After being away for eight years, Bruce Wayne returns to his home in Gotham City. Using what he learned from his time training with the League of Shadows, he takes up the mantle of Batman and begins a crusade to rid Gotham of crime and corruption, starting with Scarecrow and his drug operation.
I grew up with Batman: the Animated Series in the 90s and Justice League in the early 2000s (or Batman and his Amazing Friends as I like to call it). And although I don’t read the Batman comics, I try to stay up-to-date with what is going on in his books. So you could say Batman is pretty close to my heart. As good as Michael Keaton’s Batman was, it wasn’t really an origin story for the character. Batman Begins looks to establish a definitive Batman origin story, and create a dark and gritty Gotham City that is less exuberant and more grounded than the Joel Shumacher Batman films.
The Gotham City in Schumacher’s films evolved into a place full of neon signs and cartoonish characters. It may have started out strong, but it become a mess that tried too hard to display its comic book roots. The Gotham City presented in Batman Begins returns to that grittiness of the 1989 Batman, but doesn’t become overly stylized. You can imagine this Gotham is a real place. Not only is the setting more grounded, but Batman’s equipment is as well. His suit, gadgets, and vehicles are all more realistic than those in previous Batman movies. It’s more fitting with the movie’s more serious tone.
Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul are not iconic Batman villains, but I liked the fact they used lesser-known members of his rogues gallery. They could have played it safe and done someone like the Joker or Catwoman, but instead chose B-list villains (Well Ra’s may be considered A-List, but he hasn’t had much mainstream exposure). They took a risk and it payed off because it allowed for a great set-up for Batman’s take down of Gotham’s crime.
I don’t think there could have a better cast assembled for this film. Christian Bale is perfect as both a young Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s funny how none of the previous actors didn’t change their voice when they were portraying Bruce versus when they were portraying Batman. Now after Bale took the part, it seems like it should be a no-brainer. Michael Caine does great as Alfred and Bruce’s mentor. Gary Oldman as Sargent Gordon (not commissioner yet), Liam Neesan as Henri Ducard, and Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane, all fantastic. And Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, well, when isn’t Freeman awesome? Only one I am a little iffy about is Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. She doesn’t do terrible, but she doesn’t step up and basically is just not as great as the rest of the cast around her.
Han Zimmer’s score as become iconic and really adds to the atmosphere. I instantly recognize his Batman scores when they come on my Pandora station. And the best part is it balances well with the rest of the sound work. Sometimes a film’s score is too overpowered and covers up the dialogue. But not here. It’s regulated to quiet background when necessary, and loud and prevalent when it needs to be.
I can’t think of very many negative things to say against this film. With a superb cast, a more grounded world, and an amazing score, Batman Begins is the perfect superhero origin story and first entry in a Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
For the rest of The Dark Knight trilogy, check out my reviews for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.