Movie franchises are cherished commodities in Hollywood, when a studio finds a series of films that works well with audiences they will fight tooth and nail to hold on and capitalize on that success. Sometimes this tenacity proves to be the undoing of the specific franchise, because in the process of capitalizing the movie studio churns out installment after installment in the franchise, and often times loses sight of what made the franchise so great in the beginning, resulting in diminished box office numbers and the end of a franchise. However, sometimes franchises work for long periods of time, now they may hit some bumps in the road, but after taking a break the franchise returns with renewed vigor and blows audiences away. Examples of this trend would be the ever-popular `James Bond’ series, the `Superman’ franchise, `Star Wars’, and `Batman’. With each of those examples, time away has produced strong box office numbers, and even with changes made with the cast and directors involved the success remains. Examples of franchises that suffered from over exposure and lack of story and craftsmanship are as follows: `A Nightmare on Elm Street’, `Friday the 13th’, and `Halloween’ (note that all of the series’ listed as eventual failures were horror franchises). The focus of this review is on one of the franchises listed above that after having huge success with 4 films, though the final installment was the weakest and turned fans off for some time, took an 8 year absence from the big screen and returned in the summer of 2005 with huge critical and commercial success. The franchise is `Batman’, and the movie that put this franchise back on top, well technically it kick-started a whole new `Batman’ franchise, was Christopher Nolan’s expertly crafted origin tale, “Batman Begins”.
Completely ignoring the previous 4 films from the original `Batman’ franchise, “Batman Begins” delivers an in-depth look at the origins of the Dark Knight. After the murder of his parents, young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) embarks on a quest to find the means to fight injustice in all forms. This quest takes him all over the world, where he learns how to defend himself and others, become a great detective, and eventually he realizes that his time has come to return to the city that he once called home, Gotham City, and cleanse it of the evil that has corrupted it. However, to do this he must become more than just a man, he must become a symbol. Not just any symbol will work, it must be something that will strike fear into the hearts of men, and with this realization the Batman is born. With the aid of his trusty butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and his business associate Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce Wayne/Batman will rid Gotham City from the likes of the maniacal Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), who uses fear as his weapon, the deranged Ra’s Al Ghul, and mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson).
After “Batman & Robin” caused Warner Brothers’ faith in the `Batman’ franchise to dwindle, it’s not hard to imagine the difficulty the WB had with returning to a franchise that over the course of 4 films went from flagship franchise to non-existent. To convince the execs at the WB to green light another `Batman’ film required the film to have a top-notch cast, a superb director, and terrific writing. Thankfully, all of these components were achieved, and the WB presented audiences with the best Batman movie ever, and kick-started a new `Batman’ franchise.
With director Christopher Nolan’s success with his sleeper hit “Memento” and the crime drama “Insomnia”, there wasn’t much doubt that he could handle the dramatic aspects of the character, but what worried fans was that since he had never helmed a big budget movie before, especially one featuring a character with so much history from the comics, TV, and the previous franchise that spanned from 1989 to 1997, would Christopher Nolan drop the ball in bringing the Dark Knight back to cinematic life. Fans worries were quickly laid to rest when writer David Goyer (writer of “The Crow: City of Angels”, “Blade”, “Blade 2”, and “Blade: Trinity”) came on board to pen the screenplay with the assistance of Christopher Nolan. Then with A-list casting choices being made, featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, and Katie Holmes, this film was definitely shaping up to be the blockbuster success that would be needed to do both Batman justice, and to begin a new franchise.
Terrific writing, acting, and directing brought Batman back from the pits of movie hell and back onto the big screen. With “Batman Begins” movie audiences finally learned how Bruce Wayne became Batman. Hopefully with the incredible movie experience that “Batman Begins” brought to the franchise, future installments will continue to build on what was started here, and this new franchise will not self-destruct. Don’t get me wrong, the original `Batman’ franchise was good for the most part, but based on “Batman Begins”, this new franchise looks to take the Dark Knight’s success to even greater heights.
“Batman Begins” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and minor sensuality.