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Batman Begins (2005)

PG-13 ∑ 140 minutes

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Bob Kane, David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan

 · Christian Bale
 · Michael Caine
 · Liam Neeson
 · Morgan Freeman
 · Gary Oldman

Review by Sparkster (Tom Hargrove)

Bruce Wayne cannot crawl like a spider, doesnít have adamantium claws, nor can he run faster than a speeding bullet. It is this lack of supernatural talent that makes Batman a legend among heroes. Christopher Nolan crafted Batman Begins with this concept in mind, a complete 180 from Tim Burtonís initial, serviceable vision of Batman where everyday feels just like Halloween. Rather than this nightmarish production, Nolan dives into the cruel reality that lies in the streets of Gotham City and the painful inner demons of Bruce Wayne. This is easily the greatest vision of Batman ever made.

As the title suggest, Batman Begins shows the origins of the dark knight, a brilliant metamorphism from a young, victimized, and self-loathing Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) into a proud symbol of justice. The Wayne family spent much of their wealth trying to lift the city of its reputation of poverty and crime. His loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) often remarks how the family business nearly went bankrupt as a result of this crusade. After leaving the theatre early, his parents are gunned down in front of his eyes, an event he blames on himself because a frightening experience with bats inspired the family to leave the show early.




Years later, there is a parole hearing for his parents killer. Bringing a concealed gun, Bruce hopes to avenge his parents. Only problem, somebody beats him to it, an assassination orchestrated by Carmine Falcone, a mobster who runs the city with fear. After a confrontation with Mr. Falcone, Bruce Wayne tries to disappear from the face of the earth, living amongst the poor and stealing food just to survive. Eventually, he winds up in a rundown prison in a foreign country. He is saved by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who takes him to become a member of the League of Shadows, a group of martial artists whose goal is to purge evil from the world. When he learns of their plan to destroy Gotham, he escapes and returns home to save Gotham. I personally love the very fact that Batman Begins reaches a deeper moral complexity that comic adaptations like Daredevil tried to reach, but couldnít quite achieve, even if the effort isnít always subtle. Rather than a simple victim, Bruce Wayne knows evil first hand because he is guilty of walking down the path of a criminal.

His childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) who has always tried to be a moral compass for Bruce has become an assistant district attorney. Her character is something refreshing as she isnít a one-dimensional damsel in distress. When a group of Facloneís men attempt to gang up on her, she pulls out a taser and they run away in surprise. Is there anything more annoying when women are put in movies only to be victimized? Along with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), these two are one of the few people left in the city who havenít been bought by Falcone. Bruce enlists them as his Ďcontactsí in his attempts to liberate the city from the corrupt.

In so many comic books, the young hero to be is always granted with supernatural abilities but a traumatic event shortly ensues, inspiring one to put on a mask and save the world. Perhaps the two are a tradeoff in the comic world? Batman Begins goes deeper than this formula, with a man bound by the chains of reality. Rather than simply being given powers of his own, young Wayne builds the tools and skills necessary in order to aid him in his quest. Lucuis Fox (Morgan Freeman), one of the scientific engineers at his company, shows him some of the revolutionary gadgets nobody seems to want. Taking them, he molds them to be his costume and weapons. I canít remember the last time I watched a superhero suit built with such dedication. His fighting skills and swordplay were gained from his training while in the League of Shadows, which was from a piece of a cake. Aside from what his inherited wealth can buy him, nothing is ever handed to him.

The cast takes Batman seriously as a human drama rather than an empty summer blockbuster. It would have been a chore to watch actors simply winking into the camera. The amazing talents fit perfectly in their role. But of course, Christian Bale is the actor everyone will be talking about. After recently watching Christian Bale play a muscular killer in American Psycho, to an anorexic looking figure in the recent thriller The Machinist, he is now back to a muscular figure required for Batman Begins. I am personally envious of how he is able to change his body so readily. Bale is a man who demonstrates not only versatility as an actor, but also the rare ability to leave no trace of himself in his performances.

I will freely admit that I can be prone to seduction of visuals, even mediocre films. However, I still critique them as mediocre. A visual imagination has the ability to work wonders in letting the audience experience the world the director hopes to build as his/her own. Watching Batman Begins, I was first nostalgic of the Tim Burton gloss I thought I missed. I saw that its unpolished look was just what was needed for this melancholic city. Smoke fills the air, rundown buildings, walls marked by graffiti, and even in day light, one never feels too safe. Itís fitting that the production was filmed in Chicago, the city with the most homicides a year in the country.




But what comic book would be complete without an unusually named villain with a mask of his own? Here, Dr. Crane (Cillian Murphy) is an unsettling psychiatrist, whose alter ego is the scarecrow. Though employed by Falcone, the scarecrow is a force of his own, using hallucinogenic drugs, he makes his patients live their greatest fears. Perhaps getting bored with his insane asylum, he takes part in a plot to contaminate the water supply of Gotham City with his drugs. I canít recall the last time I smiled so wide over such a sinister plan.

A gang that controls the city, a man dressing up as a scarecrow running the insane asylum, a secret group of warriors who claim it was their ancestors that burned down the London bridge, and a plan to make the city go mad. A lesser movie might be overwhelmed by this intertwined story of villains, but Nolan knows that Bruce is the star of the show, the rest is simply an entertaining sideshow. While the pace may start out on the slow side for some (myself included), the second half is simply sensational. Had the cinema been on fire during the last hour, I wouldíve actually opted to stay and keep watching.

I initially worried about how the film would turn out. I said Bruce Wayne is bound to the chains of reality, and my fear was the same would be true of Batman Begins. I could not have been more off. The realism has brought a real sense of urgency to the plot, because somehow, Nolan has managed to make the story of a man who dresses up as a bat in the night to stop crime believable, riveting, and creative. Comic books have always worked well with the younger audience, who are still full of imagination and ambition, yet Batman has such power, even the older cynical audience will walk out wishing that there really was a Batman.



I am a fan of comic books. I have always been drawn to the imagination that a single person could inspire such drastic change. Batman Begins is easily one of the best films of the year and one of the best comic book films. It doesnít dumb itself down for audiences and truly understands why revenge and justice are the complete opposite. It not only works a spectacular form of an entertainment, and dare I say it, an engaging character study.

1331 Words ∑ Published: 22 July 2005

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