Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Luke of Oracle Of Film. Luke has a “Question Of The Month” series which is always a fun read and I was one of many to answer this month’s question HERE. He’s also taken on the huge responsibility of reviewing Christopher Nolan’s entire Batman trilogy (Zoe was NOT happy that Luke beat her to these so she’s grabbed another huge trilogy as well). I’ll be posting Luke’s review for The Dark Knight this same time next Thursday. First let’s hear his thoughts on Batman Begins, IMDB rank 103 out of 250…
BATMAN BEGINS: THE REVIEW
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Tom Wilkinson, Linus Roache and Morgan Freeman
Plot: When his parents are brutally shot dead, Bruce Wayne (Bale) gets lost in his grief, emerging at the other side as the infamous Batman.
Batman had finally escaped the comics.
I know that Batman has had movies made about him before, but they had always kept both feet firmly planted in their comic book origins. Tim Burton twisted the graphic novel to create a gloomy, gothic atmosphere, ripped straight from the pages of a Frank Miller fantasy. Joel Schumacher had taken the slapstick nature of the comics, also harkening back to the Adam West days. However, Christopher Nolan realised that, in order to survive, Batman needed to fly further from his comfort zone. Therefore, he took this beloved comic book figure and throw him in the real world. This is Gotham City, as we have never seen it before. Filming the city using actual London boroughs, the dark, gloomy streets of this deadly, fictional city could very easily be a place not far from you, albeit the worst-case scenario. It makes the dread that all Gothamites fear, so very real. Certain parts of town are so dangerous, people give themselves a curfew that they need to follow or wind up dead. Not only the location, but the characters feel real. Bruce Wayne’s evolution, while never too big a problem originally, is far more relatable, helped by a powerhouse performance as Christian Bale, the orphan boy always moments away from exploding with the rage dangerously bubbling inside of him. Alfred and Commissioner Gordon have always felt like add-ons in the movies; they need to be there, because they are an important part of the mythology, but who actually wants to spend time with them. Nolan reinvents them, so they actually matter here, affecting the story more than they ever used to. Taking this idea further, Nolan also throws in Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, a Batman ally long forgotten, because he is the easiest to cut out of the origin story.
And Batman Begins is all about the origin story. If I wanted to find a flaw with the movie, I would go with the fact that Nolan does drown us in exposition for almost half the movie, as we get the beginnings of Batman slowed right down and explored extensively. However, despite my dislike for lengthy origin stories, especially ones almost every movie-fan knows like the back of their hand, I cannot bring myself to count this as a flaw. Here, we get Bruce Wayne explored so well, I feel closer to the character than I ever have before. Usually, Bruce Wayne gets brushed to the side, so the director can spend more time with the masked alter-ego, but Nolan never does this. Not only do we get the usual strands of story, like the death of his parents in Crime Alley, but Nolan actually goes to great lengths to explain how he got so good at martial arts. There is also a break-away segment, where we discover how Bruce Wayne grew up so against killing, yet it never feels pointless, because we are also introduced to one of three main antagonists, Carmine Falcone. Yes, there is so much information to take in, and those fans wanting a more slap-and-dash action-packed superhero movie might be better off drifting back to the Tim Burton era, but personally, I feel that Nolan makes Batman Begins more than a superhero movie; he makes a gripping character piece.
Ironically, seeing as I just contradicting this following point above, Batman Begins is probably the most generic action movie of the entire trilogy. While The Dark Knight sees Nolan tackle deeper themes and begin to create a lasting trilogy arc, Batman Begins just enjoys being a Batman movie. Sure, the gritty realism slows the action down, but there is a clever action movie narrative going on. We get the origin story, the city run by multiple villains, which all accumulates into a terrific finale battle, where half of Gotham gets overrun by inmates from Arkham Asylum, all led by the murderous villain (if you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the reveal for you). But yes, Batman Begins seems like a time, before Nolan saw the bigger picture, before he decided upon turning this story into a trilogy. Here, he just visualises the Batman universe he wanted and paints it beautifully for audiences everywhere to enjoy.
Final Verdict: Batman has never been so perfectly depicted on the big screen. Deep, realistic, yet still a worthy action: Christopher Nolan ticks every box.