As I went to the store today to buy Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to rewatch and review for this site in anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises, I came upon this collection. For a very reasonable price, I purchased it and will bring to you reviews of the five films contained herein. In the last review I will give a rating to the collection and a general ‘is it worth the money’ rundown. So without further ado, I bring you the review of:
Directed by master filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception) Batman Begins is the extraordinary origin story of one of the greatest “super” heroes invented. Compiling a cast of extremely talented actors and a believable, real-world script, Nolan has crafted one of the greatest comic book films of all time. Thanks to the realistic take on the character and the threats to the city, Nolan created the blueprint that all comic films today use.
When his parents are murdered in front of his eyes, young Bruce Wayne is lost in the world, with only his aging butler Alfred (Nolan regular Michael Caine) to take care of him. As he grows, the hole in his soul drives him from his life of privilege to seek out the criminal underworld and learn to combat it. He meets Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), an emissary to The League of Shadows, fronted by Ra’s Al Ghul* (Ken Watanabe). After training he discovers that the methods employed by this shadowy organization go against his own beliefs and he returns to Gotham City to become the Batman to combat the criminal element in his own way. Along the way, though, he discovers more is afoot than just mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) running the crime syndicate and corruption in Gotham.
Led by strong performances by all the main cast including Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow), Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Katie Holmes (Rachael Dawes), Rutger Hauer (William Earle), and most notably the great Gary Oldman (Sergeant James Gordon), the film is simply amazing and fascinating to watch. The strength of all these actors, along with the strength of director Nolan, brings these characters to life in a believable way. In this film, it isn’t strange that a man would decide to dress as a bat to combat the corruption of his city.
The great thing about the character of Batman, and what Nolan put on screen here, is that he is just a man. He has no super powers. He is not infallible. He can be, and is, hurt throughout the film. He bruises. While he may not bleed in the film, you do get the feeling that he is just a man doing what he feels he needs to do to save the city that his father tried to save twenty years prior. As a symbol, he is unbeatable. As a man, he can be beaten. The persona of the bat that he chooses is to strike fear into the heart of criminals. To be more frightening to them than they are to the general populace of the city.
Fear is a running theme throughout this film. The first appearance of the Batman is filmed almost like a horror film, with the bat striking from the shadows causing chaos and fear among the criminals. You can see the fear as they search for the cause of the disturbance. They feel the fear that they have caused. Using misdirection and theatrics, the Batman spreads the fear that he himself felt as a young boy after falling into a well and being attacked by bats. In a later scene, a the criminals spread rumors about him being un-killable and that he can fly. The fear has spread throughout the criminal underworld, and that is the point of the Batman in this film. He is a symbol of dread to these villains.
As one of the greatest working directors today, Christopher Nolan reinvigorated the comic book film with Batman Begins and did everything right when it comes to the dreaded origin story. I am not a fan of origin stories, for the most part, but here it doesn’t feel like an origin. It feels like an organic story that isn’t tied to a comic book. Sure, everyone on the planet knows who Batman is. Nolan takes that familiar character and crafts a story that isn’t all about just getting to him putting the mask on. He makes the origin interesting and not just a paint by numbers snooze-fest. He shows how Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman not just physically but emotionally as well.
Batman Begins is a wonderful film that deserves to be seen. If you haven’t seen it, now is the time . If you have, now is the time to revisit it. With strong performances, a captivating story, and skillful direction, this film is a wonder and a joy to behold.
***1/2 out of ****
* Before someone reads this and decides to post that I named characters wrong, this is done for the sake of people new to the film. Please don’t spoil anything for those who have yet to see it.