To mark this as my 100th review on WordPress, I’ve decided to focus it onto a play/recreational-project I started back in late June, known as “The Summer Of Batman”, in which the time when I would watch TV or read books or play games would include something Batman related. So what better way to begin than with this film. For those who are wondering why I’m doing this review now and not in June or July; 1. personal reasons, 2. I’ve been replaying the Arkham games before eventually moving onto Arkham Knight, and 3. reading comics, which I don’t do here.
Every comic book superhero has an origins story that is often fixed from the first presentation, and without it, there wouldn’t be this hero at all. In the case of Batman, it was him witnessing the murder of his parents in Crime Alley when he was a young boy. This backstory is revisited quite often in Batman stories, because without it, there is no reason or goal for a rich white dude to be running around in dark tights and armour, learning a wide-variety of martial arts, and beating up a combination of gangsters and desperate men without murdering them (Because murder would lower him to their level). Different versions of this have been told, such as the Joker being the 1 who killed them, to it being part of a big picture conspiracy, to…the best 1…which this film provided.
Borrowing elements from Batman: Year One and other comics, Bruce Wayne experiences many issues since “that night”, and it haunts him, even into his teenage years. When an incident happens that destroyed his goal in life, he runs away from Gotham and ends up on the other side of the world, where a man named Henri Ducard offers to train him to become a Ninja Assassin in a group called The League Of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce learns everything about it, hong-kong cinema style, and then he goes back to Gotham. He decides to incorporate what he learned from Ducard, as well as take advantage of his family’s vast wealth, by paying Lucious Fox a visit in the weapons department, exploring the bat cave he was once so afraid of, and then turning that bat cave into…the bat cave. And lastly, to finish this up, he decides to create a persona that takes his 1 fear, and allows him to use it on others…and hence, DC’s other best known super hero…begins.
Part of what made Batman Begins so unique is the fact that a majority of the people who worked on it were British or European, with 1 Japanese (Ken Watanabe), and a few stand-out Americans (Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, and story writer David S. Goyer being the main 1s). Why mention this fact? Because it’s clearly a very different film to every pure american adaption of the Dark Knight that has been done before, from ’60s Batman to Schumacher’s Batman (Yes, that Batman)…although Tim Burton did take the franchise in a darker direction, much like the Comics had been doing in the ’80s.
Casting-wise, it’s possible that they couldn’t have picked a better group of people for the job. They even had 2 Irish Men as your primary villains, which is quite amusing. The acting is excellent, and you wouldn’t even notice that so many of the actors aren’t American (Outside of Michael Caine, who is obviously an English actor playing an English Character). Christian Bale does an excellent job playing what is evidently 4 different roles. He played Bruce Wayne, the careless millionaire playboy in public. Bruce Wayne the man who develops weapons and armour as part of an extra-caricular activity in private. Bruce Wayne, the angry young man bent on revenge and murder. And lastly, Batman, the character who embodies all of Bruce Wayne’s childhood fears, in order to give them to those who have ill-intentions. Were there any bad actors in this?…the worst was probably Katie Holmes, and that’s it…and she did quite a good job…it can also be noted that Liam Neeson chose to keep his Irish accent, but I’m not going to complain, he did great. Also, Gary Oldman looks a lot like James Gordon in the comics, while also having a very convincing “good-cop personality” (You’ll get this if you’ve seen him as a villain), so who better?
Graphics-wise, for a Pre-Avatar film, Batman Begins still holds up very well, even if it’s now over 10 years old. A lot of it involves model versions, green screen, Scarecrow effects, and some bats, along with many practical effects to create a well balanced viewing experience.
Hans Zimmer’s score for this film has become pretty legendary in its own right. It was the beginning of a trademark sound that only the combination of Christopher Nolan and Zimmer could pull off, and it also provided us with a brand new Batman theme that’s just as memorable as ’60s Batman and Danny Elfman’s Burtoneque scores.
Character-wise, I feel that everybody was well chosen, and looking back on it, it’s a good thing that they didn’t jump right into some of Batman’s more powerful foes. It doesn’t take away from Ra’s al Ghul or Scarecrow, who are excellent villains in their own right, but they don’t really compare with some of the characters that would arrive in later films…especially the way Nolan presents them.
Would I recommend Batman Begins? Absolutely. 10 years on, it remains 1 of my favourite superhero movies. It has aged incredibly well, with little to no emphasis on the times whatsoever (unlike Tim Burton’s Batman, who had Prince in the soundtrack). It is clear that this updated-take on Batman was influential to many superhero movies that came after it by breathing a certain degree of realism into the mix (such as Batman being a trained Ninja and effectively an MMA fighter), and through this, it is a pinnacle spot in the history of comic book movies. Is it the best super hero movie ever made? Probably not…that definitely comes later. But I do think it remains the best origins story, and easily the best interpretation of Batman’s origins.
Graphics/Presentation: ****1/4 (By today’s standards)