Although it’s been 10 years since the thrilling, epic triptych of Christopher Nolan has begun with “Batman Begins”, the first, opening part did not lose its tremendous glam over time. The re-invention of Batman, introducing Christian Bale as the caped crusader, gave the grounds to one of the best (if not the best) comic book cinematic adaptations in history. With brilliant roles of Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow and Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, Christopher Nolan managed to revive high hopes in Batman’s fanbase. Eventually, he also managed to give Bob Kane’s character a soul and depth, which he seemed to always lack.
“Batman Begins” opens with Bruce Wayne’s deadly training in the outcast temple of the League of Shadows. We get to know the background of the superhero, as his anger and long-nurtured hatred are forged into the will to wage a war against Gotham City’s abyss of corruption and crime. As the newly born savior puts on his mask to fight the streets at night, Gotham City’s invaded by the same League of Shadows. Batman will then have to face his own master – Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who is supported by an insane scientist, Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy).
To fully understand the outstanding brilliance of Nolan’s approach towards DC’s legendary comic book, one must turn the clock back a bit and reminisce Joel Schumacher’s coup attempt on Batman. The ludicrous, unimaginative and embarrassingly infantile “Batman & Robin” from 1997 could be the final nail in the coffin, after wannabee-Burton “Batman Forever”. Nolan risked a lot taking this particular weight on his shoulders, as the DC Comics’ fans were truly frustrated, nostalgically coming back to Jack Nicholson’s utterly brilliant Joker from Tim Burton’s flick. Bearing this in mind, Nolan decided to take a completely different turn on Batman.
This realistic approach mixed with well-portrayed, childhood trauma and a concept of building-up a rousing character was the best that could possibly happen to Batman. Nolan found the perfect intersection point between a superb action blockbuster and plausible psychological story. The effect is a not a vague action movie about a character flat as a sheet of paper, but a full-shaped introduction to the 21st century Batman. Christian Bale seemed to be born to impersonate the troubled millionaire, whose admirable strenght of will was well justified and built an inherent arch to whom we could see in Gotham City’s crime-war later on.
“Batman Begins” is also strongly backed up by other characters. Even though the story is entirely focused on introducing Wayne’s anti-vigilante hero background, Battie cannot exist without his destructive enemies. Liam Neeson was a perfect choice for Ra’s Al Ghul’s right hand, Henri Ducard, especially thanks to the make-up artists and designers. As far as I am used to seeing Neeson as the “good guy”, with his humble eyesight and warmth streaming out of the screen, he was surprisingly fit for the devilish headmaster of the League of Shadows. Nevertheless, I found two supporting roles to be mostly entertaining – Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow and Gary Oldman as Detective Gordon. Murphy has put a stunning performance, being a bit fed-up and arogant as Dr.Crane, creepy and somehow funny as Scarecrow. And Gary Oldman is the man, no doubt about that – classy role.
It’s also the first movie Nolan worked on with Hans Zimmer. Even though I feel the peak of composer’s afflatus struck him during “The Dark Knight” project, the soundtrack for “Batman Begins” is also precisely crafted to the darker-than-ever Batman version. The main theme, which somehow evolved throughout the entire trilogy, finds its most raw, least symphonic version, depicting the agony in which the hero was born.
Summarizing, I find Nolan to be a gift from the skies above, given to the Batman franchise. The killing joke “Batman & Robin” possessed enough power to bury the series for good, but eventually, this terrible flick worked as a spur to finally extract from comic book something more than an overly pompatous pulp. “Batman Begins” constituted a great prologue to the epic trilogy about manicheistic war of good and bad in Gotham City. As dark and gruesome as it was, Nolan’s film was filled with hope – the symbol, which Batman stands for in the end.
UMP Grade: 44/50
(Cinematography: 9, Plot: 9, Acting: 8, Soundtrack: 9, Quaintness: 9)