Review: Batman Begins

Batman 1

Content Warning: Violence and Thematic Material

As a huge Batman fan, I was super excited when I first watched this film.  Christoper Nolan (Inception, The Prestige) helms this Batman reboot and looks to bring a darker side to the caped crusader and his tragic life. As with previous Batman films, Batman Begins also tries to push the limits on how menacing his movies can truly be.

The movie starts out with a young Bruce Wayne growing up in Wayne Manor. It effectively shows the strong bond the Wayne family had before his parent’s tragic death, and also reveals the start of Bruce and Rachel’s relationship. One of the first scenes in the movie shows Bruce stealing an arrowhead from Rachel, and her chasing him trying to get it back. As he is running away, he falls into an old well and breaks his leg. His father eventually finds him and comes down the well to get him. When he reaches Bruce, he asks him the question, “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.” It becomes the most important quote of the movie and also meant a lot to me from a Christian perspective. In our walk with Christ sometimes we are going to fall, but we can’t give up when we fall. We have to pick ourselves up, refocus on Christ, and grow stronger from our fall.

You also find out early in the film that Bruce is scared of bats, and that he becomes Batman in order to embrace his fear and take control of it, instead of letting his fear take control of him. In fact, during one conversation between Bruce and Alfred, Alfred asks him, “Why bats, Master Wayne?” He replies, “Bats scare me. It’s time my enemies shared my fear.” I thought it was a great addition to the origin story of Batman.

Batman 2Christian Bale (The Prestige, The Fighter) plays the new adult Bruce Wayne and turns in a fantastic performance. I personally think they couldn’t have gotten anyone better for the role. He brings Batman’s pain to life. Katie Holmes plays the adult Rachel. She performs decently, but I thought she could do more with the role. I kept waiting for her to “wow” me in some way and it never happened. Michael Caine plays Bruce’s butler Alfred and gives perhaps the best performance in the movie by basically being both Bruce’s mentor and conscience. Gary Oldman plays Jim Gordon, and, though he gives a good performance, I felt he was not the right person for the part. Gordon was always more of a hard-nosed, gritty detective, and Oldman just doesn’t bring that to his role. Liam Neeson (Taken, Non-Stop) plays Rhas Al Ghoul and brings his Qui-Gon Jinn personality to the forefront as the man who trains the young Bruce Wayne. It’s a perfect role for Neeson. Finally, Cillian Murphy (Red Lights, Inception) plays Scarecrow, a psychologist who has extreme measures of treating his patients. Being a fairly new guy to the acting community, Cillian turns in a creepy and fantastic performance in the role.

Christopher Nolan brings his masterful directing skills to this movie and does so almost flawlessly. By showing the sad and tragic childhood that made Batman into a superhero, Nolan brings a dark, ominous tone to the film.. He is quickly becoming one of the greatest directors alive.

And, finally, the score for this film is one of its best attributes. It brings Gotham City and the pain of the characters in the movie to life and will stay with you for weeks afterwards.

Positives

Negatives

The Bottom Line

 

Erik Daniel

2 Comments

  1. Daniel Rodrigues-Martin on September 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    The Dark Knight is easily the pinnacle of Nolan’s trilogy, but the opening chapter of Batman Begins is no less a stick of dynamite.

    An entire post could be written on the themes of this film and how they are masterfully woven into the series at large. Suffice it to say that the film is acceptably self-referential from beginning to end in the theme of accepting, embracing, and ultimately channeling fear. The film opens with Bruce’s fear of bats, it moves on to the fear and anger that poison him following his parents’ death, the fear he embraces as a world-trotting criminal, and the fear he learns to forge into a weapon as an agent of the League of Shadows and ultimately as the Batman. It is perhaps as the Batman that he experiences his greatest trials in this regard, and this is palpably personified by Cilliam Murphy’s Scarecrow.

    Somehow, Bruce Wayne’s personal struggles are masterfully tied into a crime thriller where he single-handedly brings down the mob and maintains control of his family’s corporate empire. This film, and all of the series, really, is superbly plotted. It’s rare to see a movie introduce and tie up so many threads so neatly, but Nolan does it.

    I would agree with the reviewer that Katie Holmes was a little flat for the role of Rachel. She was too “cute” for Gotham City. She looked too young and didn’t bring enough grittiness to the character, plus it was jarring that she didn’t return in the sequel. Maggie Gyllenhal was better in the Dark Knight, and in the best of all worlds, she would have played Rachel in Batman Begins.

    Other than Katie Holmes’s acceptable performance, the cast was inspired, especially Michael Caine and Christian Bale.

    Hans Zimmer’s score is unforgettably tense and haunting, perfectly setting the bleak, yet hopeful, tone of the film(s). It properly seasons the story without overpowering it. Some films have this problem (some of James Newton Howard’s scores have unfortunately been tied to some of M. Night Shymalan’s more lackluster films; I’m thinking particularly of the beautiful melodies in the Last Airbender and the very tense “Great Eatlon” from Lady in the Water, which, if you watch the scene it plays through, really seems out of place for what’s transpiring onscreen) but Zimmer’s music serves the film well.

    Overall this is a brilliant film that avoids some of Tim Burton’s artistic finagling and Joel Schumacher’s, dare I say, bastardization (Batman has a credit card? What, did Adam West write that scene?). Bale perfectly balances the Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy, and the film ends on a high note with storm clouds on the horizon.

    Batman Begins is a brilliant film well worth anyone’s time.

  2. Wesley Wood on September 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I found this film to be better than The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises

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