Batman Begins


The first two Batman movies may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but at least they were infused with director Tim Burton’s quirky sensibilities. The second two, directed by Joel Shumacher, were just a train wreck.

The fifth movie does us all a favor by pushing the big cinematic reset button and returning Batman to the beginning, placing him in a universe that has less in common with Edward Scissorhands and the 1960s TV series and more in common with the Batman of the comic books. In other words, the real Batman has made it to the big screen. Finally.

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Batman has never been a bright, sunny, reassuring character like Superman or Spider-man and the movies had so far just seemed to miss the point of the character. Joel Shumacher seemed to take much of his inspiration from the Adam West TV series, which is not Batman the same way that Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights was not the Robin Hood legend.

At least Tim Burton’s take was interesting, even if his sensibilities were ultimately incompatible with the character that generations of comic book fans had known and loved. His Batman was dark, all right, but it was Tim Burton dark, not Gotham City dark.

Batman Begins joins billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) not in Gotham City but somewhere in the far east, confined in a prison in some unnamed Asian country. Even though badly outnumbered as the only caucasian in the prison, he seems to be able to handle himself without much trouble. He is thrown in solitary for the protection of the other prisoners. There he is visited by a mysterious man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who knows a great deal about Bruce, including the quest to understand the nature of evil that brought him to this prison. He also knows about the murder of Bruce’s parents when he was a boy, which drove him into this quest. He offers Bruce a chance to do something more productive with his life, in exchange for getting him out of prison.


After getting out, Bruce has to climb to a remote mountaintop to make his rendezvous with Ducard. There he finds the hideaway of a mysterious organization of ninja-like warriors lead by R’as Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) called the League of Shadows, which is apparently dedicated to punishing, by any means necessary, the evil and corrupt who have placed themselves beyond the reach of the law.

Bruce trains under Ducard for several years, slowly mastering the ninja arts of the League. But when he balks at his final initiation, executing a criminal in cold blood, he is forced to best Ducard and R’as Al Ghul and burn down the League’s hideout.

Finally returning to Gotham to find his family estate still in the care of his father’s loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), he also finds his father’s company in the hands of a man named Earle (Rutger Hauer), who has replaced the company’s philanthropic endeavors with military contracts. Earle is stunned (and a little annoyed) that Bruce is still alive after being missing for all those years, but he honors Bruce’s request for a job. Going to work for a scientist named Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce finds a treasure trove of abandoned military technologies that, combined with his League of Shadows training, are perfect what he has in mind.

Meanwhile, Bruce’s childhood friend, Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), is apparently the last honest prosecutor in the Gotham City District Attorney’s office, pursuing a mob boss named Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), who pretty much owns the city. Bruce’s quest to rid Gotham of people like Falcone will bring him and his alter ego, Batman, across the paths of both Rachel and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), the city’s last honest cop.

Working from his own agenda is Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), the director of the local asylum, who has a penchant for getting criminals out of jail time by convincing people they’re insane. It’s probably not much of a spoiler that Crane and Falcone are working together, but both men are pawns of another who’s identity is best discovered by by watching the movie.

After three previous attempts with varying degrees of partial success, Batman was perfectly cast for this film. Christian Bale has both the physicality and the screen presence to carry off the role. More importantly, he has the chin for it. As Batman, he looks like Batman, not Michael Keaton in a rubber suit. Michael Caine may not look much like the Alfred in the comic books but he sure sounds like him, effortlessly bringing off the wry wit of the character and making him a credible equal to Bruce Wayne.

Katie Holme’s performance was not universally praised but I think it might have been a backlash against her much-publicized romance with Tom Cruise. I don’t think this was exactly fair. She acquits herself well enough, even if she’s not exactly the equal of the talent around her. Given that stature of that talent (Bale, Caine, Freeman, Neeson, and Wilkinson), that’s hardly something to be ashamed of.

If the onscreen talent is first rate, the look of the film is the best we’ve ever seen in a Batman movie. For the first time, Gotham looks like it should, a blighted comic book exaggeration of a real city.

Batman Begins may not be enough to make you forget the four previous attempts at bringing the character to the big screen, but at least it’s enough to stop fans of the comic book from sticking pins in their Joel Shumacher dolls.

20 thoughts on “Batman Begins

  1. Bombay Addict

    Indeed, this is the best movie of the entire series. Dark and brooding as it should be. Chris Nolan has done a wonderful job walking the fine line between pandering to studios dictats and remaining loyal to the comic-lovers. When will these same studio execs understand that the majority of comic readers in the world are aged 20-40 and not 5-10 ?

    Any chance of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight coming on screen ?!

  2. Dana

    I like the way you critique films. You show insight and style. I am impressed with the reviews of films older than you are, too. Nice work.

    How about reviewing more WW II films? “Commandos Strike at Dawn,” for example. And “Twelve O’Clock High.”

    Interesting blog.


  3. dilerious

    I agree, ‘Batman Begins’ is the way Batman was meant to hit the big screen. i’m a stickler for proper portrayal of characters that have their roots in the comic world.

    I think the aspect of this film I appreciate the most is that we finally have an alternative to believing that the millionairre playboy/superhero is also a super genius AND an inventor.

    Not to mention the cast…much more sensible.

    When I first heard that Batman would be played by Christian Bale, I had the same apprehension as when I found out that Ben Affleck was chosen to personify the classic ‘Daredevel.” He proved me wrong though.

  4. Anonymous

    Burtons Films were Batman the way he’s meant to be, pick up any old issue of Detective Comics, and its soon becomes very clear.

    Why is everyone going on about ‘returning to the beginning’? Its called ‘Batman Begins’ is’nt that obvious enough? I enjoyed this film, but still prefer Burtons 2. And about being like the comic? Its obvious that with film making today alot more research goes into it, and with help from people like Jim Lee, you know its not going to be bad.

    ‘The Real Batman’? Come on, all the others were just as real as the comic, only they were different interpretations.

    ‘finally have an alternative to believing that the millionairre playboy/superhero is also a super genius AND an inventor’
    – Hit it on the nail there, have to agree with you on that one

    -London Browser

    ps Nice Site

  5. Tiffersll

    Have to agree, Batman Begins was my favorite summer movie and favorite Batman film, showing Batman as the royal bad ass that he is…I’m thinking there’s going to be more films (seeing as they left the movie open-ended). I liked how it wasn’t corny like the other Batman films AND I just think Christian Bale is gorgeous so there’s no harm there…however, I don’t think Katie Holmes did the film justice. She’s too average of an actress and there was no chemistry between Bale and her and I had no desire to see them together.

  6. Lostoyannaya

    Batman Begins is one of the finest films I have seen and heard for a long time. I mention those two senses because of the brilliant gothic effect the director cast on the movie, and the other for the beautifully inspiring and emotional music produced for it.

    How can a film be so right?


  7. Street Philosopher

    Perfect mix. The only thing that slightly irked me was the fight scenes, which kept jumping all over the place. Hopefully the fighting will change in the sequel, but they have started off on the right foot with this adaptation of Batman.

  8. Anonymous

    Hi! Nice review! (actually, great page!) I must admit I liked the first Batman movies, but more in a view of “comic-goes-cinema”. This Batman, however, is great and so much better- Batman has grown up..
    Pleas keep up this page, I will keep reading!!

  9. Gwynne

    I saw ‘Batman Begins’ on an IMAX screen and I don’t think any of the other Batman movies would have been quite as good on an IMAX screen.

    I’m a fan of the attention to detail and playing up the philsophy in ‘Batman Begins.’ I thought the story development was much better too. There was certainly a more serious tone and I think it worked well. And I agree on the fight scenes. They were good but jumped around a little too much.

    Think there will be as many Batman’s as there seem to be 007s?

  10. Claire

    Well, I must say…your reviews are nicely written. Because of the few Batman movies I have seen, I wasn’t interested in Batman begins. Now I think I might be. I wonder if any of the villains will have nearly as much fun with their role as Jack Nicholson did?

  11. Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this movie too, but there was one thing that bothered me. I’m not sure how it was done in the comic book itself, but in the first Batman, his parents were killed by the pre-Joker (sorry I can’t remember his real name.) “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?” That was the line that was said then and then again when Jack Nicholson said it and Batman realized who killed his parents. Sorry I’m rambling on. But that was the only problem I had with the movie.

  12. Paul McElligott

    This movie is far closer to the comic books than the 1989 movie. Having Jack Napier kill Bruce Wayne’s parents was a lame (IMHO) attempt to make the Batman/Joker conflict more “personal.”

    My review of the 1989 version is coming tonight.

  13. Lonely Coyote

    Ok, I guess I can stop sticking pins into my Shumacher dolls. (I hated the nipplage on the Batman and Robin costumes!)

    I am enjoying the fact that all of your films you review are very character driven. I would like to see your take on Princess Mononoke by Hiyao Miyazaka. IMHO I think it would be a worthy addition to your reviews.

    Clear skies!

  14. Kayleigh

    Batman Begins was my favorite out of any Batman film I’ve seen. When I heard a new one was coming out I was skeptical about it, but the trailer convinced me to give it a chance. I was amazed at how well done it was!

    Not only that, but it was an intelligent movie as well.

  15. cheesylovesong23

    I totally agree, this movie was one of the most kick ass movies of the year. It went so in depth with Batman’s past and his reasoning for his symbol, his motives, and his skills. The character seems so much more real and conflicted, how he planned to kill the man who murdered his parents, yet does all he can to save a seemingly corrupt city. All the characters were well developed and memorable, and even if you had to wait a long time in the movie for him to get the batman suit on, it was well worth the wait!


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