Opined by Bryan Ray of @DRMovieNews
Fresh off the masterpiece that was Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, up-and-coming director Christopher Nolan knew he had a lot to live up to with “Batman Begins”.
Yes, I am obviously joking.
The titular Detective Comics icon was provided a spotty track record in his film incarnations leading up to Nolan having full reign on the character. The fact that Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were the two predecessors to this film make Batman Begins even more of a triumph.
Christopher Nolan, who received great attention in the indie world with Memento and Insomnia, pitched the studio an idea that took the character back to his dark comic book roots. What he ended up creating was a fantastic film.
The film takes nearly an hour for Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to dawn the cape and cowl, and all the better for it. Nolan utilizes the entire first act to develop Bruce Wayne fully. We were introduced to his dark origins as well as and his adventure of self-discovery, from being an orphaned boy under the care of Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) to a trainee under Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) & Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Shadows.
Personally, the first act is my personal favorite section of the film. I adore the beautifully epic scale brought to life by cinematographer Wally Pfister and production designer Nathan Crowley, who both worked with Nolan on the two other Batman films, as well as Inception and Interstellar.
Their work captures every location as realistic, gritty, and bold as it can be captured. I also love the first half of Wayne’s character arc. His journey goes from a flawed, angry boy to a confident, driven warrior. We fully understand his intentions, goals, and vulnerability by the time he becomes The Dark Knight.
Nolan uses the second and third act to build up the corrupt world of Gotham City, the brilliant ensemble of characters, and the threat of coming conflict.
When dissecting the film of its best characters (besides Bruce Wayne), 9 out of 10 will say that Michael Caine’s Alfred is the standout. Caine’s performance is hypnotizing, brilliantly layered, and infinitely lovable. He played a key role in the overarching narrative of Wayne’s journey.
The other players include: Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes (who gives the weaker performance of the cast), Gary Oldman’s iconic take on Jim Gordon, Cillian Murphy as the terrifying and hypnotic Scarecrow, Morgan Freeman as Wayne’s “right hand man” Lucius Fox, and Tom Wilkinson’s cheekily sinister Carmine Falcone.
Scarecrow’s “toxin” sequences are pure, fear induced horror filmmaking. The CGI effects melded with the horrific mask and Cillian Murphy’s uneasy performance are the stuff of nightmares.
Nolan absolutely went all-in for those scenes. My only complaint is that there just isn’t enough.
Jonathan Crane plays a pivotal role in the plot, but, that being said, I’m still waiting on that crazy Batman vs Scarecrow standoff that we saw in the “Arkham Asylum” video game to make it into a film. Maybe that’s just a personal problem.
Ra’s Al Ghul’s story is a bit of a spoiler so we will just give the overview. He is fantastically brought to life through an amazing performance, and plays as the perfect foil for Batman in his most vulnerable moments.
Carmine Falcone is your classic “mob boss” character, but plays a very important part in the development of Bruce Wayne, pre-Batman and becoming the caped crusader. Tom Wilkinson plays him with charmingly mischievous sensibilities. It’s a great performance.
Finally, we need to talk bout Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard’s original score. Holy sh*t is this score a Tour de Force.
From the heartbreaking to inspiring tone of “Eptesicus”, to the bombastic, action packed Batman theme found in “Molossus”, to the atmospheric, heartfelt, and satisfying climax of “Lasiurus”, these geniuses conjured a truly masterful, instantly recognizable, iconic composition. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Overall, Christopher Nolan’s first chapter in the Dark Knight Trilogy is the perfect origin tale and the perfect Bruce Wayne film. Batman Begins is an epic adventure from start to finish, complete with heartfelt character moments, brilliant action sequences, clever and intelligent dialogue, a thrilling narrative, and a realistic, gritty, layered character study at its core.
In other words, it’s a Nolan film.
DR Diagnosis: 95%