Batman Begins (2005)

Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson
After training with his mentor, Batman begins his war on crime to free the crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption that the Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it.
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Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.
  • Warner Bros. Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 15 Jun 2005 Released:
  • 18 Oct 2005 DVD Release:
  • $205.2M Box office:

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Trailer:

Everything I could have hoped for10/10
I had fearful reservations about this one. I loved Tim Burton's Batman - 12 years old when it came out I was the perfect age for it and I also enjoyed Batman Returns. The franchise went so wrong under Joel Schumacher that I wasn't sure I wanted it resurrected. Not least because Batman was one of the few comics I read and enjoyed as a kid and was always my favourite superhero. I grew up reading the comics, watching reruns of the Adam West TV show and then getting Burton's celluloid vision. I was spoilt for choice as a kid but as an adult now I was concerned revisiting the franchise, especially given Warner's record over the last decade of screwing up summer blockbusters with potential all over the place (dare I bring up the Matrix sequels?)

However, I am pleased to report I could not have been more wrong about how great Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is. This is better than Burton. Sacrilege, you say?! Well Burton was still cartoony in many elements, he wasn't churning out the bilge of Schumacher but Burton's Batman was still over the top. As a kid this was ideal but Nolan's Batman is real. Everything in this world seems plausible and it is therefore a world that draws you in. Characters' vulnerability is that much more present. Every bruise, every scare, every concern, every emotion seems real.

Part of this is that Nolan has assembled an exemplary cast. Again, this concerned me prior to seeing the film. I wasn't sure a cast of big name legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and well known names like Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes wouldn't detract and distract from Batman. I was always sure Christian Bale could be the great moody Batman he's been waiting his career to be but the others I wasn't so sure about.

That said Bale is not just good, he's superb. I never thought I'd really be able to envision anyone other than Michael Keaton as the definitive Batman for me but since seeing Batman Begins a couple of days ago Bale has cemented himself in the position. Perhaps Keaton will now be able to escape the spectre of Batman he hasn't truly shaken off for 13 years.

The rest of the cast is also pitch perfect. Cillian Murphy is creepy as hell, Liam Neeson is authoritative and imposing, Katie Holmes is strong and sexy (I particularly thought she'd be insipid, she should jettison Tom Cruise and let her talent - which she does have naysayers just watch Pieces Of April - speak for itself) and Michael Caine is an Alfred you've never seen but in fact far more likely as a butler than the aristocratic pomp with which he is usually portrayed. Gary Oldman is also superb in a rare wholly decent character for him as Lieutenant Jim Gordon who gets far more to so here than Gordon has ever had to do before. Only Tom Wilkinson is a little off with a slightly comedic wise-guy American accent that never really convinces.

The emotional bond between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is actually a wonderful human heart to the film than Nolan and Goyer have written perfectly.

Don't let that make you think the action is not front and centre though. From Wayne's training through the early stages of the film to his early missions as Batman at about the half way point to a thrillingly choreographed chase sequence and an edge of your seat finale this film delivers the cool quotient in bucket loads.

Great villains (especially Murphy), great story, great cast, great action... put simply, great film. Probably the best comic-book movie ever made (that's excluding the genius Sin City which I consider a moving comic-book rather than a comic-book movie, that will never be bettered but Batman is a different beast and the best of its kind).
Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up. And such is the case for the Batman franchise10/10
It sickened me in the past to see the Batman movie franchise slowly digging it's way to an early grave. After the quality Tim Burton films, the series pretty much went down the toilet, beginning a horrifically campy age of 'Bat credit-cards' and an armored Arnold Schwarzenegger tossing cringe-worthy puns at a Batman who seemed to be trying not to be embarrassed by the fact that his costume had nipples. So what could Warner Brothers producers hope to do to resurrect the franchise? Pretend it never happened, and start the whole series over again with a talented director, compelling story and capable cast.

Enter Christopher Nolan, the mastermind behind 2000's 'Momento', widely praised as one of the most innovative films of the decade. As director/co- screenwriter, Nolan creates a richly dark, atmospheric world for Batman to inhabit, similar to that of the Burton films, but less cartoony. The film's screenplay, written by Nolan and David S. Goyer is quality stuff, it's true that some of the dialog exchanges can seem kind of contrived, particularly between Wayne and Liam Neeson's character, Ducard, but it sounds so classy you tend not to care.

Nolan also puts a lot of trust in his audiences to stay put while the first hour of the film comprehensively explores Bruce Wayne's backstory, with no cape donning and few fight sequences. Nevertheless, the pace never slows, and the story is so unexpected and fascinating (who would have expected a Batman film to begin in a prison in Tibet? only Nolan could pull it off!) there's little chance of us losing interest. And this way, we really get a sense of who Bruce Wayne is, a trait none of the past movies were able to capture, including the Burton films. We see what drives him, what leads him to become this iconic crime fighter, and the reasoning behind the mask.

Of course, to help the audience get under Bruce Wayne's skin, it doesn't hurt to have such a talented lead as Christian Bale. Bale has been emerging as one of the most talented actors of his generation, and he brings that talent to a peak here, playing the darkest of all superheroes. If you were to break down the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, you would find that it is essentially three characters: Wayne as Batman, behind the mask; Wayne's public facade as the billionaire playboy; and the real, brooding Bruce Wayne. Bale plays all three of the characters to absolute perfection, and molds them together well enough to make it clear to show they are still the same person. He has been given tons of accolades for his performance already, and needless to say, he deserves every one.

And the sheer quality of the supporting cast is mind-boggling, if for the number of big names only. It's very hard to find a weak spot in the incredibly strong array of performances here, but if one had to be found, it would have to be Katie Holmes. It's not that she gives a bad performance, on the contrary, but just she seems too young to be convincing as a district attorney. For me, Michael Gough will always be the definitive Alfred, but Michael Caine does an excellent job of taking over the role, giving a very strong (and often funny) performance. Liam Neeson is sheer class as Ducard, Wayne's mysterious mentor, as is Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Wayne's arms manufacturer and provider of the Batman gear. It's wonderful to see the incredibly talented and much underrated Gary Oldman as Sgt. Gordon, the only decent cop in Gotham, and he truly makes the role his own. Even cult favorite Rutger Hauer makes an appearance as Richard Earle, the ambitious head of Wayne Enterprises. And (surprise surprise!) the villains are also actually menacing for once, as opposed to cartoony and corny. Cillian Murphy just about walks away with the show as the truly chilling Scarecrow (the sequences involving his 'fear gas' are surprisingly frightening) Ken Watanabe is mysterious and creepy as guild leader Ra's Al Ghul and Tom Wilkinson is very convincing as Carmine Falcone, head of the Gotham city mob.

Nolan's knack for realism also comes as a breath of fresh air in this age of CGI bloated blockbusters - there are next to no computer generated shots in the movie, even a sequence with Batman standing on top of a high building staring down at the city was filmed with a stuntman. And it really works, the Batmobile actually interacts with it's environment, and looks so much better real than computer generated. But don't think that the film will come across as too serious and stuffy because of Nolan's realism - true, Gotham seems too dark and dirty to come across as a fantasy world, but Batman Begins retains that unmistakable sense of fun that seems to only be present in comic book movies. We jeer and fear the villains, and cheer the hero as he lays his life on the line to vanquish evil and save the city. And that is how it should be. There's even a surprising twist near the end, which is doubly surprising because it actually comes as a shock. What's not to love here?

(and, further cudos to director Nolan for finally managing to make a swarm of bats actually frightening for once)

Overall, I'd have to label Batman Begins 'The must see movie of the summer' - it's a well written, authoritatively directed, impeccably acted (especially by Bale's powerhouse lead performance and Cillian Murphy's sickly menacing Scarecrow) and very high quality production. Indeed, most other summer blockbusters could learn a thing or two from Batman Begins. If the Batman franchise died under it's own gaudiness years ago, let us rejoice this glorious rebirth - Batman truly does begin here.

-10/10
The Batman film I've been waiting for...8/10
Finally, after the previous 2 outings of the caped crusader, the Batman franchise is back on track. Having been a big comic collector over the years and a long time fan of the Dark Knight, I was especially disappointed by 'Forever' and 'Batman and Robin'. To me, these film lost the essence of what drives Bruce Wayne to do what he does and turned Batman into more of a pop star than misunderstood hero.

Thankfully though, Nolan has gone back to the roots of the character, portraying a confused and angry Bruce Wayne, who ultimately rises to become Gotham's greatest champion. Don't expect to see loads of shots of Batman in this film though. It is the story of Wayne and focuses mainly on his years of training and preparation for becoming Batman. You are almost teased throughout the first half of the movie, waiting to see the excellent Christian Bale in the costume, as it keeps holding back to keep you in anticipation. When Batman does finally turn up on screen, it is well worth the wait. In my opinion, Bale was born for this role and for the first time when watching a Batman film, I enjoyed the scenes of Wayne being Wayne as much as Wayne being Batman.

One of the strongest features of the film, is the way that it manges to suck you in believe that a 'Batman' could be a reality one day. The technology is current, with no use of silly OTT weapons and gadgets, again making the film work by today's standards. Plus, we are not allowed to forget that Batman is still just a man under the costume and there are times when he gets a bit of a kicking and shows that he can be vulnerable too, something we sometimes forget when watching a superhero flick. Gone too, are the silly villains!!! Jack Nicholson was the perfect Joker but from there it went downhill. Thankfully, in this movie the bad guys are actually fairly 'normal' and manage to be menacing at the same time.

Which finally brings me to the cast. I always had high expectations for this film when the cast was announced. Let's face it, what a line up! Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katy Holmes, Ken Watanabe and Tom Wilkinson are not to be sniffed at. Even an old favourite of mine makes an appearance: Rutger Hauer! Awesome. Actors of this calibre would never have gotten involved in this project if they didn't have faith in Christoper Nolan's talents and thankfully they took the leap...

For the comic book fans out there, waiting to see this movie, let me assure you that you won't be upset. Imagine the darkness of the 'A Death In The Family' and the 'Year One' story lines. I have never met a fan of Batman who didn't love these books. Well, this is the kind of Batman you can expect from Bale: Dark, brooding and tortured by his past, yet the hero we have come to love. For those of you who are not comic fans, then just look forward to seeing how Batman should be. This film is a credit to Bob Kane's original vision and a testament to all the talented artists and writers who keep the legend of the Dark Knight alive in the comic books today....

Thank you Mr. Nolan and thank you Mr. Bale. In fact thanks to everyone who worked on this film. Batman finally Begins from here....
Finally!!!10/10
I got a chance to see 'Batman Begins' just this past Friday evening. I must say that before seeing the film, I felt in my heart this is the 'Batman' film we've been waiting for. Within ten minutes into the movie, I turned to my date and said to her, "This is it! This is the movie!" I just can't believe that after all these years, Warner Bros. finally got it right. For me the most intriguing part of the film, apart from the great script, and great acting, was Christopher Nolan's decision to base the film in reality. Deciding that Batman could really exist in our universe and our world was a stroke of genius. Another aspect of the film that's so refreshing is that instead of the focus being on the villain, Batman is the film's star. And rightly so. It's amazing what can happen when a studio leaves a respected director, and the creative team alone, and allow them to make the best movie possible. The only two negatives that I can think of is Katie Holmes and the fight sequences. Holmes does indeed look like a teenager playing grown-up. Her performance isn't bad per SE, it's just that you really don't buy her as an Assistant D.A. As for the fight sequences, I felt the cameras angles were too tight on the action, edited too quickly, and lit too dark so that you really couldn't tell what was going on and determine who was hitting who. Maybe we can attribute this to the fact that Nolan is not an action director. Hopefully the next film will open up the fight sequences so we can actually see Batman use the martial arts skills he developed during his exile. But apart from those relatively minor quibbles, the film is excellent, and I'm definitely going back on opening day June 15th, and seeing it a second time. A third and fourth viewing is definitely not out of the question.
A darker, stormier knight.10/10
Christopher Nolan (and cast) have pulled off what I hadn't dared to dream - a Batman every bit as good as Burton/Keaton's vision - and eradicated the camp, feverish memories of Clooney, Kilmer and (cough..) O'Donnell.

The story is as good an origin story as you'll find - covering all the major (true-to-the-comic) events, and not wasting ages on them. We see Wayne's all-important training period (previously ignored), and his connection to the Tibetan shadow-ninja clan led by Ra's Al Ghul. We see Bruce come up with ideas for his symbol, his costume, his gadgets, his car, his cave - IT ALL FITS SO PERFECTLY.

That's not all - Liam Neeson is perfect (as ever, when Lucas isn't writing his lines), Batman's first mad nemesis (the Scarecrow) is genuinely frightening; with some outstandingly scary 'fear' effects.. Gary Oldman looks just like a young Commissioner Gordon (and doesn't dominate), Morgan Freeman and Rutger Hauer give solid heavyweight support to the boardroom machinations at Wayne Enterprizes. I love Michael Gough(?) but Michael Caine is great as Alfred. It's only Katie Holmes who didn't ring true for me - not because of her performance, but simply because she looks all of 15 years old (sorry Katie). I am always blown away by Christian Bale, and this is no exception.

The fights are great, the Bat-gadgets all there, the car is amazing, the plot is thorough and exciting, Gotham looks great, Batman really is frightening & menacing (and lethal!).. And the scenes with the bats themselves FINALLY get across the idea of how scary they can be.

There is some humour, but it's fairly dry. The soundtrack, like all the best original soundtracks, is excellent - you hardly know it's there, but the emotions of the scene are enhanced and boosted. For the most part this is a serious Batman film, with plenty for long-time fans. This NEW Batman is one I'd like to see again. Bravo Mr Nolan, bravo.