Welcome once again to Fanboy Action Theater, our semi-regular examination of superhero movies from a fanboy perspective. This time around, we’ll be looking at Batman Begins, the last Batman movie which helped to restart the franchise. As usual, there may be plot spoilers below!
Batman Begins retells the origin of Batman and of his return to Gotham City to fight crime. The movie begins with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as a child. Bruce falls down an abandoned well and is terrified by the bats that swarm out. Later, Bruce’s parents take him to see the opera. While there, Bruce is frightened by some of the performers who remind him of bats and he begs his parents to leave. Bruce’s parents take him outside to the alley where they are confronted by a mugger, who kills Bruce’s parents. Afterwards, the family butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) raises Bruce. As he gets older, Bruce becomes angrier and angrier, blaming himself for his parents’ deaths. He returns to Gotham from college to kill the mugger, Joe Chills, who is getting released. The assistant D.A., Rachael Dawes (Katie Holmes), a childhood friend of Bruce, tries to convince him not to go to court for the parole hearing. Bruce goes to the hearing intent on killing Chills, but is thwarted by Chills being murdered by an agent of Falcone, the criminal boss that runs Gotham’s underworld. Bruce then confides to Rachael his plan to kill Chills, to which she rebukes him and gives him a lecture on justice versus revenge. Bruce decides to leave Gotham to travel the world so that he can understand the criminal mind.
A few years pass and Bruce Wayne is now in prison in China. While there, he is contacted by Ducard (Liam Neeson) to join a group called the League of Shadows, a group dedicated to fighting evil no matter what the cost. Bruce agrees to join them and travels to their mountain retreat to be trained. At the end of his training, Bruce learns to overcome his fear of bats and to purge his guilt and anger over his parents’ deaths. When it is time for Bruce to formally join the League of Shadows, he learns that the League intends to destroy Gotham as they feel that it has become too corrupt to be saved. Bruce argues that Gotham isn’t too far gone to be saved, but his arguments fall on deaf ears. Bruce rejects the League and is forced to fight for his life. The mountain retreat is destroyed in the fight, but Bruce rescues Ducard and leaves him in a mountain village.
Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham intending to fight crime as an individual. He decides to use fear against criminals and creates the legend that will be Batman. Bruce solicits the help of one of the few honest cops in Gotham, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and is helped also by his old butler, Alfred. Another ally is Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who provides Bruce with many of the gadgets that he uses and the Batmobile.
While taking down Falcone, Batman learns that the psychologist running Arkham Asylum, Dr. Crane – the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) has been adding toxins to Gotham’s water supply. Batman further learns that Crane is working for the League of Shadows who still intend to destroy Gotham. The rest of the movie concerns Batman’s eventually victorious struggle to save Gotham from the League of Shadows.
This is practically the perfect superhero movie. Batman Begins successfully washes away the bitter taste of the last few Batman movies by Joel Schumacher. The movie is suitably dark without becoming too grim or gothic. Especially interesting is how Gotham slides further and further into decay as the years go by. The cast is simply superb; Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes. It’s not too often that you see so many good actors in a single movie and the performances are all rock-solid. Christian Bale makes an awesome Batman, showing his single-minded determination while also showing melancholy and loneliness. I think he is the best Batman on the screen so far. Michael Keaton was a good Bruce Wayne (but not that thrilling as Batman), Val Kilmer was pretty good, and George Clooney just plain sucked.
The fight scenes were really good, especially the fight between Batman and the League of Shadows in their mountain retreat. The effects were nice, but not flashy, which is a good thing as that Batman really relies upon atmosphere to make the movie. The Scarecrow’s fear effect while wearing his mask was damn good. The scenes where the fear toxin affects the Narrows are absolutely superb. Seeing the Scarecrow riding a horse from the kid’s perspective was damn cool (the horse breathing flames while the Scarecrow’s mask pulses and such). Plus, there was the kickin’ car chase scene where Batman is pursued by the police. A Batman movie without a car chase is like a birthday without cake; you just gotta have it.
All in all, I can’t find a single flaw to this movie. I thought it was pretty good when I first saw it, but now that I’ve watched it again, I just love it. I can’t wait for the sequel. Too bad Katie Holmes won’t be in it as that her nut job husband, Tom Cruise, apparently won’t allow it. Too bad. Normally, my review would be longer, but I can’t find anything bad to say! 🙂
Overall, I give Batman Begins a ……………………………….A+.