The Batman franchise has always been reasonably profitable for Hollywood. The original film incarnation Batman, released in 1989, was very successful and lead to three sequels, each critically worse than its predecessor. By the time the fourth in the franchise, Batman and Robin, was released in 1997, the wheels completely fell off and people were tired of the character. It was with great trepidation that Christopher Nolan, as then inexperienced with blockbuster popcorn films, was handed the reigns for Batman Begins. Released in 2005, Begins successfully ‘rebooted’ the dying franchise and proved that Nolan was the real deal.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is the son of wealthy tycoons and has his whole life shattered when his parents are mugged, shot and killed. Vowing revenge, he travels the world to train himself up in order to fight the criminal underbelly of his home city of Gotham. This is primarily an origins story that explains the background of the character and his rise to don the cowl as The Dark Knight. It was loosely based on Frank Millar’s version of Batman, which makes it darker, scarier and overall more realistic than the cartoon parody that was Batman and Robin. Villains such as Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) are given believable back stories too, without losing any level of fear or intrigue. Gone is the mystical and mad-capped, comfortably and seamlessly replaced with a kind of brutal realism, rarely shown in such films.
Batman Begins‘ action is intense and quickly cut and the plot takes us to far flung lands, with training and real character growth. The villains are scary in an intimidating way, and work perfectly opposite the stoic guardian of the city. There are twists that leave you breathless and you it grabs you by the jugular from the very start and doesn’t let go until the breath-taking final scene. Christian Bale is perfectly cast as the young Wayne, full of rage and revenge who trains to become a force for justice.
Nolan has made a name for himself in recent years as one of the most exciting directors working, and Batman Begins remains the film that introduced him to ‘big cinema.’ He takes the edge from Memento and the surroundings of Insomnia and fuses them together to create a life-like Gotham City. Clearly a better movie than any of its predecessors, and at the time the best comic-book film, Batman Begins would pave the way for a monstrous sequel, which in turn would move director and star firmly into the a-list.