“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Batman Begins A Review

It is a dark night on the streets of the big city. Gotham, shrouded in a fog of fear. But what is this? A shining beacon of yellow light in the shape of some……… POPCORN??? It must be the caped movie reviewers from inpopculturewetrust.

In anticipation of Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises inpoipculturewetrust will be looking back at all the films in the Nolan Batman series; Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, with a weekend of release review of The Dark Knight Rises.

So let’s begin with a straw poll, who here had any expectations of Batman Begins before it opened in the summer of 2005?
No? It’s ok me neither. I had only previously seen Batman and Robin in theatres and to be honest my view of Batman at the time was as a camp superhero, prone to making puns and a fool of himself.
Well Nolan didn’t see this and he made the movie that we needed not the one that we expected.
This is the film that rebooted Batman taking its inspiration not from the 60’s TV series or the increasingly absurd movies from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Instead its DNA was made up of some classic graphic novels, Batman:Year One, Batman:The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight Returns, and the realistic vision of Christopher Nolan.
So Batfans, a word of warning this review will be spoiler filled so if you have not seen Batman Begins yet (and if not why not its seven years old for christ sake!) please stop reading now and come back to us after you have watched the movie.

So this movie begins with a scene of young Bruce Wayne playing in the gardens of Wayne Manor with his friend Rachel Dawes arguing over a spear head that they found in the grounds. A chase ensues and young Bruce falls down a well where he is terrorized by bats….. This scene sets up the theme of the movie to come namely fear. The look on Bruce’s face as he is attacked by the bats is one of genuine fear. We suddenly cut forward in time to find Bruce (Christian Bale) in a jail cell. Now just a word on the structure of this film. The first act is quite simply the origin story of Batman. Christopher Nolan’s vision is nothing but simple though. He cuts back and forth in time in order to tell this story in an interesting way, setting up the themes that he wants to explore throughout the movie. Props go to him for this, a lesser director would simply have used the first five minutes of the film to show Bruce’s parents being killed and a shot of a bat in order to tell the origin. This director is much cleverer than that. So we get sequences of Bruce in prison battling  criminals without ever being one himself. Then Ducard (Liam Neeson) arrives to release Bruce from his captivity in order to train him to get over his fear in order to use it for the purposes of Ras Al Ghul. But as we move back and forth in time over Bruce Wayne’s early years we come to understand his character. He is his father’s son, he has a moral code that he sticks to that he learnt from his father and to a lesser extent his friend Rachel. This is all quite simple storytelling, but it is made compelling by the way the narrative unfolds.We explore in-depth Bruce’s relationship with his father “Why do we fall Bruce, so that we can learn to pick ourselves up” and then understand the loss of having your parents gunned down. The following scene introduces Jim Gordon and as much as screenwriter David S Goyer protests this film is heavily indebted to the graphic novel Batman:Year One. It was a revelation to watch Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the future commissioner Gordon in this movie on first watching and he gets better with each viewing. So as act one heads towards its explosive conclusion with a couple of damn fine action sequences (including the sword fight on the ice “Mind your surroundings”) Bruce learns of Ras true intentions: to liberate Gotham from the evils that plague it by destroying the city. He burns down the temple he was training in, killing Ra’s in the process, while saving the life of Ducard. We are left with an understanding of our hero.
Which leads us neatly into act two. Bruce Wayne returns and confides in long time family friend and employee Alfred. A truly astonishing turn from Michael Caine. He is both laconic and humorous with the ability to bring a tear to your eye and have you rolling with laughter. This character has pathos and is so much better than the previous two-dimensional interpretations of the character. Bruce publicly posers as a reckless playboy, he takes an interest in his family’s company, Wayne Enterprises, run by the unscrupulous CEO William Earle (Rutger Hauer), who intends to take the company public. Bruce meets Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who introduces him to several of Wayne’s experimental prototype technologies, including an armored car and protective bodysuit, which Bruce uses to form his vigilante persona, Batman. These scenes are exquisite giving us a realistic basis for the Batman persona and some moments of great humour to alleviate the tension. When first clapping his eyes on the tumbler Fox states that he wouldn’t be interested in that!!! As Batman, Bruce intercepts an illegal drug shipment, empowering Sgt. Jim Gordon and the Gotham police to arrest the previously untouchable Falcone, who was introduced in the first act as a nemesis for Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, a Wayne Enterprises cargo ship is raided and an experimental weapon is stolen, a “Microwave Emitter” that uses microwaves to vaporize an enemy’s water supply.Villanous Dr Jonathen Crane (the Scarecrow) has been using Falcone to import a dangerous hallucinogenic drug that causes severe psychosis. Crane exposes Falcone to the toxin while wearing a mask, driving Falcone mad with fear of the “Scarecrow.” Batman is also exposed to the drug and is saved by both Alfred and Fox. As well as fear this movie also explores father figures as a theme and this sequence in particular highlights that. Crane has been dumping this drug into Gotham’s water supply. Coupled with the microwave emitter the forces of evil intend to vaporize the water supply and cause mass hallucinations and panic leading to the downfall of Gotham. Rachel is put under the influence of the toxin and is subsequently saved and inoculated by Batman. This leads to, for my money, the most powerful scene of the movie. Bruce is bollocked by Alfred who believes that Batman is a form of thrill seeking, and demands that Bruce Wayne act more like his father and doesn’t disgrace the Wayne name. We as an audience know that he doesn’t mean all that he says but cares for Bruce and those themes of fear and fatherhood are truly distilled in this powerful sequence. At his birthday celebration at Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted by Ducard, who reveals himself to be Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce fakes a drunken tirade to get rid of his guests, leaving him alone with Ra’s and his ninjas who sets fire to Wayne Manor and Bruce is nearly trapped inside but is saved by Alfred. As the toxin is released, Batman rescues Rachel from a drug-induced mob and reveals his true identity to her. He entrusts Sgt. Gordon with the Tumbler “I got to get me one of these” and pursues Ra’s, who is using Gotham’s train system which was designed by Bruce’s father to deliver the weapon throughout the city. Batman confronts Ra’s on the train and escapes just as Gordon uses the Tumbler to destroy the elevated tracks, leaving Ra’s to die in the crash.
Batman becomes a public hero, but at the same time loses Rachel, who cannot bring herself to love both Bruce and Batman. Bruce buys a controlling stake in the now publicly-traded Wayne Enterprises, fires Earle, and replaces him with Fox. Jim Gordon is promoted to Lieutenant. He shows Batman the new Bat-Signal and mentions a new costumed criminal who leaves Joker cards at crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate, and disappears into the night.
My plot synopsis has not done this film justice. It is an adult, complex and intelligent retelling of a story that we all know. I cannot give this film a higher recommend. Nolan uses this story to explore themes of fear, redemption, fatherhood and moral obligations to great effect. It is interesting to note that Nolan shot every sequence himself never resorting to a second unit, a true auteur. The only small problem with this film is in its depiction of female characters. In fact there is only essentially one, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. unfortunately our Katie cannot compete on an acting level with those others around her. That being said this film is awesome and has resided in my top ten since I first saw it.
So if you are interested in hearing more tune in next week same bat time, same bat blog for my views on The Dark Knight
Belive the hype
Steve

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12 Comments

  1. Enjoyed reading this, extremely great stuff, thankyou . 818553

    Reply
  2. Love this film so much. Saw it first on Sky Box Office and fell in love with it.

    Like you Steve, I was never a massive fan of the previous franchise but the new darker twist of this new crop of films from Nolan is awesome.

    Reply
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