Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure Comic-Con: Batman Begins (2005)

Comic-Con: Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins
Today is part three of my Comic-Con comic book adapted movie reviews.  I’ve previously reviewed Daredevil (2003) and X2 (2003), today I’ll focus on Batman Begins.

By now a majority of you have probably seen Inception or have at least heard about it.  It’s currently sitting at #3 on IMDB’s top 250 movie’s of all-time list.  It’s director Christopher Nolan’s crowning achievement, but before Inception there was Batman Begins.  Begins was Nolan’s first mainstream big budget movie.  It wasn’t his first, and it wasn’t even his best movie at the time (that award goes to Memento) but it brought Nolan to the Hollywood spotlight.

Warner Bros. had hired Nolan to direct the first film in a franchise reboot of Batman.  If you’ve seen Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin or Batman Forever you already know that, at the time, this was the best idea.  Before Begins, Nolan had received critical acclaim for his sidewinding psychological thriller Memento and was even being praised for turning funny man Robin Williams into a stone cold serial killer in Insomnia.  It was only logical that the next step Nolan took as a director was the venture into big budget Hollywood.

Batman Begins was loosely based off of Frank Miller’s Batman graphic novel “Batman: Year One.”  The film chronicles Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) start as Batman and the trials and tribulations he goes through to become the “Caped Crusader.”  If you don’t know the back story, Bruce’s parents are mudered one night while attending the Gotham City Opera.  Bruce is given control over his father’s company, Wayne Enterprises, once he reaches the age of 18.  Until then he’s looked after by the family’s long time butler, Alfred (Michael Caine, perfectly cast).  His parents murderer goes escapes jail time on a technicality and it’s in that time that Bruce realizes that unless he does something about the crime and dirt in Gotham City, nobody else will.

He sets off to train to become an elite fighter across the globe where he becomes imprisoned in Indonesia.  It is there that he’s released into the watch of the frenchman, Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson).  Duchard takes him to meet Ras Al-Ghul (Ken Wantanabe: The Last Samurai), the leader of the League of Assassin’s, who holes himself up in the mountains of China.  It is here where he learns the art and skills of being a ninja.  It’s where Batman first learns to fight.  When Bruce is asked to kill a innocent man it is then that he realizes that he can not just murder someone for the sake of death, but instead opts to use what he has learned for good.  Shit hits the fan there in the League of Assassin’s base, which ends up being blown to pieces, but not before Wayne saves Ducard from falling off a cliff.  Probably the first mistake Batman officially ever made.

Bruce returns to Wayne Manner and to Wayne Enterprises after years of being gone and retakes his father’s empire.  Upon his return he finds out that Gotham City is in worse condition than he first thought and crime had run rampant across the city.  He vows to clean up the filth of Gotham by striking fear into criminals, the persona of a bat.

The Scarecrow is the only major villain (unless you count Al-Ghul as a major bad guy) but that’s the beauty of Nolan’s Batman, it doesn’t need a major villain in order to be considered a great comic-book movie.  Sure, every other comic book adapted movie to release prior to Begins had a major comic book villain, but 90% of those movies were bombs anyways.  The storytelling of how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman is all that is needed here, and it’s all that Nolan gives us.  Some will say that Batman Begins isn’t even really a comic book movie because it’s too real.  I say that it’s a comic book movie realized.  It’s what a comic book would look like if superheroes were real and Batman really did exist.

Nolan rounds up an all-star cast for his first delve into Gotham hiring Cillian Murphy, largely known for his role in 28 Days Later before Begins, as The Scarecrow.  It’s a brilliant turn by Murphy in which he didn’t get a lot of credit for due to the amount of action and star power that was already on showcase in the movie.  Gary Oldman (The Professional, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Air Force One) is cast as the young police sergeant Jim Gordon who wants to clean up the city just as bad as Bruce Wayne but is reluctant to trust Batman.  Oldman is perfect in the role as he looks almost identical to Jim Gordon from the comics and plays the part to a tee.  Morgan Freeman (Invictus, The Bucket List, Kiss The Girls) is cast as Wayne Enterprises techno-buff, Lucious Fox.  Freeman’s role isn’t really introduced in the movies until Nolan’s follow up film The Dark Knight, but we’re given a quick glimpse into the relationship Fox and Wayne quickly establish.  Lastly, and probably the worst character in the entire movie, is Katie Holmes (The Gift, Phone Booth) who plays the part of Rachel Dawes (the only prominent fictional character David S. Goyer makes up that didn’t appear in any of the comic books) as Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend/love interest.  It’s not necessarily the character that is a nuesance, it’s Katie Holmes herself that annoys the crap out of me.  She can’t act at all and it shows.  Nolan rectify’s this casting blooper in The Dark Knight by casting Oscar nominee, and fantastic actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Rachel Dawes to replace Holmes.   Tom Wilkinson plays a mob boss in the movie but his particular role doesn’t really stand out to me, but his character of Carmine Falcone plays an intricate role in Bruce Wayne’s revenge motives.

Batman Begins was a huge success at the box office and an even bigger success among critics across the country.  It was touted as the best comic book adapted film ever created (at the time) and had successfully put Christopher Nolan at the forefront of  directors in Hollywood.  It really is a must watch as far as brilliant storytelling, cinematography, acting, and action go.  Nolan never ceases to amaz, even now, three films later.

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