The quintessential superhero origin story, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins reinvigorated the Batman franchise, grounding the costumed vigilante in realism and garnering critical and commercial acclaim in the process. Its influence can now be seen in many a superhero derivation, most recently in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man reboot which is aiming for the darker, grittier tone in Nolan’s Batman saga. With the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises just around the corner, now would seem a fitting time to revisit the beginning of Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
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Before Bruce Wayne ever speaks those immortal words “I’m Batman” to the drug peddling Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Nolan & co smartly take us on a journey of understanding how and why the billionaire is so driven. Not showing Batman for a full hour could have worked against the film, but it is so engaging you barely notice. Through well-placed flashbacks and montages, we watch as Bruce seeks vengeance for the death of his parents and is eventually sought out and trained by the League of Shadows. It’s in these scenes where Christian Bale shines brightest, bringing a quiet intensity to the determined orphan.
When Wayne finally returns to Gotham to create the Batman persona, we have a far better understanding of the man behind the cowl. This is a superhero film however, and thankfully when it comes time for Batman to take to the streets and inflict justice on Gotham’s criminals, Nolan does not disappoint. Batman’s opening night sets the tone perfectly, our dark clad hero striking and taunting his unsuspecting prey from the shadows. The larger set-pieces are even more impressive, namely a fast and furious Batmobile chase through the city that makes for, to quote the man himself, “Damn good television” (Though “Damn good Cinema” would probably be more grammatically correct here).
Of course, it helps when you have an A-list class all delivering top performances. Morgan Freeman makes excellent use of the small moments afforded to him as Batman’s architect and confidant, Lucius Fox. Michael Caine’s Alfred imparts dry wit and wisdom in equal measure, whilst Liam Neeson proves just as good a villain as he is a mentor. Gary Oldman is also excellent as honest cop Jim Gordon, his bond with the costumed vigilante one of the more interesting relationships to watch unfold as they unite to save the city.
Whilst Batman Begins ends with one of the best cinematic teases in recent memory, it’s almost bittersweet to think that The Dark Knight Rises will be the last time we see the latest – and best – incarnation of this iconic character. Nolan’s final Batman chapter has been billed as ‘The Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend’, and should he end as brilliantly as he begun (and from the looks of things thus far, it seems that he has), then we’re in for a real treat.
Best line: There are so many great exchanges throughout Batman Begins, but I don’t think anyone can begrudge me for picking this one as the standout.
Best Scene: Bruce Wayne masters his fear…