Who doesn’t love a good origin story? Especially one that fits so beautifully into a stellar action trilogy? It’s been ten years since Batman Begins hit theatres and since then we’ve seen the rise of Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a Spiderman reboot, DC’s counter attack with Man of Steel, and one Green Lantern movie we’d rather didn’t exist. But let’s return our focus to the caped crusader who started this 21st century superhero popularity contest amidst smoking cityscapes, sepia tone, and bats on bats on bats.
You know the story: Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) loses his parents to a Gotham mugger when he’s eight years old. Some time in his twenties he abandons his life of privilege and goes on a hunt for justice, becoming a member Ra’s Al Ghul’s deadly League of Shadows thanks to the efforts of his mentor, Ducard (Liam Neeson). Strong and spilling over with righteousness, Bruce returns to Gotham to save the city from itself, becoming a symbol that criminals fear and good citizens respect: the Batman.
I will stand my ground and say Christian Bale is the best Batman to date. He embodies both the suave, flaky Bruce and the growly, intimidating Bat. Even if Bale’s “Bat voice” isn’t cliché quite yet in this first installment, the two faces of the man and the mask are there, and we have a Batman clearly capable of growth and inner conflict throughout two more movies.
Other characters add a colourful background to Bruce’s melancholy presence, including Alfred (Michael Caine), the kind butler with a quick wit and strong parental instincts; and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Batman’s personal Geek Squad and guide to the secret world of military prototypes. These two old souls may not be jumping off rooftops (which, by the way, are unlikely shortcuts no matter the vehicle you drive) but they do provide the human element and something for us to relate to in this story of indestructible will power and titanium Band-Aids (or, Bat-Aids? …Sorry).
As for the visuals, no expense was spared to make the explosions look big, the cars look mighty, and the cape look black. But, since it is a 2005 film that bases more value in terror than fancy bat-nipples, I do expect a little more from the “fear” effects. When the citizens of Gotham breathe in the deadly toxin that causes powerful hallucinations of their deepest fears, I expect something a little more frightening than glowing red eyes and rubber masks. C-4, however, will always be C-4, and there is no shortage of unnecessary kabooms to dull the senses.
This first installment is a rare case where the sequels overshadow the original. It’s not that the original is particularly bad – it’s just that the sequels kick it up a notch. Batman Begins fulfills its duty of telling an origin story beside a suitably villainous conflict. The plot may not be as complex or have as many builds as The Dark Knight, but it still offers conflict, climax, and character growth. Plus, Batman Begins was a serious motivator in my learning how to drive standard. If Batman should ever ask me, “Can you drive stick?” I can be there with a, “Hell yeah! Gimme the keys!” 7/10.
Batman Begins trailer.