The legend begins.
Batman Begins is a 2005 superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Comics, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, and Patalex III Productions. The film is based on various Batman comics by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. It stars Christian Bale and Liam Neeson. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography, but did not win. This is the first film in the Dark Knight trilogy. It was followed by The Dark Knight.
"It's not who I am underneath, it's what I do that defines me." -Batman
After a traumatizing childhood, Bruce Wayne sets out on a new path to glory, where he meets Ducard and becomes a trainee for the League of Shadows. When Bruce returns home, he decides to become something more with his newfound training. Thus, the Batman is born.
This movie has a really great story. I think that it captures the infamous origin of the Dark Knight perfectly. Christopher Nolan really nailed the tone and characters, and it makes this movie a near perfect one for Batman's first. The Death of the Waynes has never been done better, and Nolan makes it clear that this is just another Gotham street crime. Then it got changed up with Joe Chill's death, which I thought was an interesting element. I liked the time jumps. I thought that slowly revealing Bruce's backstory was cool, and it fit in well with the training for the League of Shadows.
I think that the acting is good. Christian Bale makes a different Bruce Wayne and a different Batman than we've seen previously. He really has three different parts in this film; Bruce Wayne pre-training, Bruce Wayne post-training, and Batman. He does a good job of showing his vengeful and bad side before he meets Henri Ducard, and then shows off his newfound empathy and the more relaxed Bruce Wayne.
I love Liam Neeson in pretty much everything, even The Phantom Menace, which is saying something. He delivers a calm and subtly menacing performance that feels like you want to root for him. He is the good guy when he is Ducard, then we get the violent sociopath that wants to destroy Gotham from Ra's al Ghul. He is so sinister in a creepy way, and he plays that in so well. I think that Michael Caine is the best Alfred that I've seen (and I've seen all of them), and I also think that Morgan Freeman does his usually somewhat funny thing as Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman feels like the perfect Gordon, even though he doesn't do as much in this one as he does in the others.
I think that Katie Holmes is good enough. I've heard criticism of her portrayal of Rachel Dawes, but I don't see it. Yes, Maggie Gyllenhaal is better in The Dark Knight, but I think that Katie Holmes does a fine job. She plays well off of Bale and is strong against Scarecrow.
I thought that the action was cool. The highlight is definitely the scene where Ducard tests Bruce at the end of his training from the League of Shadows. It is a super cool scene that shows the mastermind that Christopher Nolan is. It is kind of intense because you have no idea when Ducard is going to pop out and try to attack Bruce.
Then there's the first scene with Batman. Nolan made it interesting by making it feel like a horror movie scene with the main protagonist picking off criminals with jump-scares and legit scary ideals. It is such a cool scene. There's no music and the criminals are all freaking out. The best thing is when one of the criminals is yelling "Where are you?", then Batman appears right behind him and says "Here.". It captures the scene perfectly.
The writing is really good, too. There are so many scenes that are well-written, but I think that a lot of the ending scenes are done in an amazing way. The tease of Ra's al Ghul from Scarecrow makes you go "Huh? What?". The actual reveal during the birthday party is my personal favorite scene in the movie. I thought that it was crafted so well. It is so haunting and has a sinister undertone that gives the audience this sense of tension and unease.
The movie has very rich themes, mostly about fear. Each of the films in The Dark Knight Trilogy has some thematic element that is very prominent in the film. Batman Begins has fear, obviously. The Dark Knight has chaos, and The Dark Knight Rises has pain and suffering. I think that the themes are best portrayed in this film, though. From the beginning scene, the night in the alleyway, all of Scarecrow's scenes, and the final fight with Ra's al Ghul, there is just a massive amount of symbolism and stuff that shouts the humane weakness of fear.
The score in this film is criminally underrated. It fits the dark tone of the film and gives the movie more juice. Any time you hear the deep pounding of The Dark Knight Theme, you get this indescribable feeling that just solidifies this as a Batman film.
I liked that this movie has Batman front and center. The next two films, particularly Rises, really sideline the Bat for the villains. They did a good job of making sure that Bruce Wayne had the most screen time in this film, which is what you want in a Batman movie.
Last but not least, the final tease at the end of the film in the meeting between Gordon and Batman is super cool. I love that the Joker tease wasn't planned for The Dark Knight, and that Batman Begins was just supposed to be a solo film. It makes it all the more ironic and fun.
The biggest thing that I have on this film is the pacing. I think that it is not well-paced at all. The beginning starts off a bit slow with the training and flashbacks, but it's still enjoyable. As soon as Batman returns to Gotham, the pace picks up. Then you have the first couple of scenes with the Caped Crusader, and the movie is just sprinting at a perfect, brisk pace. Then we lose Carmine Falcone to Scarecrow as the main villain, and the movie loses steam. For about thirty minutes, it is going pretty slow. The middle parts with Scarecrow torturing Rachel and Bruce saving her, it feels like it should be fast-paced, but it isn't. Then Ra's shows up, and it takes off at its previous pace. It is very uneven, and it takes away from the experience of the film.
Secondly, I'm not a fan of Cillian Murphy. I think that his performance as Scarecrow is just weird and unusual. It isn't bad, but it feels like it doesn't fit inside of this world. He seems out of place from the rest of the villains and the rest of the characters, and it makes the middle act with him as the main antagonist even worse.
Finally, I think that the fear effects are not right. I can see what they were going for with the heartbeat type of effects, but I find it distracting, especially in the final sequence. It would've been nice if they could've gotten it right, but they put that on the back burner, and it didn't work out.
Despite an uneven pace and a strange actor to go with strange effects, the film succeeds with the perfect superhero origin story and a great villain.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 11+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8/10
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rated PG-13 for superhero violence and action, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on June 15, 2005
2 hours and 20 minutes
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul
Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
Gary Oldman as James Gordon
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow
Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone