BATMANIA!: BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
Remember that Batman prequel that Joel Schumacher wanted to do but Warner Bros. weren’t into it? Turns out they warmed to the idea when everyone universally hated Batman & Robin. Better call Joel Schumacher back to do his dream Batman movie, right? Well no. That would have been nice, sure, but they had an interesting idea of their own: get Memento director Christopher Nolan to take the reins. The result was not only one bloody good movie, but one of the most successful and critically acclaimed comic book franchises to date that is set to climax (hopefully) this Friday with the release of The Dark Knight Rises.
I’ve given the matter a lot of thought and I have decided that Batman Begins is a better film that The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight feels more like a film that Nolan just wanted to make at the time that he felt he could squeeze into the Batman mold. It’s good, sure, but Batman Begins has a lot more going on. Even though it’s a huge Hollywood blockbuster with an A-list cast and a known character from an always successful franchise, Batman Begins feels a lot like an intimate, independent, British production. Most of the principal cast are British and there are even great British character actors like Colin McFarlane, Linus Roache and Richard Brake peppered throughout the supporting roles. Somehow it just doesn’t feel like Hollywood.
That said, it’s still a large-scale action adventure movie about a crime-fighting billionaire in a bat costume, which I suppose is its primary appeal. Beyond all of that though, it’s mostly a story about a rich kid who collects dads. When his parents killed during a mugging gone wrong, young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) sets out to fill that hole in his life and get revenge on the man who did it. When revenge proves impossible, he runs away to study the “criminal fraternity” and gain some understanding of what makes a man desperate enough to steal and kill. On his travels, he meets Ducard (Liam Neeson) who becomes a strong father figure and trains him in the ways of ninjitsu in the hopes that he will join the League of Shadows and lead an attack on Wayne’s home town of Gotham City at the behest of League commander Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), a strong father figure. Finding that he agrees with the Leagues’ ideals more than their methods, he decides to blow them all up, killing Ra’s and saving Ducard. He then returns to Gotham to rid the city of the grip of crimelord Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), a strong father figure, and rejoins with his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), a strong father figure, returns to his father’s business which is in the hands of Bill Earle (Rutger Hauer), a strong father figure, and gathers a few gadgets from Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a strong father figure.
Of course Bruce isn’t all that pleased with his six new dads so he seeks one out, Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), a man who was there for him after his real dad died and comforted him by repeating his dad’s uninspired catchphrase “It’s okay, it’s okay.” So upon his return to Gotham, Bruce recruits his favourite father figure to his cause so that he’s not just making citizen’s arrests in a bat costume and has an actual cop on side. It’s all about legitimising Batman, which is something Nolan is very interested in. He wants to explore how someone can become and operate as a Batman.Yeah, it’s silly, but it’s actually believable for probably the first time.
For once we’re not looking at incredibly stylised sets and toyetic designs. We have here a batsuit that is designed for practicality, a grapple gun that looks like it could actually work and a batmobile that is basically an armoured military vehicle. In fact, all of Batmans gadgets and gear are all Wayne Enterprises endeavours developed for but deemed too expensive to be used by the military Batman is still playing with his toys, but he and his friends and enemies are no longer toys themselves. They are people. A recurring motif throughout Batman Begins has Bruce applying sentiment to inanimate objects, most of which are destroyed as the film goes on. The first of these is the pearl necklace of his mother’s. Most of the others are associated with his father. He gives up everything then returns to reclaim what he had, but of course it’s all his father’s stuff. He’s attached to his father’s memory and misplaces that attachment into things. In the meantime, he is essentially trying to rebuild and perfect his father from other people. He dismisses the parts that he does not need. Ra’s Al Ghul and Bill Earle are rejected as soon as Bruce comes to understand their methods, but he does not reject Ducard until after he destroys his home. In rejecting Ducard, Bruce destroys his father’s train and we think that maybe he has learned something, but really all he’s done is replaced himself with objects, a mask, a tank and various other gadgets, gizmos and googads. And, as we know all too well, that mask can be broken…
Posted on July 18, 2012, in Batmania and tagged Batman, Batman Begins, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, Colin McFarlane, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, liam neeson, Linus Roache, Michael Caine, Richard Brake, Rutger Hauer. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.