well, here i go starting to review another big series of films.
Out of all of the movies i have seen Batman Begins is one of a handful of which where i left exhilarated by what i had seen (some of the others are The Last Samurai, and Hero). I remember leaving the theatre absolutely thrilled that an action movie actually had me gripping the edge of my seat at times, and i couldn’t wait for more.
It managed the miracle of washing away the awfulness of the previous Batman films (i’m really not a huge fan of any of them) and brought to the character a new level of complexity that hadn’t been shown before (at least not on-screen).
The biggest boon of the film that i count so much of my admiration to is the fact that the film makers really managed to make Bruce Wayne someone to root for. Even though most times i roll my eyes and resist most films ham-fisted ways of making the character “relatable” to me as an audience member (instead of finding ways to make them “likable” i’m looking at you A New Hope…) here i really do genuinely relate to Bruce Wayne. No, i’m not a disgustingly rich playboy who underneath hides a pathological hatred for criminals and no, i didn’t see my parents murdered. But what i do relate to is much like him i didn’t have a father. I had a father figure for much of my young life, but that relationship was deteriorating rapidly between my mother and him and as a result at that point in my life (i was 17 when this film came out and just out of high school) i was left to face the onset of manhood on my own.
I’ve always loved father, son relationships in movies, it’s just something i can always understand the importance in, That theme carries throughout the film from Bruce losing his real father, to gaining another and losing him again which is why here, with so much of Bruce’s pain and anger stemming from both of his father’s actions and last words, i have my most favourite portrayal of the character and my favourite narrative drive in the series.
I also quite like that with Christopher Nolan’s masterful use of time we are given the entirety of the first act as one large montage of moments that lead up to the creation of Batman as we know him. I for the most part like seeing the origins of a character and the little snipits of scenes like of Ducard and Bruce fighting on the glacier, really help flesh out how all of the disparate things that make up the character come together to make up the whole of Batman.
Lastly the choice of theme for the antagonist of the story being Fear makes a tremendous contribution to the thematic strength of the film. Bruce fears the judgement of his father, and failure. With his growth as a character hinging on him to not be afraid to do what he feels he has to in order to save the city, he also uses fear as his primary weapon against the criminals of Gotham and in turn has fear used against him and its citizens.
I can’t think of anything really negative to say about Batman Begins. Are there flaws? Of course there is but this is a case where the good of the film truly does mask the bad so completely as to not really bring too much attention to itself.
What i can say though is that while not the first film to do so (as Troy, and even to a degree King Arthur) this film came and helped bring about the trend of overly gritty and “realistic” treatments of subject matter that is probably best to be dealt with using a sense of humour. Although there has been a backlash against this (with The Avengers being probably the biggest example) we are still seeing its effects today (Man of Steel). Now this is i think purely a matter of taste, and i honestly prefer my Batman to be fairly grim and dark, but that doesn’t mean that lighter treatments of the same subject matter are bad (the classic and yes funny 1960’s series comes immediately to mind) they just aren’t for me.
With the conclusion of the Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy Batman Begins remains my favourite of the series. It offers a fascinating take on the origins of one of the most enduring icons in pop culture and does so without being overly simplistic. Although it is smaller in scale and scope than the following films it is this fact that makes me at least appreciate the character more and honestly like him more, and as a result it is an excellent start to a new franchise and one of the best super hero movies ever made.
**** 1/2 OUT OF FIVE