Review: Batman Begins
An effective reboot of the Batman legend, which shows the dark origins of our anti-hero.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is trying to lose himself in Asia after the death of his parents. Fortunately, he is found by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) who sees Wayne’s potential and proceeds to teach him fighting skills as well as how to gain power over enemies. But at the crucial moment, Wayne rejects the ways of the League of Shadows and instead returns to Gotham. There he finds a corrupt police system effectively allowing the mob to run the city, assisted by the mysterious Scarecrow.
Disgusted by what he witnesses, Wayne determines to take on a vigilante role to deal with the mob. He chooses a bat as his symbol, something he fears to strike fear into his enemies. Wayne is ably assisted in his quest by his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) and the head of his research and development team, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Katie Holmes provides the love interest and obligatory screaming role as Rachel Dawes, an old flame.
After the pitiful and camp offering that was “Batman and Robin”, it is undoubtedly time for a reboot of the Batman mythology. Whereas previous films focused on visual style, Nolan wanted to do a movie on the origins and he concentrates more on drama and empathy. Wayne’s Batman isn’t a 2D construct straight from a comic book, but a well-rationalized and motivated character who must face his own fears before he can tackle those of others.
Nolan is quoted as saying that “Bladerunner” provided much inspiration for his film, and this seems borne out in his vision of Gotham. Nolan’s Gotham is towering and dirty, not the crisp Gotham-in-snow from Burton’s second film, nor the psychedelic Gotham of “Batman Forever”. Even the Batmobile, although it boasts all the same gadgets, is not sleek and stylish, but bulky, practical and matt-black.
Alongside Bale portraying Wayne’s battle with his split personality are three strong secondary characters to provide him with support and guidance. Michael Caine’s Alfred provides sympathy and loyalty; Morgan Freeman’s Fox supplies the gadgets and cool-headedness; and Liam Neeson completes the trio as the calculating, insightful Ducard. With such veteran actors, it is hard to decide who steals the scene the most when they appear on screen.
Nolan explicitly wanted to ensure children (albeit older ones) would be able to view this movie, so there is no gore in this film. However, that does not detract from the grittiness of the whole set up, nor does it compromise the action and the pace. While Katie Holmes gives a harmless enough performance and Neeson evidently enjoys his darker than normal role, it is the characters portrayed by Bale, Caine and Freeman that shine in a dark city and who will have audiences clamoring to Nolan for more.