Batman Begins was the one that started the revival. Before this film, Batman was nothing more (to those who didn’t read comic books) than a cheesy non-super powered hero who ‘biffed’ the bad guys, wore some funny tights, and had a questionable relationship with his sidekick, Robin.
It is a brutal, deep, emotional and thoroughly engaging film that grabs your attention from the moment it starts; throwing you right in at the deep end with it’s thrumming soundtrack, a look back into Bruce’s childhood and other events from his years prior to becoming the Dark Knight, there’s just enough information to keep you wanting more without feeling overwhelmed by such an expansive universe. It builds up relationships from the outset and firmly establishes Bruce’s reasonings for wanting to become Batman. That said, it doesn’t give anything away for free: you need to keep your wits about you and not lose focus. It’s unlikely that you will, however, as it’s such a thrilling ride, you won’t want it to end.
I remember going to see the film when it came out in the cinema with my Film Studies class. It was a last class trip before we left college to go our separate ways, and with our tutor - she was more like one of the students than a teacher and certainly inspired us all with what she taught us - we were about to experience something we’d all been anticipating since rumours had emerged of its production.
With a cast that directors could usually only dream of, the narrative is lifted above the mediocre cliché that the previous visual efforts had made our favourite millionaire-come-masked avenger. Christian Bale as Batman was an inspired choice: he epitomises Frank Miller’s Batman/Wayne from Batman: Year One, all angst and brooding, and brings a thoughtful grittiness to the role.
Actor/chameleon, Gary Oldman, is as brilliant as ever, playing the quietly spoken Lt Gordon. His performance is matched by both Liam Neeson’s Henry Ducard and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox - the former rather unexpectedly holds more cards up his sleeve than you would expect. One of the many villains of the piece is the sinister Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). I really did not like him in this film, but that is a good thing, because that was the point of his part. He does the whole creepy bad guy thing so well it’s scary...literally.
I’m not entirely convinced by Katie Holmes performance (nor that of Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight, although, she was better). There are so many stronger women who could’ve played the character of Rachel and she just didn’t seem to be the right fit for Bale’s Bruce. Holmes is cold, unsympathetic and mis-matched as the love interest for the hunky heir to the Wayne legacy. This isn’t helped by the character, admittedly. For all of Rachel’s principles, she couldn’t see past her grievances to notice that her friend was in pain and trying to find a way to make a difference; just as she strived to do every day as Gotham City’s Assistant DA.
Batman Begins would not be complete without the backbone of the film and Wayne’s right-hand man, Alfred. Played by the effortless (Sir) Michael Caine, his ever present wisdom, warmth and humour give the film its heart and it would not have been the same with any other actor in the role.
The city of Gotham is as much a character in Begins as the cast members. A mixture of New York and Chicago (although, I would lean towards it being more like the former), its inhabitants are as colourful as Tim Burton’s effort in 1989. The environment is dark and foreboding, which adds to the overall feel of the film, and serves to highlight the contrast between the gloss and the dirty underbelly that’s overtaking it. Add to that Bruce’s amazing array of bat-gadgets, and that car (*swoon*), and you have the makings of an epic feature.
Less cackling maniacal - though still insane - miscreants and trashy faux S&M outfits, Nolan’s vision of the caped crusader brought him hurtling into the 21st century with the force of hurricane and the skill of a master composer. Who could have thought that seven years ago this would be the beginning of such an awesome trilogy when Christian Bale, in his menacing growl, uttered those immortal words, telling the world: “I’m Batman.”