Promised to be a dark and gritty iteration of the Batman series, director Christopher Nolan rebooted it in 2005 with Batman Begins. This is what was promised, and this is more or less what was delivered to us. If nothing else, Batman Begins is a wonderful way to reboot the franchise, taking it in a different direction from previous installments.
The film opens up with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), not yet Batman, in a prison camp. He gets into a fight with another inmate, and is taken to solitary confinement. It is here that he meets Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who takes him away from the prison. He trains Wayne in the martial art of ninjutsu, before offering an invitation to join the “League of Shadows”.
The initiation to join, as Wayne finds out, is to kill a man whom the League has already captured. The man is a murderer, or so we are led to believe, but even so, Wayne doesn’t want to kill him. As such, he refuses the League’s offer, instead, deciding to light their temple on fire and run away back to Gotham City.
It is here, in Gotham, where the rest of the story takes place. After we get to learn about Bruce Wayne, find out how he became capable of being Batman and his motivation behind doing so, things really start to kick into high-gear.
Or at least, something interesting happens. While I’m sure that some people, particularly people who care about Batman’s origins, who will enjoy the first 45 minutes or so of the film a lot, but it wasn’t really for me. I came into the film wanting Batman, and in the first portion, not much resembling Batman actually occurred. There were even a couple of long, drawn out sword fights, which don’t even foreshadow a fight later on in the film; Batman doesn’t use swords after all. The back-story is necessary, I’ll admit, and throwing us right into the fray of Batman’s life would have been an even worse decision. I just wasn’t all that entertained by his origins, that’s all.
Now, once we do finally reach Gotham, things become interesting. We get to see Bruce Wayne become Batman, and witness his first shots at fighting crime. He starts off actually doing quite well, making a small, but noticeable difference. He helps out Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of the only non-corrupt police officers still working. He helps bring down a mob boss, and everything seems to be working out for the best. Batman is a symbol, one that is helping to clean up Gotham.
Unfortunately, I just gave away a large portion of the plot for Batman Begins. I did this, because I’m sure that by now, you can gather that a film about Batman ultimately allows Batman to become a central character. At this point in the film, the real conflict starts taking place, and the true story can actually begin.
The actual story isn’t one that I can actually disclose, because it involves a couple of character twists that would have to be spoiled. I’ll say that it does involve poisonous hallucinogens potentially being deployed across all of Gotham City, and Batman’s attempts to stop this from occurring.
The city itself is a wonderfully eerie place, and Nolan really does go all the way in making this the grittiest Batman film to date. You, the viewer, wouldn’t want to live in Gotham, as it has so many issues that you wouldn’t want to have to deal with. Granted, you do view it only from the perspectives of characters who don’t believe it is a good place to live, meaning that you are only getting one side of the story. Who knows, maybe it is just a fine city. It isn’t portrayed as one in the film though.
Batman Begins actually does feature an excellent cast, who all give great performances. Supporting roles go to Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Cillian Murphy, all of which who do an excellent job with the roles they are given. And, come on, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, doesn’t that just make you want to listen to the film, if nothing else? Christian Bale makes a really good Batman, especially given the grittiness that Christopher Nolan was going for.
Batman Begins serves as a very good way to reboot the Batman film franchise. Nolan was aiming for a darker take on the series, and he nailed it. Thankfully, the way Bruce Wayne does become Batman is now taken care of, meaning that any future installments will focus squarely on his adventures as Batman. The acting is great, the story is interesting once it gets going, and the film is entertaining. It’s definitely a successful film.