The Dark Knight trilogy returns to theaters for National Batman Day. Only fitting I see all three back-to-back-to-back! We are introduced to Bruce Wayne as a broken man, reeling over the murder of his parents many years ago. Bruce yearns to fight injustice but lacks the tools to do it. He learns the necessary skills to combat criminals and returns to Gotham to improve it. But when a secret society threatens to destroy the city, Bruce must become Batman to inspire the public and stop the destruction.
“Begins” has always been criminally underrated to me. When originally released, it never gained the traction it deserved. After the trilogy’s conclusion and years of aging, it has finally gotten due credit. I think “Batman Begins” is fantastic from top to bottom. It crafts a story worthy of the character, managing to explore his trauma in a way that feels real. I’ve really come to appreciate the journey Bruce goes on to become Batman. His training alongside The League of Shadows explores the psychology of the character in a way that forces him to confront his fear. In turn, he uses this fear to fight injustice with a grounded moral code, which is where he comes into conflict with Ra’s al Ghul. Their conflicting views on crime and injustice make for an incredible conflict that really sets up Batman’s character well. Over the course of the film, Batman must grapple with the idea of rising above fear and saving those worth fighting for. It is truly a wonderful story from beginning to end.
The performances are also excellent all around. Christian Bale brings the balance needed for Bruce Wayne. He gives us a character that is tortured and impulsive at first, but wise and tactful by the end. The arc in this film alone is magnificent. His Bat voice is my favorite of the bunch in this one too. Michael Caine and Gary Oldman are awesome as usual, proving how important Alfred and Gordon are to Batman’s entire operation. They both provide logic to Bruce and create a strong emotional connection with him. Of course, we can’t forget about Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy giving A+ performances as the villains. I actually prefer Katie Holmes as Rachel over Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Dark Knight”. The film’s success wouldn’t be possible without these great performances committing to Nolan’s vision for Batman.
Origin stories are difficult to pull off, but “Begins” took a risky gamble with a darker interpretation of the character. This risk paid off immensely, where the idea of fear is explored through the Scarecrow villain. His plan to poison Gotham’s water supply to create mass panic mirrors the fear Bruce has faced throughout most of his life. This combined with Ra’s al Ghul’s plan to tear Gotham apart through mass hysteria makes for an exciting conflict. I believe this was the perfect story to tell at the beginning of Batman’s career. It shapes the character in a grounded way while staying true to the comic roots. The cinematography is also excellent, creating a cool color hue throughout the film. Whether it be training in the icy mountains or a city brawl with the villains, the film’s visual aesthetic is very appealing.
My negatives for this movie have actually gone down over the years. The more I watch it the more appreciation I have for the story being told. But there are a few areas where the film could have been sharper. The main aspect I’m mixed on are the fight sequences. They are edited to look so quick and choppy that it’s hard to discern what’s going on. Nolan has stated this was intentional to make Batman more intimidating and agile. A good idea for sure, but not the best to experience as a viewer. I also find the execution of Bruce and Rachel’s romance to be a bit forced. But viewing it as a large piece to the trilogy makes it more palatable.
“Batman Begins” is one of the finest origin stories ever told. It tells Bruce’s story from an most emotional perspective while leaning into the gritty elements of Batman’s lore. Each piece of the story is well executed and the performances all around are fantastic. I’m so glad this one is getting the credit it deserves because it is one of my all-time favorite superhero movies. Give this one a rewatch with a fresh perspective and I’m sure all the love and nostalgia will come back. “Begins” rocks!