As Warner Bros. Pictures continues to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2023, another classic movie from yesteryear is being returned to cinema screens this month. The movie in the spotlight here is Batman Begins – director Christopher Nolan’s big budget reboot and reimagining of the Batman franchise.
Released in 2005, eight years after the poor critical reception of 1997’s Batman & Robin put the Bat-franchise on ice, Batman Begins was designed to be a palate cleanser. The movie ditched the more fanciful super heroics and the corny one liners of the past, and focused on a more grounded tale about a crime-ridden city, and one man’s attempts to clean it up.
In the film, after witnessing the death of his parents, a young Bruce Wayne struggles to cope with his grief. As he reaches early adulthood he leaves his home in Gotham City to travel the world.
Managing to survive some precarious situations, Bruce eventually crosses paths with a man named Ra’s al Ghul and soon he is quickly introduced to al Ghul’s mysterious League of Shadows. Here he trains as a fierce warrior, and as he hones his skills he quickly becomes one of al Ghul’s best recruits.
But when the two clash over ideologies, Bruce is forced to flee al Ghul’s League rather abruptly, in order to save his own life. This puts him on a path back to Gotham where he puts his newfound knowledge and abilities to good use, becoming a costume-clad vigilante known as Batman.
As Batman begins to take down every monster and criminal in town, Gotham soon finds itself with a new champion. But this new champion doesn’t just attract the attention of the citizens, it also causes an old enemy to resurface which puts the city in imminent danger.
When Batman Begins made its debut, the film was viewed as a breath of fresh air. The movie was seen as a stripped back, more realistic approach to comic book movies and super hero stories, demonstrating how one person could become a real-life vigilante – if they had the disposable fortune of a billionaire.
The aim of Batman Begins was not just to show why Bruce Wayne became Batman, but also detail HOW he became the character. Each gadget and gizmo in his arsenal had to be explored and explained, to ground the film in reality.
The approach was a film which critics approved of and audiences adored. More importantly, it created a new starting point for the Batman movie series, to allow more tales to follow.
In short: Batman Begins was captivating, engrossing, and imaginative. And all these years later, it still has the power to entertain.
From its cast (Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman), to its gorgeous cinematography by Wally Pfister, and its outrageously perfect score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, Batman Begins is a complete tour de force. It nails pretty much everything it sets out to do, without ever taking its focus away from the man behind the mask, and it is thoroughly entertaining.
Whereas some Batman movies focus heavily on the villains, Batman Begins refuses to take its eyes away from Bruce Wayne. This is his story and his journey, and it wants audiences to see every major milestone along the way.
However, Batman Begins doesn’t faff about with its story, nor does it spend endless minutes getting bogged down in exposition. This is a tightly constructed (and controlled) picture that allocates just enough time for each scene, before swiftly moving onto the next.
Batman Begins moves at such incredible speed, it is able to pack in a significant amount of story, alongside plenty of character development, and lots of detail. The film also juggles multiple villains (Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, and Carmine Falcone); creates strong relationships between a number of its central heroes; and even finds a moment to tease a sequel.
From a rooftop ride in the Batmobile, to a monorail showdown to save the city, Batman Begins is packed with many standout moments and spectacle. However, it is a film which also draws a great deal of its strength from its cast, with the likes of Oldman and Freeman delivering some of their best work.
But it is Christian Bale who truly steals the show, by adding so many layers to his performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Sure, he gets a bit of stick for his gruff ‘Batman voice’, but he sells the heck out of every moment on screen and becomes the Caped Crusader for an entire generation.
Bale’s interactions with Michael Caine are also superb and they are the film’s true trump card. These two actors create arguably one of the best on-screen relationships between Bruce Wayne and his loyal butler, Alfred, and it is a delight to see it all play out.
Batman Begins’ only weak link is Katie Holmes, who takes on the role of Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Rachel Dawes. Holmes isn’t bad, but she doesn’t quite fit the film as well as her fellow cast mates and her performance becomes overshadowed.
In fairness to Holmes, part of this is also down to the writing. The role of Rachel doesn’t feel as strong as it should and that’s not Holmes’ fault.
But putting this to one side, Batman Begins delivers everything else almost note perfect and is easily one of the best Batman films of all time. It rejuvenated the Bat-franchise at a point where it could have easily fallen by the wayside, and it still stands up nearly 20 years after its release.
Should you wish to catch Batman Begins on the big screen (and you know you do), the movie will be playing in UK cinemas for a LIMITED time from Friday 28th April. As with other recent re-releases (Superman, Beetlejuice, etc) Batman Begins is only likely to stick around for a week, so be quick if you’re booking tickets.
You may also wish to know the remaining entries in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will also be heading back to UK cinemas shortly. The Dark Knight will hit screens on May 12th, while The Dark Knight Rises will screen from June 2nd.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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