Anthony's Film Review
Batman Begins (2005)
The Caped Crusader is back and much MUCH better than ever...
Forget about all the Batman movies you've seen already. When I say that, I'm not just talking about Joel Schumacher's crappy visions of the Dark Knight. I'm even mentioning Tim Burton, because while his two Batman films were dark, they don't even come close to what Christopher Nolan has delivered. That's right. Batman Begins is one awesome action flick and no doubt the best Batman film ever made as of 2005. Unlike the other movies, this one tells the story of Bruce Wayne's journey towards donning the famous Batsuit. The title, however, suggests more than that. It restarts the entire Batman film series from scratch, beginning with an entry that defines how a Batman movie, or any superhero movie, should be made.
As the story begins, Bruce Wayne is in a prison somewhere in an Asian country. He is trying to find himself, exploring the world in the process. As someone whose parents were murdered in front of his very eyes, he wants to understand how criminals think in order to fight them. When Bruce meets the mysterious Ducard, a member of the League of Shadows, he sets out to learn both the art of combat and ways to channel his feelings into something greater. One of these methods involves embracing a dreaded fear and frightening others with it. As you may have guessed, Bruce has had a fear of bats since childhood.
Bruce eventually returns to Gotham City after seven years. He finds that the man who killed his parents is going to be sent to a mental asylum instead of jail. At this point, you can start to feel the hatred that Bruce has bottled up inside. This is not someone who fights evil for the glory of heroism. This is someone who will be doing it out of vengeance.
If you take a look at Gotham City itself, you can see why. There is much poverty, despair, and crime in the streets of Gotham. This bleak setting gives Gotham City a real sense of menace. This is a good time to bring up a fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbit. Some of the camera shots of Gotham City are actually CGI-modified shots of Chicago, Illinois. Although I was familiar with some of the actual buildings in the Windy City, I still believed I was looking at one hell of a dark city.
Going back to the story, Bruce isn't alone in his fight against evil. Ever since his parents' death, Bruce has been raised by his trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth, who now serves as a valuable ally. There is also Rachel Dawes, a childhood friend of Bruce who grows up to be a district attorney. Then there's Lucius Fox, a member of Wayne Corporation's applied science department. Fox provides the technology that Bruce needs to fight as Batman, including a tank-like vehicle Bruce requests to have painted black. This Batmobile is not the smooth slick car we are familiar with but has just as many capabilities with speed and weaponry.
As for the villains, one of them is psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane. He performs medical evaluations of criminals, and those who are part of organized crime are simply taken to his asylum. They are not necessarily insane at first, but once Crane meets with them alone, he gives them a drug and puts on a hideous mask, doubling as the Scarecrow. The hallucinations plus the mask suddenly make them go crazy. But his real plan is to poison the water supply with this drug.
Once Bruce puts on the black mask and cape, he becomes a mysterious figure feared in the criminal underworld. The action scenes are packed with excitement and suspense, and the plot thickens towards an edge-of-your-seat climax. Because Batman is making his first appearance in Gotham, even he is vulnerable to pain. That is what makes it work. Batman is tough, but not superhuman. In fact, I really like this film because it seems more reality than fantasy, as if there is a real-life Batman watching over us from within the shadows.
Batman Begins is so spectacular that this is the Batman film that should have been made years ago. For the first time, we see the anger that torments Bruce Wayne underneath his wealthy persona. Other than that, the film has a great mix of action and character development. The dialogue is sharp and intelligent, and the cast, including Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, and Katie Holmes, all do a great job. Film critic Roger Ebert once said that Spider-Man 2 is "the best superhero movie ever made." I would have to disagree with that. I say that Batman Begins is the best superhero movie made so far. Once you see how outstanding it is, you will agree that the Black Knight is definitely here to stay.
For more information about Batman Begins, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.