Eight years after the damage done to Batman from the one-two combination of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin by the equally villainous and inept filmmaking team of director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer put a new spin on the movies, adding a realism and darkness to the story.
As the title reveals, Batman Begins presents the hero’s origin. It opens with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in an Asian prison where Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) approaches him to join The League of Shadows, a mysterious ninja group led by Ra’s al Ghul. Wayne agrees and receives the martial arts training that creates the physical prowess of Batman, while flashbacks reveal what shaped him mentally. He breaks from the group when he learns that his mission is to destroy Gotham City due to its being so corrupt and rotten. According to group, only then can it be rebuilt.
Wayne instead returns to clean up the city, which is under the control of gangster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Wayne, with the help of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), uses the technological resources of Wayne Enterprises to become a caped crusader. He also receives crucial assistance from family butler Alfred (Michael Caine); Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of the few honest cops left; and his childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), now an assistant district attorney. However, Falcone isn’t working alone either. He has a more powerful partner that wants to take control of the city and is willing to go to extremes to see his plan and the citizens of Gotham executed.
Nolan and his team create a marvelous universe for Batman to take place in. The story rises above the previous films because it’s not just an action/adventure tale. It strives to be deeper as the theme of dealing with fear runs throughout. Upon reflection, there’s a major flaw in the logic of the main villain’s plan, but it speaks to the character’s sanity. The entire cast delivers great performances, which is not a surprise for such a talented ensemble. Holmes received a lot of negative criticism, but I thought she was just fine for a role that didn’t require much and don’t see what the complaints were.
In 2005, Batman Begins began what is now a successful trilogy and it’s clear to see why.