With the Dark Knight only a month around the corner now, it seems almost inevitable that the film that started this will be released in various special editions, and boxsets. So, what is it about? Is it any good?
First of all, yes, I am a fan of Batman, though more of a fan of the comics than the dodgy gothic and neon attempts back in the nineties by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Batman Begins is based largely around the graphic novel, Batman: Year One -a brilliant piece by legendary Frank Miller to revamp the DC universe.
The story starts off with an innocuous-looking scene of a very young Bruce Wayne plays hide-and-seek with his future paramour, Rachel. But Bruce is dreaming of his worst nightmare: bats! He is thrown out of a Chinese prison at the word of a mysterious stranger, and is forced to trudge across some incredibly beautiful scenery before coming to the home of Ra’s al-Ghul, whereupon he learns the skills and attitude necessary to defeat “those who prey on the fearful.”
Of course, being Bruce Wayne, he doesn’t kill, which sets him apart from his mentor, so naturally, they try to kill him. He returns to Gotham City, and sets about bringing criminals to justice, using equipment modified from discarded Wayne Enterprises prototypes. Thus he becomes his worst nightmare, sharing his “dread” with the gangs of Gotham as the Batman.
Unfortunately, Ra’s al-Ghul has plans for Gotham, and sets them in motion the psychotic Dr. Jonathan Crane (AKA The Scarecrow). Batman is constantly chased by the Police, but when all hell breaks loose in Gotham city, he is the only one to save them.
If you haven’t seen it, there’s no point in telling you the ending… sorry!
Batman Begins is a cracking film.
The script is finely honed, even taking conversations direct from the legendary comic itself, and the characters an eclectic mix of good and bad, with an outmanned Sergeant Gordon -the one good cop in the GCPD; a genuinely psychotic Crane -who gets worse as the film progresses and Batman reveals himself; the over-worked, under appreciated Assistant DA, Rachel Dawes; the lovable Alfred, whose quips and advice keep Bruce from going too far; the ravings of the mad (possibly immortal) big bad Ra’s who was betrayed by Wayne. But of course, Batman himself -the tortured, haunted, superhero himself- has been perfectly written to be both likable and frightening as his two sides fight to do the right thing.
Christian Bale was the perfect choice for the new Batman, with superb direction from Memento’s Christopher Nolan. What sets this apart from many of the recent comic book movies, and indeed its horrific predecessors, is the reality of the environment: there are no uber-gadgets that just happened to be on his utility belt at the right time, there are not neon-soaked skylines, or stupidly camp badguys. This is Batman in the real world, and it makes the film that much more edgier and darker.
Let’s just hope The Dark Knight lives up to the first film…