a critiQal film review Batman Begins (2005)

Plot: After his parents are murdered in front of him, billionaire heir Bruce Wayne (Bale) finds the world a much darker place. Wandering around the world, he encounters the League of Shadows, who train him to become a leader of their forces. But, when he discovers that their goal is to bring down his home town of Gotham, Bruce turns them down. With a renewed sense of self, he returns to Gotham to fight the crime-infested streets his own way - as his new alter-ego, The Batman.

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  • ...Gotham's Dark Knight has returned to the big screen - and he's better than ever.

When I first heard they were doing a new Batman flick, my ]first thought was: why? Didn’t Batman & Robin (1997) drag that dead horse on long enough? However, when Christian Bale signed on to become the Dark Knight, suddenly a little light dawned on the bleakness of my thoughts. After his roles in American Psycho and Reign of Fire (2002), this star on the rise might do well in Batman Begins.

Still, I had my doubts – was he up to the challenge of reviving this tired icon of the comics? Because of my misgivings, I decided to wait for Batman Begins to hit DVD before checking it out. After hearing rave reviews from everyone who saw it, I started to regret my decision.

When the film finally hit DVD, therefore, I was at my local Blockbuster® right after work to pick up my copy. Due to a hectic week, I was unable to sit down and concentrate on the film until almost a week later. Finally able to spare some time, we settled in late Saturday night and got ready to experience the film everyone has been talking about – Batman Begins.

Christian Bale continues to impress with each new role he takes on. Whether it’s a psychotic killer with a cool demeanor, or a rich boy in a bat suit, he breathes new life into the character. With the much-portrayed role of Bruce Wayne, he was able to pay homage to the comics legend while at the same time giving the character a vibrancy that viewers haven’t seen for a long time. His passion for his characters resonates with the viewers, making them believe his cause is just, even if it isn’t, as he showed in American Psycho.

Whether he’s playing the billionaire businessman or the man with the cape, he’s able to bring a new outlook to the Dark Knight, one filled with hope for the future – no matter how dark the present may be. He’s a man with a plan, and he’s easily one of the best to play Batman ever.

That’s not to say he’s in this one alone. Not by a long shot. Batman Begins seems to have gotten everything right, casting-wise: Michael Caine as the ever-faithful Alfred was genius casting, as he easily slips into the role as if he were born into it.

Morgan Freeman also does a great job in Batman Begins – with what scenes he has – as this hero’s Q, and Gary Oldman – as Sergeant Gordon (eventually to become Police Commissioner Gordon) – brings a subdued brilliance to his role, as usual. Rutger Hauer, Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes also give decent performances – with Liam’s being the most memorable of the three.

Part of the problem with the original film series is the Batman (whoever he was at that moment) was always overshadowed by the villain. Think about it…years later, who does the viewer remember most – the people who slipped into the Batman suit – or the larger-than-life villains (Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Jim Carrey’s Riddler, etc)?

While this (usually) made for an entertaining film, it always relied on the villain’s performance to make or break the film – and this got harder and harder each film, as the audience craved a villain who would outdo all who came before. The filmmakers tried to make up for this by piling more and more villains into the mix, but sure enough, soon it all came crashing down around them in Batman & Robin (1997).

Thankfully, Director Christopher Nolan realized this going into Batman Begins, and focused more on the man behind the mask. In fact, no super villain really is ever allowed to control the flow of the film. Watch the trailer again, and see if you can spot the villain. He’s not there – at all. This welcome difference separates this Batman from the others right from the start. Without a super villain taking up all the limelight, the viewers are able to get a better grasp on what makes our hero tick – and thus relate better to the hero. And as everyone knows, the more you care about the characters, the more you are pulled into the story.

Surprisingly, the Batmobile we all know and love never puts in an appearance in Batman Begins, replaced by a mobile tank-like armored vehicle. This vehicle fits in perfectly with the new look of the Batman, with it’s rugged exterior hiding whatever is inside. It’s got power to spare, a whole mess of technological contraptions – and it’s just fun to watch it careening through the streets.

Depending on who you listen to, the new BatMachine was used because either the owner of the original Batmobile wouldn’t give it up for Batman Begins, or to further distinguish this film from it’s predecessors. Whatever the original reasons for the new machine, it becomes an integral part of the film that will have all the guys revved up and wanting to take that puppy for a spin themselves.

With the popularity of such recent films as the ridiculous Spider-Man (2002), the comical-looking Hulk (2003), and the pathetic revamping of The Punisher (2004), comic book fans may have started to despair, thinking they would never see their heroes portrayed with any sort of dignity on-screen.

Batman Begins is the movie you’ve been waiting for. It’s the Dark Knight you’ve always wanted – but have never gotten. Oh yes, folks, the Dark Knight has returned – and he’s better than ever. Own this one today.

Okay, so should there be a sequel? That’s a tough one. Batman Begins does give a new series of films a firm base to build on – and most will want more of Batman Bale. But, eventually the filmmakers will bring in a super villain – and that may be the beginning of the end.

Hopefully, the filmmakers will learn from the failures of their predecessors, and instead take a cue from films like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) that have shown you don’t need an overwhelming super villain to make a movie like this – you need great heroes.

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