Batman Begins

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, and Ken Watanabe

"If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely – a legend, Mister Wayne."
-Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson)

With summer 2012 heralding the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, I feel like déjà vu. All I hear is that five years is not a long enough amount of time to wait before hitting the reset button on a series.  I realize Spider-Man 3 was just a few years ago back in 2007.  However, I heard the same thing back in 2005 before Batman Begins came out.  Many thought it was too soon.  After all, the previous Batman flick was just eight years prior to the film's release.  With the epic legend of Batman concluding in The Dark Knight Rises in a couple of months, I can definitely say that rebooting the Batman franchise was the right move.  Despite some pre-release negativity from a few haters and the relatively small box office success for a film about the Caped Crusader, Batman Begins is a pretty awesome movie and a great way to reboot the franchise.

As a child, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) falls down into a cave in Wayne Manor and learns that he has a fear of bats.  His parents Thomas and Martha Wayne (Linus Roache and Sara Stewart) comfort him and teach him that falling is part of life.  He just has to learn how to get back up again.  Soon after, his parents are killed by mugger Joe Chill (Richard Brake), and his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) becomes the only family he has in this world.  Bruce falls into a lifetime of despair.  Years later at a parole hearing for Joe Chill, Bruce brings a gun to the courthouse to carry out his own form of justice.  However, he doesn't get the opportunity to kill Chill because crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) orders a hit on him.

Wayne then confronts Falcone and is surprised to learn that the crime boss believes that the "Prince of Gotham" has never really tasted suffering despite his parents' murder.  Wayne goes to get his taste of suffering by leaving Gotham City, his wealth, and his name behind.  Now wasting his life stealing from his own company and getting into prison fights, Wayne becomes truly lost.  Through this suffering however, he is found by Henri Ducard (Neeson), a man that helps him find a path to justice with a mysterious organization known as the League of Shadows.

Ducard mentors Wayne and helps him to become more than just a man.  He helps him to master the arts of combat and deception.  He helps him to become a member of the League of Shadows.  When Wayne successfully completes the training and is initiated into the group.  Leader Ra's Al Ghul (decoy portrayed by Ken Watanabe) informs Wayne that he must take up arms with his fellow members of the League and lay waste to the putrid city of Gotham.  A son of Gotham, Wayne vehemently disagrees with the notion of destroying his beloved city and parts ways with the League on bad terms.  He then returns to Gotham City to root out justice and corruption by striking fear in the hearts of criminals as the masked crime fighter Batman.

After four Batman films and a spinoff, we finally got an origin story for the Dark Knight in 2005.  It was about damn time.  With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan distances himself from the worlds created by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher.  Nolan introduces us to a distinctly realistic world where the impossible is just merely implausible.  He gives Gotham a modern flare that helps him to connect with younger moviegoers.  With brilliant directing, he crafts an engrossing story and creates an extraordinary hero in an ordinary world of crime and corruption.  Basically, he breathes fresh air into the Batman franchise.

Aside from some masterful filmmaking by Christopher Nolan, the actors give us some great performances.  Christian Bale is the best Batman we've had since Michael Keaton himself donned the cape and utility belt.  He gives us one of the darkest depictions to date of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and shows us the true personal struggle of being a vigilante crime fighter. Liam Neeson gives us an intelligent badass in his portrayal of Henri Ducard/Ra's Al Ghul.  I definitely appreciate every moment he's on camera.  As butler Alfred Pennyworth and scientist Lucius Fox respectively, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman deliver strong, often comical performances.  The only weak link in the cast is Katie Holmes, who is completely out of her league in this flick.

While Batman Begins reintroduces us to a world with which most of us are all too familiar, I certainly learned a couple of things by watching this flick.  Apparently, Batman went to my alma mater Princeton University.  I'm proud to say that I've walked through the same halls where the Dark Knight spent his formative years.  Also, Jack Gleeson, who plays the boy king Joffrey on HBO's Game of Thrones, makes one of his earliest appearances on camera in the movie.  Who knew he would play a character that I would hate so much years later?  With all this in mind, I've got nothing but love for Nolan's first foray into the legend of the Bat.  Batman Begins gets a 0.03% rating.  Have a few wine coolers with this one.