Batman Begins: A tense, dark, brooding and exciting piece of entertainment.
In a way, Batman Begins, the first of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is a game-changer. Aside from the obvious rebooting of the Batman series out of the dreaded doldrums of Batman and Robin, Begins also marked the death of the campy Bond films of the past (no more invisible cars!), and you could even say that it marked the death of your cartoonish superhero films of the past. Why? Well, Batman Begins to this day remains the prime example of how to reboot a franchise. As much as an impact as its amazing predecessor The Dark Knight has on cinema, it's most probably this film that will forever have a bigger and long lasting impact on cinema. Don't agree with me? Well, if it wasn't for the dark, brooding but fantastic Batman Begins, there would be none of the serious-minded reboots (i.e. Casino Royale) that seem to be churned out every year in Hollywood. Instead, not only all the reboots, but probably all the blockbusters too, would be mostly reduced to campy, over-the-top nonsense. Of course, leave it to the man behind one of the most ambitious, original and challenging films of recent years (Memento) to change the game.
All of this begs the question: Is Batman Begins: The Event as good as Batman Begins: The Film? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes. Batman Begins is tense, dark and violent, and perhaps as realistic a Batman film as you'll ever see, but it also works as a sublime and exciting piece of entertainment, not to mention it has a great amount of emotional depth and plot to boot. Like many of Nolan's films, it takes a while to get a full grasp of what is happening, but once you get a hold on what is going on, you are rewarding by one of the most satisfying and well-crafted blockbusters in recent times.
Overwrought with guilt and anger from his parents death as a child by a thug, billionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) decides to do something in order to vent his feelings by getting back at the scums who lurk throughout society. After training in the Far East, assisted by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), Wayne returns to Gotham to help rid of the injustices and crimes that are present throughout his city of Gotham. To do this, he develops his alter ego, Batman, who fights crime in the darkness to bring safety back to Gotham. But there lies a threat in the form of Dr. Crane (Cillian Murphy), who joins forces with the underground criminals to instill fear and panic into Gotham.
Batman Begins boasts a fantastic cast who collectively come together to create a Gotham and a world that feels realistic, but also still feels like a comic book film. Bale, quite a versatile actor, is on top form here with quite a subdued performance. Here he gets to show what he's really made of before being overshadowed by the clown prince later on, and he is more than up to the task. Whilst Dr. Crane/Scarecrow as a character isn't exactly a memorable villain, Cillian Murphy's chilling stare more than makes up for the underwritten character. Tom Wilkinson is excellent but under utilized as Carmine Falcone. Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson all round out an excellent supporting cast, who all suit their roles well. Letting the team though is Katie Holmes, who seems to really be struggling here for some reason.
This is certainly a fantastic looking film. Long-time Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister's cinematography presents a dark and looming Gotham that really feels and looks like it was ripped from the comics. Instead of going down the CG-fest route, Nolan smartly opts to use more practical effects, as he has in his other films, and the film and the action sequences work all the more better for it, creating a great sense of excitement within the film. Wisely, Nolan chooses to put the story before the action, so the film isn't as action heavy as you might think. What there is though, is a constant sense of fear, and towards the end panic. And so there should be, considering that's one of the villains motives. The fact that there isn't truckloads of action doesn't by any means signify that the film is lackluster as an action. Batman's Tumbler chase is jaw-dropping, and the final train standoff, though reminiscent of Spider-Man 2, is edge of your seat stuff. All backed to Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's ominously epic score. Awesome.
As with any film, there are shortcomings. As I mentioned before, the film doesn't have an entirely memorable villain, and considering there is more than one, that's sort of saying something. Sure, you're obviously not expecting the Joker, but you do wish for a bit more. I also felt that some of the relationships, particularly the relationship between Rachel and Bruce, were underwritten, so much so that you can't really care for them. The characters individually are well characterized, but as a couple, it doesn't exactly connect. As far as blockbuster entertainment, you couldn't really ask for anything more. This is a fantastically made, exciting and entertaining film, and would be the comic book film to beat...if it weren't for it's sequel. After this, you won't even know what Batman and Robin is.