The Marvel Cinematic Universe reigns supreme over cinema right now. It is the Highest Grossing movie series to date, and the only series to gross over 10 Billion Dollars. But despite all it’s wealth, all it’s accolades, all it’s power; there continues to be one film series that overshadows it; and this is where it all started.
Released in 2005 and directed by Christopher Nolan; Batman Begins is the first film in the hugely successful Dark Knight Trilogy. Nolan was still a pretty new director on the scene but had already had some critical success with his first three films: Following, Memento and Insomnia. Still pretty new maybe, but it wouldn’t take long for him to make his everlasting mark on Hollywood. The film was written by David S. Goyer, a man who wasn’t new to Superhero films either; what with being the writer for the first three Blade films.
Batman Begins works as an origin story to Batman, with the idea focussing in on how Bruce Wayne became Batman, and how Batman changed Gotham City. Gotham is a broken city, one awash with crime with a severe level of difference between poor and rich; and crime is rife. Some try to do their best to help the city like the wealthy Thomas and Martha Wayne, but one night while leaving the Opera with their son, they are both mugged and then Killed while their son watches. The story then develops into the modern-day as the now older Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still coming to terms with everything, while the city continues to fall into disrepute. After some time away though, he has returned, and is ready to make real change, but as something different.
Batman Begins story is quite clever as from the get go, we are already drawn towards the unhappy beginnings of Bruce Wayne. We go on his journey through pain and suffering as he grows and matures. Surrounded by friends and extended family in best friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) and family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). One day, his story changes however, as after a meeting with some powerful people he decides to change; not to grieve, but to fight back; but first he has to learn. He goes on a journey to understand the criminal mind; then trains under the guidance of feared and revered warrior Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson). He takes this knowledge and these skills, and set’s about creating his persona, one that he fears, and will make others too. Gotham meanwhile has got even worse and is run by crime. At it’s head is crime lord Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) and doctor, Crane (Cillian Murphy).
Batman Begins is such a good film. It creates a more modern but also realistic portrayal of the Batman Character. The film makers have gone far to make the story seem and feel believable, as if this sort of thing is actually possible. It really follows on from what Goyer did with Blade; creating not a fantasy/comic world, but setting it in the real world; in a location that while fictional, looks real enough to visit. It’s use of Chicago as a base idea for the look of the city of Gotham, has done itself a great virtue. Some things are still down to the fictional of course, as nightmares are born in its plot, and the film incorporates the own DC name of Batman comic’s creators, as Bruce Wayne not only goes on to gain knowledge of the criminal mind, but has to investigate the cases of what Crane has been up to, to understand and find a way of fixing the city.
Batman though is not alone, as he is helped in tandem by his gadget man Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), top rising detective James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and even his childhood friend Rachel Dawes. The cast is brilliant. Nolan went out of his way to grab major stars to create a truly epic cast, who are not just there to give marketing star power, but to provide acting star power, them too creating and portraying truly believable characters in their own right. Villains are real and despicable heels whilst Allies are true and trusted faces (professional wrestling reference).
The effects are off the chain in this film too; using a great mix of special and visual effects. Real life inserts including vehicles and stunts when reality can; then visual effects when the real effects are just not possible. The film features some excellent fight scenes throughout, and features not one but two chases which include its great finale and of course, the marvellous car chase featuring police car’s, helicopters; and quite possibly, the greatest Batmobile of them all: The Tumbler.
Best is still yet to come, as we haven’t even got to the Film’s Soundtrack yet. Composed by Hans Zimmer, Batman Begins Soundtrack is now as iconic, possibly even more so, to that of Star Wars. The main theme can still be heard today as supplement for TV shows when they needed the right track, but also resonated as Batman’s theme for The Dark Night Trilogy. It’s influence and response has possibly even gone on to become Batman’s theme possibly beyond even that from Tim Burton‘s own take on Batman.
As a theme, it’s almost universal in its use; as that in can be used for any scene, and also be adapted to be turned into something else, but still be grounded enough to be used again and again. This becomes the case in scenes such as the final chase, where the heightened reality of the finale reaches a major and lightening crescendo before the ultimate conclusion and reality, plus a sign of deep breath as the hero achieves victory.
The Dark Knight Trilogy wouldn’t have come about if it wasn’t for this film. This first film works well, even if the rest of the trilogy had never come about, Batman Begins still works as a great solo piece. It is a great evening film if what you want is both Drama and Action. While The Dark Knight maybe this trilogies main attraction, there is a lot more to still say about Begins. It’s a tightly compacted film, which doesn’t go over the top. This style of exuberant film-making magic works and to this day still holds up. It’s a Titan of its genre and one that without it, would make the history of Cinema that little bit more boring!