Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Why Do We Fall?
Before Ben Affleck, but after Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney, Christian Bale was Batman for at least two of the best Batman films out there. With a screenplay by director Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan and a story by David S. Goyer, Batman Begins is an origin story. Gotham City is dying since criminals like Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) are able to get away with murder since, “he keeps the bad people rich and the good people scared,” as Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) puts it. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) trains with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), the right hand of Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), and The League of Shadows.
But The League of Shadows has a skewed view of justice since they believe that more serious crimes should be punishable by death (usually by their hand) while Bruce believes in compassion and the right to a fair trial before passing judgment. Leaving The League of Shadows in shambles, Bruce makes his way back to Gotham after a seven year absence. In Bruce’s own words, “As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” This is the story of Batman’s uprising; how a young Bruce Wayne conquered his fear of bats and the death of his parents to become the ominous and fearsome dark knight.
Even when you look back at what Christopher Nolan accomplished in his Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins still holds its own and should be considered one of the best Batman films to date. Before Batman v Superman took the dark and gritty aspects of serious superhero films too far, Batman Begins was the first Batman film since Tim Burton’s Batman to favor a more serious tone in comparison to the campiness that overloads the likes of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Christopher Nolan always had the intention of keeping Batman grounded in realism and that concept reflected in its incredibly well-written storyline. Batman Begins is a lot like the Year One comic book storyline with Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City after training in martial arts and being gone for several years, the inclusion of Carmine Falcone, a blossoming relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, and The Joker tease on the rooftop even ends the story in similar fashion.
The realistic quality Christopher Nolan was aiming for also translates into the dialogue as nothing seems forced or out of place and everything seems to take place in consistent and reasonable fashion. Aside from Christian Bale, the rest of the cast is far more impressive than it had any right to be with the likes of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, and Rutger Hauer. Caine adds a level of tenderness to the Alfred character we haven’t really seen before while Cillian Murphy is brilliantly sinister as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. Thanks to frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator, director of photography Wally Pfister, Batman Begins is beautifully shot. Colors are always bright and vibrant outside of the Batcave as the dark visuals of the film seem to slowly swallow their colorful surroundings piece by piece.
The inclusion of Liam Neeson in the film is an interesting one for statistical purposes. Prior to Taken, Neeson was known for taking on roles where his character died; Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Gangs of New York, Kingdom of Heaven, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe are all prime examples. Neeson’s character Ducard is also the main ingredient in the surprise Nolan often includes in the finale of his films. Neeson has this calm demeanor about him as Ducard that portrays just how in control he is of the training he’s passing onto Bruce. The cast to Batman films are usually packed with stars that are relevant to the time it’s released, but Batman Begins can boast that its supporting cast is just as strong as the leads in the film.
The reasoning behind Christian Bale’s Batman voice is legitimate and you certainly understand why it’s utilized, but the awkward transition between normal voice and rough and raspy vigilante takes some getting used to since you immediately think of the ridiculousness in The Lego Batman Movie or the handful of Deadpool 2 jokes whenever he’s Batman now. Katie Holmes is dull dishwater as an actress. She is the least memorable of the entire cast and is basically that person at a party that everyone knows that’s there but they don’t say anything to anybody before leaving when no one is looking.
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Maggie Gyllenhaal is able to add some depth with the Rachel Dawes character in The Dark Knight, but it’s as if you can still hear the sound of the Dawson’s Creek theme song echoing in your head whenever Gyllenhaal is on-screen; Katie Holmes is like a huge fart that is still smelt after she’s gone in the sequel she’s not even a part of. There was an overwhelming amount of complaints in the online community regarding how ugly Batman’s new Batmobile, The Tumblr, is in the film. While the vehicle is ugly, at least that ugliness is maintained throughout Nolan’s entire trilogy. Batman likes ugly things in this universe, but at least they’re functional and serve their purpose.
Even with how most individuals feel about The Dark Knight, Batman Begins is still an incredible superhero film that is more than capable as a standalone feature as well as the jump-start to a new set of Batman films. Christopher Nolan practically reinvented the Batman franchise to a certain extent starting with this film. Depending on how you feel about Ben Affleck’s Batman, Christian Bale was the last satisfying Batman.
Batman Begins feels more like a crime film first and a superhero film second where Batman is an unstoppable force of nature. Stripping the film of its origin retelling, one would think this is what Todd McFarlane is going for with his new Spawn film only to an R-rated extent; a superhero that flourishes in the darkness and has a reputation as this spiritual incarnation of vengeance. Christopher Nolan made something special with his Batman films and it feels like Batman Begins is often overlooked due to the reputation of The Dark Knight. While that perspective isn’t necessarily wrong, fans should at least appreciate Batman Begins in a similar light if not a slightly brighter one.
So We Can Learn to Pick Ourselves Up.
Batman Begins is currently available to stream for $2.99 on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play and for $3.99 on iTunes. The film is available for a variety of formats on Amazon including 4K/Blu-ray ($24.49), DVD ($9.43), and Multi-Format Blu-ray ($11.49). The Blu-ray is currently $5.22 (5% off its normal $5.50 price) in brand new condition and $3.42 pre-owned on eBay with free shipping on both.
You can also get the film as part of a three-disc DVD trilogy pack with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises or as The Dark Knight Trilogy box set on DVD or Blu-ray. Both options are available on both Amazon and eBay (DVD set is running $11.97 on eBay and $19.72 on Amazon while The Dark Knight Trilogy is available in a variety of formats (regular, ultimate, and special editions) on both sites between $12 and $18.99 unless you want the $69.99 ultimate set.
© 2018 Chris Sawin
Sam Shepards from Europe on June 23, 2018:
Thanks always great to remember. I find it has been largely overshadowed by the later movies. Unjustly, because it's a great movie!