For those of you reading reviews that describe Batman Begins as a prequel quickly discard that opinion. This is not a prequel, this is what it claims to be, the beginning, the beginning of a brand new superhero franchise that trounces the old and completely reinvents the genre for an older more educated audience.
Where Spider-Man treats the inner child Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins aims to stir emotions of darkness and sets itself in a world where virtually every aspect of this film could actually happen. These are the roots of the Dark Knight and while Tim Burton’s Batman flick from 1989 was absolutely spectacular, primarily thanks to Nicholson’s turn as the Joker, Batman Begins turns those first Bat-flicks into childhood memories.
We are first introduced to a young Bruce Wayne as he innocently plays around Wayne Manor only to suddenly find himself at the bottom of a hidden well where he is met by thousands of frighten bats who instinctively attack him. He goes on… haunted by these images, up to and when his parents are murdered in the streets of Gotham.
This sparks Wayne’s disappearance from Gotham as he travels the world carrying the baggage of sorrow, regret and revenge. He is seeking ways to avenge the death of his parents and to rid the world of the filth that has caused his torment. While educating himself on the ways of the criminal mind he is discovered by a mysterious man named Ducard (Liam Neeson), a man recruiting for the clandestine outfit The League of Shadows, a group of vigilantes out to rid the world of the same scum Wayne despises.
Trained in their ways Wayne soon returns to Gotham and seeks a disguise so he will not be recognized as his plan unfolds. He becomes what he fears most and through the use of the skills he has learned and the hi-tech gadgetry provided by Wayne Enterprise’s employee Luscious Fox (Morgan Freeman) his path is decided.
Suffice to say I was thoroughly impressed with this feature and the more I talk about it to others the more I want to see it again. When Christian Bale makes his first onscreen appearance as Batman it was initially humorous to me and I couldn’t exactly take it seriously, but in a matter of a few scenes I quickly bought into the disguise and a new hero was born. Bale’s performance as both Wayne and Batman are excellent as he pulls off the playboy billionaire aspect of Wayne with the same style he used to pull off his role in American Psycho, and he easily transitions into Batman’s tormented suit with just as much ease.
If there was a complaint in Bale’s performance it would be the over-the-top way he disguised his voice when he was Batman. He spoke with gravel in his throat and the rough whispers sometimes seemed like a case of over-acting rather than the intimidation they were intended to inspire.
On the opposite side of the playing field Cillian Murphy’s turn as Scarecrow was the best performance in the picture. It seems Murphy may have gone to Johnny Depp acting school as he carried off the role with the menace and cocky humor Depp has provided to so many of his darker characters, not to mention his simple disguise of a cloth hood provided for several scenes of intense imagery.
Tom Wilkinson also provides a good face of evil as Carmine Falcone and Freeman once again adds his charismatic touch to the role of Luscious Fox as does Liam Neeson who is just as believable as a swordsman as he was as Oskar Schindler. There were however, a couple of roles that were a bit distracting, primarily those of Gary Oldman and Katie Holmes.
Holmes’ latest exploits with Tom Cruise are simply engrained in my mind and hard to ignore during the more romantic seens, and Oldman’s role in the film was an absolute throw away that didn’t take advantage of any of this talented actor’s abilities.
As for the special effects and the action, there is plenty. Nolan resorts to quick cuts to hide the action, which is something I could definitely appreciate as it would probably be hard for any stuntman to fight with any manner of speed wearing that clunky bat suit, and on top of that it gave Batman some much needed mystery forcing you to use your imagination and thanks to the pounding sound effects, what you couldn’t see you certainly could feel.
For those of you worried that the all-terrain vehicle featured in the trailers is a poor substitute for the well known Batmobile worry no more, while the Tumbler isn’t the stylish and sleek vehicle we have come to know from the previous Bat-films it is a welcome change and just too cool to argue.
Overall Batman Begins is a massive success on all levels, and while I wish they had kept to the realistic aspect all the way through as the finale switched a bit to the comic book world, this is the best superhero movie ever.