Batman Begins

The Batman series of films has had a intriguing life span thus far. The Tim Burton films (Batman and Batman Returns) went in the right direction, but were ultimately flawed in a few of the creative choices implemented. Though nothing could have prepared fans for the Schumacher films (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). The two films did little to keep to the Dark Knight’s roots and took a rather campy and overall lackluster approach to the series that put the Batman film franchise into a hiatus of roughly eight years. There were a few projects commissioned but ultimately never were able to make it past the rough stages of development before Warner Bros pulled the plug. Batman Triumphant, Batman: DarKnight, Batman Beyond, Batman vs Superman, and Batman: Year One were the names of each of the projects tossed around as possible candidates. Ultimately, each was flawed or didn’t agree with the executives at Warner Bros… And the future of the Dark Knight ever rightfully returning to the silver screen seemed unlikely for the time being…

In 2003, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer became attached to a new start to the Batman film franchise. Rather than try to stay in continuity and fix the damage done, it was decided to head in a completely different direction altogether and start from the very beginning. The origins of Batman had never been fully addressed on screen (besides a flashback or brief mentioning) and it was Nolan’s intention to bring the development of the character to life on the big screen. A darker approach with realism and a focus on humanity present was also decided upon as well. As the film’s release date approached, many remained skeptical. With the trailers released and marketing; the general publics interest rose and the fans became intrigued by this new and much darker version of Batman. The inevitable release of the film brought in it’s fair share of theater goer’s and fared much better with both the fans and critics than the previous Batman films.

Batman Begins literally falls in line with the film’s title and starts from the very beginning and explores the origins of Bruce Wayne and explain exactly why he dons the Batsuit and fights the scum and corrupt in Gotham. The story starts with Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) in a prison suspected to be located some where within a particular part of Asia (it’s implied but never actually stated) in which he fights the criminals he is locked up with that essentially chalks up to the “personal journey” he takes away from Gotham that eventually brings him to the Batman persona. After a brief fight scene, Bruce is introduced to Henri Ducard who invites him to become a part of the League of Shadows and become more than merely a man fighting a crime but rather a legend (read: symbol that remains imprinted and lives on). The film then follows into a lengthy exposition regarding Bruce’s training that ultimately reveals his past. The film has a very wholehearted approach to developing Bruce Wayne and focusing upon the dawn of the Dark Knight rather than simply introducing the character and running from there with little consideration for the characters displayed on screen.

In order to fully flesh out the characters on screen; one would hope that clever, intelligent, and overall well flowing dialogue would be implemented to keep things interesting and also allow for more genuine moments on screen. Fortunately, Begins does indeed feature well crafted dialogue to further help drive the story and also contribute to the countless genuine moments featured on screen. The action sequences are also impressive and are blended together with the impressive dialgoue to deliver a experience that can not easily be imitated and differs from all of the past Batman films. There’s a larger sense of scale and focus on the cinematography that can be best summed up as epic, but still flawed. The action sequences worked up until Wayne dons the Batsuit and then they just feel rough around the edges and unnatural to a certain degree. Despite the negative points, you’ll still find some edgy and rather creative sequences that more or less make up for the film’s few shortcomings.

With clever dialogue also comes top notch actors. Christian Bale delivers a interesting take on Bruce Wayne. Essentially, there are three sides to the character. There’s the public image Wayne must rely on to avert suspicion, his true personality that is never showcased to the public, and then the Dark Knight himself. Bale does a very precise job at balancing each persona out in a natural manner. Michael Caine plays Aflred in the best rendition of the character I’ve seen yet in the series of Batman films. Caine and Bale are dynamic in delivering the dialogue provided in a earnest and a manner the delivers a lot of depth. Liam Neeson plays Henri Ducard and does a top notch job in delivering some unforgettable moments within the film. Gary Oldman plays James Gordon and the approach to the character is very reminiscent to Batman: Year One (Frank Millar). There’s a certain connection between Gordon and Batman that developed when he was merely a boy and stuck in the police station after his parents death that further helps drive the character development further. Katie Holmes unfortunately plays the obligatory love interest pasted into the film. Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox and does the usual top notch job at delivering memorable moments that played into the gadgets Batman utilizes. And Cillian Murphy tops off the cast list as the frighteningly calm yet psychotic Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow.

The villains featured in Begins are two that have never been featured in a Batman film beforehand and are lesser known amongst the general public yet play much more prominent roles in the graphic novel. This was a aspect I found intriguing about Begins. It’s aim was to bring a more dark and realistic approach to the character and also stay true to the core of the graphic novel (to a certain extent). The Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul are both villains with a lot of potential and possibilities to explore upon. Fortunately, the film makers took the right avenue as the film’s overall purpose tied well into the characters displayed on screen. Both villains are written into the plot in a connecting manner that further drives them down into reality while also keeping that Batman tone and feel found in the graphic novel.

Batman is well know for the various gadgets he utilizes to aid him in his efforts to fight the criminals within Gotham. Begins does a impressive job at providing the various gadgets and further developing what exactly makes up the overall Batsuit and how it functions. Lucius Fox provides Wayne with all he needs and improvisation follows via a division within Wayne Enterprises long since forgotten. It’s a intriguing way to explain how Wayne got his hands on what he needed and further cements the overall tone in a more realistic sort of manner (albeit with some suspended disbelief). The Batsuit finally gives Wayne a neck and more flexibility while the new and redesigned Batmobile (now called “The Tumbler”) gives way to some impressive moments and a overall shift from the usual path taken in the Batman film series. Though long time fans might be a bit disappointed to see the sudden change in Batman’s means of transportation regardless of it’s more realistic approach.

One of the key aspects of Batman Begins that sells the film even further is the impressive orchestrated soundtrack in a collaborative effort by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Begins has a unique tone that reflected a serious side laced with a somber yet soothing portion as well. Words alone can not describe how well the soundtrack to Begins fits within the actual film. It’s a living and breathing aspect that contains a mind of it’s own. I found countless moments within the film that were further amplified and understood through the score. Zimmer and Howard surprised me with the amount of depth and precision delivered. Which ended up providing more entertainment as I checked into the soundtrack and still find myself listening to it up to this day despite the fact it’s been around for nearly three years now. It’s unlike anything heard before and overall leaves a impact as one of the most unqiue impressive scores delivered within the film industry.

Regardless of the praise it receives, Batman Begins is still not without it’s issues. The new Batsuit finally gives Batman the much needed neck and flexibility but still comes off as stiff. And Bale’s raspy voice is a much unwanted addition to the film as it seems out of place and could often obscure Batman’s points of dialogue from time to time. I can understand the intended purpose as a individual attempting to conceal their identity would need to alter their voice in order to do so. But it still doesn’t shake the dismay I have for the voice and wish for it to be downplayed in future installments. The other flaw within the film is the inclusion of the Rachel character. It’s another unwelcome alteration to the Batman universe and overall feels like a cope out to provide a love interest to Wayne and further dramatize things. Holmes’ performance further brings the character down as she seems disconnected from the role and ultimately provides a mediocre performance, thus projecting a disconnected feeling from the character in general.

Despite it’s flaws, Batman Begins is a impressive film that falls under the Super Hero genre of film that succeeds in providing a higher quality. It retains the overall core of the graphic novel by keeping in line with a more gritty, dark, and realistic tone. The script is well crafted and laced with brilliance while the film carries top notch actors that can deliver the script’s strength. The ending of the film leaves a more linear approach to the next one (if you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I mean), but ultimately leaves the audience anxiously looking forward to the future of the film series (I myself walked out of the theater eagerly ready for the next film). A few flaws cripple the film from reaching a higher status and the concept of developing and rebooting the series is not for everyone (as it can be a bit slow paced at times). Yet there’s still quite a bit to enjoy with this new reboot to the character that takes cues from various points of the Dark Knight and mixes together new elements as well to provide a original and overall compelling start to the brand new beginning of Batman.

Pro’s: A darker tone, top notch acting, a grander scale to the action, impressive focus on cinematography, and intelligent and well crafted dialogue.

Con’s: The action is rough around the edges, batsuit is a improvement but could still use some work, the inclusion of the Rachel character is bothersome (on top of Holmes’ iffy performance), and the raspy voice included while Wayne is under the Batman persona feels misplaced.

Conclusion: Despite it’s flaws; the film combines top notch acting, a brilliant script, darker and more realistic tone, and a grander scope cinematography wise to deliver a much needed new beginning to the Dark Knight.

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