looked pretty heavy, I’m not sure those two guys would be able to life the damn thing as water mains blew up all over the place.
EASTER EGG: (Now there is one little easter egg that I had never caught until now, after playing Arkham City. If you pay attention in one of the first court scenes, a man by the name of Victor Zsasz is being tried for murder. Zsasz is a sick demented villain from the pages of the comics introduced in 1992. For every victim he claims, he cuts himself as a reminder, like a trophy on his skin. He is mentioned another time and then can be seen near the end as he is about to end Ms. Dawes’ life. At one moment, as he turns his head, you can see his scars from all his self-inflicted wounds. It’s a nice touch that may go over most people’s heads.)