Batman movies have had a longstanding tradition of being totally silly. From the 1966 Batman movie with its “Shark Repellant” to Batman and Robin that attempts to be family friendly and silly. While making a family friendly movie isn’t bad, making a family friendly Batman movie is something like trying to make a family friendly version of The Godfather. You’re just going to besmirch the pervasive dark themes and complex characters. Fortunately, Christopher Nolan finally brought us the type of Batman story we’ve been expecting for decades with Batman Begins (2005).
Millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) still grieves the loss of his philanthropic parents to a senseless crime. While traveling the world to research the nature of evil, he is discovered by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) in China taking on petty thieves in a prison. They train Bruce how to fight evil and strike fear into the hearts of his enemies as a symbol rather than as a man. After Bruce learns of their plot to wipe out evil in his home city of Gotham, Bruce attempts to stop them and returns home. Back in his original surroundings, Bruce adopts the image of a bat to strike fear into criminals as the icon known as “Batman.” Things don’t stay quiet for long as the corrupt psychologist Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) works to pollute the water supply with a panic-inducing psychoactive drug that will cause the citizens of Gotham to tear themselves apart out of fear.
I admit to being a much bigger fan of the Marvel superheroes. Batman is probably the only DC hero I really like. Batman is one of DC Comic’s most legendary superheroes, second only to Superman. Tim Burton’s two Batman movies were good, but Batman Begins shows us Batman finally getting the treatment and respect he deserves. This is one of the greatest revamps given to a cultural icon.
Comic books that made it to the big screen have for a long while been rather silly romps of action and gratuitous special effects. Some of these movies are fun, but a bit hard to take very seriously. Batman Begins goes in a drastically different direction than its forbears. Everything is significantly more grounded; there are no crazy, over the top super powers or sci-fi gadgetry in this movie. There are fictional, but believable, hallucinogenic drugs. There is also an almost forgotten scientific genius at Wayne Corp. named Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) in research and development. He supplies Bruce with high-end military grade prototype gadgets that never went into production because they were not cost efficient. Coupled with Bruce’s ninja-like training, he is able to do some incredible stunts without pushing credibility over the edge.
All the other Batman movies have addressed why Bruce Wayne identifies with bats (childhood trauma) and hates evildoers (he witnessed his parents being killed by a mugger). We are so familiar with that aspect of Batman it almost seems cliché and redundant to reiterate it in another movie. Yet in Batman Begins these are major plot devices and are given significant weight and depth. It’s also fascinating to see how Bruce develops as a character and invents Batman as he goes along. He’s a bit of a slow learner, making clumsy mistakes and taking foolish risks as he starts out. Even after he has an established the “Batman” persona and disguise he still needs to call upon the aid of his family butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), to get him out of a bind.
Batman Begins is an amazingly good superhero movie. It doesn’t have the silly, flashy gloss of earlier films. Everything feels more grounded and believable than the average superhero movie. The characters are complex and interesting. The story is deep and meaningful. The imagery gets pretty intense, so I wouldn’t recommend showing it to younger viewers. There really isn’t anything negative I can say about this. It has become an instant classic, and it will be a long time before we accept a non-Christopher Nolan Batman. This one is definitely worth owning on Blu-Ray. I highly recommend seeing this if you haven’t already, and if you have, I would highly recommend seeing it again.
What’s your favorite non-Christopher Nolan Batman movie to date? Comment below and tell me why!