After the release of the ridiculously camp Batman and Robin, the character of Batman wasn’t taken seriously. This all changed in 2005 with the release of Batman Begins. Updating the superhero for modern audiences, the film explores his origins and the change from Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, American Psycho, 3:10 to Yuma) into the titular vigilante. Following the murder of his parents, Wayne leaves the fictional Gotham City to find his way to the League of Shadows, a mysterious organisation that trains him in martial arts. When he returns to his home, he finds his city full of corruption brought on by the slightly stereotypical Italian-American mob and the psychologist Dr Jonathan “Scarecrow” Crane (Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later, Inception).
As well as a brilliant story, the film has almost perfect casting. Featuring great actors such as Michael Caine (Get Carter) as the butler, Alfred Pennyworth, Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) as head of his R&D department Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman (Harry Potter) as Jim Gordon, the only honest cop in the city, they fit their roles perfectly. But the ones that stand out the most are Bale, Murphy and Liam Neeson (Taken, Star Wars) as Ducard, Batman’s mentor and representative of the League of Shadows. Bale nails the whole dual-life thing well (Ok, Batman’s voice is a little exaggerated), Murphy’s descent into madness is chilling yet entertaining, and Neeson’s character is as shadowy as his establishment. The only weak link here is Katie Holmes (Phone Booth, Thank You for Smoking) as Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Her performance wasn’t completely unbearable, but pales in comparison to the other wealth of acting talent.
It could have easily been just a cookie-cutter action film, but the use of emotion is worthy of something much more. Wayne’s motivation, the sense of justice and more particularly the concept of fear, makes it a joy to watch. The cinematography of the city is gorgeous, especially the moody night-time establishing shots. These are beautifully added with Hans Zimmer’s perfect score to completely set the dark tone of the film. Batman Begins is also true to the original comics, returning Batman to what he was intended to be: a dark vigilante in a modern world.
Batman Begins is an excellent example of when reboots truly work. It has a perfect mixture of action and drama interwoven with a coherent and a grittily realistic plot. The director Christopher Nolan should be celebrated for making comic book movies be taken seriously.