In case you wondering, I am, in fact, excited for the forthcoming release of The Dark Knight Rises, the final entry in director Christopher Nolan’s three-part “Batman” interpretation. So last night, a week away from the wide release of that anticipated film, I decided to watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight back-to-back. I’ve seen them both before, but I thought I’d not only refresh my memory of them, but also write up two separate reviews.
Bottom Line: A thorough explanation on the Caped Crusader’s origins.
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rade Sherbedgia, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson
BATMAN BEGINS may have been billed and released as one consolidation of a film, but fundamentally, it works as two separate pieces. The first piece expounds upon Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) back story. It’s the portion of the film Tim Burton likely wishes he could have incorporated into his version, 1989′s BATMAN, for longer than ten minutes. We learn about Wayne’s motive to become the Batman, his feeling of guilt for the death of his parents, and his chronic fear of bats. It’s a worthwhile character study. The second piece is when the film evolves into the superhero movie we’re used to. Wayne has been suited up (the film goes as far as to explain where he got his gear) as Batman, an attempt to make criminals around Gotham fear him as he feared bats. The key criminal taking over the town is a doctor concealed by the identity “Scarecrow” (Cillian Murphy), a thug whose weapon is a drug that makes citizens of Gotham fearfully hallucinate.
It’s great to see such a well-developed Batman. After an unconvincing Michael Keaton, a dull Val Kilmer, and a silly George Clooney, Christian Bale seems to be the first fully convincing Dark Knight seen by the cinema. Pair our complete knowledge of his character’s background with Bale’s vanishing into character, and the film is provided with a sturdy structure. Once Wayne has been suited up, however, the film sinks a few notches. Cillian Murphy is intended to be frightening as the “Scarecrow” and somewhat creepy as Dr. Crane, but he instead fails at both. We are left with a boring villain who is sometimes dull and otherwise laughable. His ridiculous, standardly corny (no pun intended) traits seem to affect the latter half of this prelude.
BATMAN BEGINS was an impressive way to unfold the newly told story of the Caped Crusader. After the bottomless pit the series fell into eight years before with BATMAN AND ROBIN, it’s easy to say that no one believed there was any hope for the series. Save for the villain’s performance and dialogue, rarely is this film as trashy as many thought it would be. It may not be as unforgettable as it could have been, but if anything, it’s definitely a classic in the making.