It’s hard to believe that Batman Begins came out 11 years ago. Considering the selection of superhero movies then, this was a good film. But I feel as if it fades away from the conversation of great superhero films. The main reason for that is the legendary performance from a man named Heath Ledger. And the other is because some people just don’t like Batman. He’s one of the most popular characters in comic book history, but he isn’t necessarily the most liked. That title could probably to go Spider-Man or Iron Man now. And with the success of the MCU, Marvel “fanboys” (I hate that word and hate using it to describe people but everyone knows what it means) have come out of the closet to discredit anything Batman’s in now. This all started before the MCU though and what Chris Nolan did for this character was remarkable. He took a character who had over 75 years of material, history, and story to go off of, and managed to reinvent Batman right before our eyes. Why did he do it? Well, I’m not going to speculate on the genius of Nolan but I remember a quote from him during an interview once. He said he only commits to a project when he has a story to tell. Story is the key word there because it is the defining element that makes Batman Begins a classic in my eyes.
Up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an origin story!
There is so much negativity around those two words. Origin Story. For some characters in movies, TV, or comics, an origin isn’t needed. When Batman Begins came out, some felt an origin for Batman wasn’t needed. Most people know the story. His mommy and his daddy got shot, so he became Batman to protect people. That’s an accepted story that everyone can get behind and one everyone accepts. Nolan instead gives us something a bit different. This movie gives us the origin of Bruce Wayne and Batman. What I mean by that is we get to experience Bruce in many different areas of his life. We get the scared little kid, the angry teen, the confused adult, and then we get to the cape and cowl. These are all extremely important to why he becomes Batman.
Let’s start with him as a child. His parents are murdered out of the blue. Bam! Just like that, he’s an orphan. This is the most important part of Batman’s mythology and not for the reason people think. I challenge you to go back in your mind to the age of ten. School isn’t annoying yet, friends aren’t fake, and a lot of us are blessed to have good family around us. We haven’t gone through puberty yet, so those irrational, resentful feelings we have for authority and our parents hasn’t kicked I yet. This was Bruce Wayne’s life time’s ten. His parents were essentially the perfect parents. They were rich but were active in his life. They were philanthropists and his father saved lives for a living too as a doctor. Bruce viewed the world through how his parents treated and acted towards people. He imagined the world was filled with people like his parents. Everyone was capable of some type of good in his eyes. So when they died, it was more than a child becoming an orphan. Bruce Wayne is known for his genius IQ. In the comics, whenever we see Bruce as a kid, he’s usually showing off that intelligence. Most kids who lose their parents but still have a fortune left might sue it for the wrong things. They might cry and miss their parents but eventually accept people are just like that. Bruce couldn’t accept that. His mind wouldn’t let him. He continued to ponder why this happened. Why did someone murder his parents in cold blood? Not because they were the Wayne’s, but because they could. All Bruce had of his parents was the memories from his childhood. If I lost my parents at such a young age, I’d never get over them either. Nolan executed this perfectly with the flashbacks early in the film. We see him with his father when he falls into the Batcave. As the movie goes on, we see that Bruce has had anger stored up in him for years now.
He planned on killing the man who killed his parents at a hearing. Rachel, his childhood friend turned attorney, was ashamed of him. The scene with the two in the car was powerful. She’s talking about the imperfect system. Brue replies, with a hint of arrogance, “Your system is broken.” She speeds down a ramp and into a terrifying part of the city. She opens Bruce’s eyes to what is really going on in Gotham. He then is beat up by Falcone’s thugs before being thrown out of a bar. He realizes in that moment that Gotham needs something different. He also realizes he’s not even close to the mindset he needs to have to in order to change anything in Gotham. Bruce gives his money and jacket to a homeless man and boards the next boat leaving the dock.
We then get to confused Bruce. He’s travelling the world learning all sorts of things. Trying to become a better fighter, learning how criminals think and so on. But he isn’t fully comprehending what it means to be a criminal. This is where he meets Ra’s al Ghul. Ras takes him into the League of Shadows to learn their ways. We see Bruce training like a ninja. This was perfect because it explains his fighting style and his strategies a little more. He labors through the physical, but mainly mental, torment from Ra’s and eventually is ready to “graduate: if you will. Bruce must execute a man the league has deemed guilty. Bruce says the man should stand trial, but Ra’s is not convinced. He then learns he must take the League of Shadows to Gotham to wipe it out because the city is too corrupt. It needs to be allowed to die. Instantly Bruce realizes how ludicrous that is. He thinks of people like Rachel and his parents and comes to the conclusion that more people out there are like that. He finally understands now what it means to be a true criminal. So without hesitation, he burns down the League of Shadows temple, but still saves Ra’s in the process. All of these things culminate to him becoming the Bat. We see some funny scenes with him and Lucious Fox. I think more than anything, Nolan was trying to get us to realize that even Batman needs help. Not many heroes can do everything themselves without any assistance.
The scene that stuck with me is when Bruce and Alfred are in the Batcave and Bruce is making his bat-a-rangs. Alfred looks a bit worried and says, “Why bats, Master Bruce?” Bruce replies, “Bats frighten me. Now the world will share my dread.” I always assumed as a kid that Batman loved bats. I thought that he had bat pets and what not, and that he felt more comfortable around them. This realization that they are one of his biggest fears further adds to the origin of Bruce Wayne as Batman. We got all of this from Nolan and Bruce hadn’t even put on the cape yet. I also liked how Bruce talked about his fear of bats because that word was the central theme in this movie.
Each of the movies in Nolan’s trilogy revolves around one word. Batman Begins is fear. Bruce decides to take the mantle of Batman up because criminals in Gotham weren’t afraid of anything. He knew that one man would never be able to save his city. So he decided to become something different than a normal man. An ideal. This is captured beautifully when he first shows up to the docks during a drug trade. The men are terrified. And when he picks up Falcone up and says menacingly, “I’m Batman!” I lose my mind every time. It was marvelously done. You could see the fear in Falcone’s eyes. Scarecrow is a perfect villain in this movie because of the fear theme. His scenes were intense and that mask was beyond creepy. The movie drives this theme into our heads for the duration of the film because fear is the main emotion that makes Batman so incorruptible. It’s a perfect way to introduce a character in an origin story movie.
Everything else in this movie works well. The Batmobile chase scene was phenomenal. Gary Oldman was believable as Gordon, Alfred was funny, and the movie looked stunning. I don’t understand why some movies refuse to real sets or no CGI when it comes to action sequences. Movies like Star Wars and this one prove that real props and real sets can add a totally different dimension to a film. The only way this makes the movie suffer, is with the fighting. The fighting from Batman is stiff and dry in this movie. But the plot keeps moving along so well, that action is almost an afterthought in this movie. And the final fight scene with Ra’s is actually pretty solid. The emotion of Batman fighting his former mentor comes alive during the fight. The plot moves along at a steady pace as well. We learn that the gas Batman used to train in the mountains with Ra’s, was the main chemical they were trying to disperse into the air. The reveal that Ra’s was connected to everything going on in Gotham was great as well.
To me, this movie is a classic when it comes to superhero movies. It’s up there to me with Spider-Man 2 and X-Men Days of Future Past. Spider-Man 2 to me has the best action ever in a superhero film. Not the most action, but the best. X-Men Days of Future Past to me is the best event type of movie we’ve ever seen (so far. Infinity War might change the game!) Civil War was a great event movie, but the ending of Civil War makes it fall a little behind Days of Future Past. Batman Begins is the greatest origin story ever. Nolan reimagined what it means to be Batman and told us a fantastic story. I love every movie in this trilogy equally, but I think I like this movie the most. I am excited for the future of Batman because Affleck is a great writer and director. But Nolan definitely set the bar high with this classic. I give it a 10/10