Batman Begins is a 2005 American superhero film, based on the comic book character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, in which Bruce Wayne loses his philanthropic parents in a mugging, and years later becomes The Batman to save the crime-ridden Gotham City on the verge of destruction by an ancient order of assassins.
- They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I've looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge... Me.
- It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.
- Man: Are you so desperate to fight criminals that you lock yourself in to take them on one at a time?
- Bruce: Actually, there were seven of them.
- Man: I counted six, Mr. Wayne.
- Bruce: How do you know my name?
- Man: The world is too small a place for someone like Bruce Wayne to disappear no matter how low he chooses to sink.
- Bruce: Who are you?
- Man: My name is merely Ducard, but I speak for Ra’s Al Ghul, a man greatly feared by the criminal underworld. A man who can offer you a path.
- Bruce: What makes you think I need a path?
- Ducard: Someone like you is only here by choice. You have been exploring the criminal fraternity, but whatever your original intentions, you have become truly lost.
- Bruce: And what path can Ra’s Al Ghul offer?
- Ducard: The path of a man who shares his hatred of evil and wished to serve true justice. The path of the League of Shadows.
- Bruce: You’re vigilantes.
- Ducard: No, no, no. A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely.
- Bruce: Which is?
- Ducard: A legend, Mr. Wayne. Tomorrow, you will be released. If you are bored of brawling with thieves and want to achieve something, there is a rare blue flower that grows on the eastern slopes. Pick one of these flowers. If you can carry it to the top of the mountain, you may find what you were looking for in the first place.
- Bruce: And what was I looking for?
- Ducard: Only you can know that.
- Ducard: What do you seek?
- Bruce Wayne: I seek the means to fight injustice. To turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.
- [Bruce and Ducard spar on a frozen lake]
- Ducard: Your parents' death was not your fault. It was your father's. [Bruce attacks him furiously] Anger does not change the fact that your father failed to act.
- Bruce: The man had a gun!
- Ducard: Would that stop you?
- Bruce: I've had training!
- Ducard: [counterattacks, driving Bruce back] The training is nothing! The will is everything!
- Ducard: You're stronger than your father.
- Bruce Wayne: You didn't know my father.
- Ducard: But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved ones is just poison in your veins. And one day you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you'd be spared your pain. I wasn't always here in the mountains. Once I had a wife, my great love. She was taken from me. Like you, I was forced to learn that there are those without decency that must be fought without hesitation, without pity. Your anger gives you great power, but if you let it, it will destroy you, as it almost did me.
- Bruce: What stopped it?
- Ducard: Vengeance.
- Bruce: That's no help to me.
- Ducard: Why, Bruce? Why did you not avenge your parents?
- Alfred Pennyworth: I've prepared the master bedroom for you, sir.
- Bruce: No. My room will be fine.
- Alfred: With respect, Wayne Manor is your house.
- Bruce: It's my father's house.
- Alfred: Your father is dead.
- Bruce: This place is a mausoleum. If I had my way, I'd pull the damn thing down, brick by brick.
- Alfred: This house, Master Wayne, has sheltered six generations of your family.
- Bruce: Why do you give a damn, Alfred? It's not your family.
- Alfred: I give a damn, sir, because a good man once made me responsible for what was most precious to him in our world.
- Bruce: You still haven't given up on me?
- Alfred: Never.
- Carmine Falcone: You're taller than you look in the tabloids, Mr. Wayne. [his men frisk Bruce] No gun? I'm insulted. You could've just sent a thank-you note.
- Bruce: I didn't come here to thank you. I came here to show you that not everyone in Gotham's afraid of you.
- Falcone: Only those who know me, kid. Take a look around you. You'll see two city councilmen, a couple of off-duty cops, a union official, and a judge. [draws a gun and points it at Bruce] Now I wouldn't have a second's hesitation in blowing your head off right here in front of them. That's power you can't buy. That's the power of fear.
- Bruce: I'm not afraid of you.
- Falcone: Because you think you got nothing to lose. But you haven't thought it through yet. You haven't thought about your lady friend, down at the DA's office. You haven't thought about your old butler. [gestures with his gun] Bang! People from your world have so much to lose. Now, you think because your mommy and your daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don't. You've never tasted desperate. You're, uh, you're Bruce Wayne, the prince of Gotham. You'd have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn't know your name! So don't, don't come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world that you'll never understand. And you always fear what you don't understand.
- Batman: [holds Gordon up with a stapler] Don't turn around. You're a good cop, one of the few.
- Sgt James Gordon: What do you want?
- Batman: Carmine Falcone brings in shipments of drugs every week. Nobody takes him down. Why?
- Gordon: He's paid up with the right people.
- Batman: What would it take to bring him down?
- Gordon: Leverage on Judge Faden, and a DA brave enough to prosecute.
- Batman: Rachel Dawes.
- Gordon: Who are you?
- Batman: [reveals gun which is just a stapler] Watch for my sign. [retracts stapler, backs off]
- Gordon: You're just one man?
- Batman: Now we're two.
- Gordon: We?
- [Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox visit a special garage at Wayne Enterprises]
- Bruce Wayne: [look at a very large and odd vehicle] What's that?
- Lucius Fox: The Tumbler? Oh, you wouldn't be interested in that. [cuts to Bruce driving it on a test track, with Fox in the passenger's seat describing how it works] She was built as a bridging vehicle. During combat, two of these would jump over a river, towing cables. Over here on the throttle, flip that open and throttle up. This will boost you into a rampless jump. [Bruce goes to flip the throttle. The Tumbler accelerates] Not now! Not... not now, Sir!
- Tumbler AI: Afterburner disengaged.
- Fox: We never could get the damn bridge to work, but this baby works just fine. [Bruce swerves the Tumbler to a stop] So, what do you think?
- Wayne: Does it come in black?
- [Rachel Dawes visits a hotel and sees Bruce going out soaking wet with two European models in underwear and bathrobes walking out
- Rachel Dawes: Bruce?
- Bruce Wayne: [tries to recognize] Rachel?
- Dawes: I had heard you were back. What are you doing?
- Wayne: Ugh, just swimming. Wow, it is good to see you.
- Dawes: You were gone a long time.
- Wayne: I know. How are things.
- Dawes: Same. Job's getting worse.
- Wayne: [smiles] Can't change the world on your own.
- Dawes: [smiles] What choice do I have. When you're too busy 'swimming.'
- Wayne: Rachel, all of, all this, it's not me. Inside, I am more.
- Model #1: [calls out] Come on Bruce, come on!
- Model #2: We have some more hotels for you to buy.
- Dawes: [smiles sympathetically] Bruce. Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you. [Walks away]
- [Rachel observes Falcone, truly insane and muttering "scarecrow" over and over; Dr. Crane walks in]
- Dr. Jonathan Crane: Miss Dawes, this is most irregular. I have nothing further to add to the report I filed with the judge.
- Rachel Dawes: I have questions about your report.
- Crane: Such as?
- Dawes: Isn't it convenient for a 52-year-old man who has no history of mental illness to suddenly have a complete psychotic breakdown, just when he's about to be indicted?
- Crane: Well, as you can see for yourself, there is nothing "convenient" about his symptoms. [they look at Falcone, still muttering "Scarecrow"]
- Dawes: What's "scarecrow"?
- Crane: Patients suffering delusional episodes often focus their paranoia on an external tormentor. Usually one conforming to Jungian archetypes. In this case, a scarecrow... Outside, he was a giant. In here, only the mind can grant you power.
- Dawes: You enjoy the reversal?
- Crane: I respect the mind's power over the body. It's why I do what I do.
- Dawes: I do what I do to keep thugs like Falcone behind bars, not in therapy.
- [Gordon carries an unconscious Rachel]
- Batman: How is she?
- Lt. James Gordon: She's fading. We've got to go. [pause] I'll get my car.
- Batman: I brought mine.
- Gordon: Yours? [turns, sees Tumbler start up; it races past him, runs over a police car] I've gotta get me one of those.
- [Tumbler races across river]
- Policeman #1: He is in a vehicle.
- Dispatcher: Make and color?
- Policeman #1: It's a black... [pause; sirens activate elsewhere] tank!
- Batman: Taste of your own medicine, doctor? [Gasses Crane with the fear toxin] What have you been doing here? What was your plan? Crane! Who are you working for?
- Crane: Ra's! Ra's al Ghul!
- Batman: Ra's al Ghul is dead! Who are you working for? Crane!
- Crane: [Hallucinates Batman as a grotesque bat creature] Dr. Crane isn't here right now, but if you'd like to make an appointment...
- Ducard: Amusing, but pointless. None of these people have long to live. Your antics at the asylum have forced my hand.
- Bruce Wayne: So Crane was working for you.
- Ducard: His toxin is derived from the organic compound found in our blue flowers. He was able to weaponize it.
- Wayne: He's not a member of the League of Shadows?
- Ducard: Of course not. He thought our plan was to hold the city to ransom.
- Wayne: But really, you are going to release Crane's poison on the entire city.
- Ducard: Then watch Gotham tear itself apart through fear.
- Wayne: You're going to destroy millions of lives.
- Ducard: Only a cynical man would call what these people have "lives," Wayne. Crime. Despair. This was not how man was supposed to live. The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats. Burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.
- Wayne: Gotham isn't beyond saving. Give me more time. There are good people here.
- Ducard: You are defending a city so corrupt, we have infiltrated every level of its infrastructure. When I found you in that jail, you were lost. But I believed in you. I took away your fear, and showed you a path. You were my greatest student. It should be you standing by my side, saving the world.
- Wayne: I'll be standing where I belong: between you, and the people of Gotham.
- Ducard: No one can save Gotham. [nods to henchmen, who begin vandalizing the house and set it on fire] When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Tomorrow, the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time.
- Wayne: You've attacked Gotham before?
- Ducard: Of course. Over the ages, our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham, we tried a new one - economics. But, we underestimated certain of Gotham's citizens. Such as your parents. Gunned down by one of the very people they were trying to help. Create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal. Their deaths galvanized the city unto saving itself and Gotham has limped on ever since. We are back to finish the job. And this time, no misguided idealists will get in the way. Like your father, you lack the courage to do all that is necessary. If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them, and stab them in the heart.
- Bruce Wayne: I wanted to save Gotham. I've failed.
- Alfred: Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.
- Bruce: You still haven't given up on me?
- Alfred: Never.
- Ducard: [pinning Batman down] Don't be afraid, Bruce. You are just an ordinary man in a cape! That's why you couldn't fight injustice and that's why you can't stop this train!
- Batman: Who said anything about stopping it?! [as Ducard sees the train about to crash, Batman overpowers him] You never learned to mind your surroundings!
- Ducard: Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?
- Batman: I won't kill you...but I don't have to save you. [Batman escapes, leaving Ducard to his fate]
- Jessica: The meeting's already started.
- William Earle: What meeting? [enters conference room, sees Fox distributing materials to board members seated around table] Fox? I seem to remember firing you.
- Lucius Fox: You did. I got another job: yours.
- Earle: On whose authority?
- Alfred Pennyworth: [driving Bruce Wayne] Batman may have made the front page, but Bruce Wayne got pushed to page eight.
- Bruce Wayne: [Bruce reads headline, answers phone] Bruce Wayne.
- Earle: What makes you think you can decide who's running Wayne Enterprises?
- Wayne: Well, the fact that I'm the owner.
- Earle: What are you talking about? The company went public a week ago.
- Bruce Wayne: And I bought most of the shares - through various charitable foundations, and trusts, and so forth. Look, it's all a bit technical, but the important thing is that my company's future is secure. [speaks slightly louder] Right, Mr. Fox?
- Fox: Right you are, Mister Wayne. [turns to Earle, takes off glasses] Didn't you get the memo?
- Batman: [knocks on new Bat-signal] Nice.
- Gordon: Couldn't find any mob bosses.
- Batman: Well, Sergeant?
- Gordon: Oh, it's Lieutenant now. You really started something. Bent cops running scared, hope on the streets …
- Batman: But?
- Gordon: The Narrows is lost. And we still haven't picked up Crane or half the inmates of Arkham that he freed.
- Batman: We will. We can bring Gotham back.
- Gordon: And what about escalation?
- Batman: Escalation?
- Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar … they buy armor-piercing rounds.
- Batman: And?
- Gordon: And you're wearing a mask ... and jumping off rooftops. Now, take this new guy. Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical. Like you. Leaves a calling card. [hands Batman a clear plastic evidence bag containing a playing card; Batman turns it over to reveal that it is a Joker card]
- Batman: I'll look into it. [walks to edge of roof]
- Gordon: I never said thank you.
- Batman: [looks at Gordon] And you'll never have to. [spreads cape, leaps off roof]
About Batman Begins
- Of all the major comic book characters to transition to a less static visual media, none has been more mistreated than the Bat-Man. As originally envisioned by creator Bob Kane in 1939, Batman was a dark character who walked the tightrope between hero and vigilante. That was his image until the 1960s, when the campy TV series starring Adam West transformed the character into a silly-but-likable good guy in gray spandex. Tim Burton re-invented Batman for a surreal (and, at the time, highly anticipated) 1989 feature, but the movie ended up focusing more on The Joker, leaving the titular hero to lick his wounds as a supporting character. By the time that Batman series reached its third movie, it had fallen back to the campy level of its TV predecessor. Now, there's nothing wrong with camp, per se, but, by the 1997 arrival of Batman and Robin, fans had had enough. Batman looked dead, at least until now.
- With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan has gone back to basics, jettisoning both the silliness of the TV incarnation and the gothic and fetishist elements of the '90s version. This is a hard-core, down-and-gritty origin story - the tale of, as one might reasonably expect, how Batman begins. It isn't intended as a "prequel" to the 1989 film - not only is Gotham City a completely different place, but key events of the Batman chronology are re-spun. Batman Begins is designed as the start of a new life, a reboot for the franchise. In the process, Nolan has not only crafted the best Batman movie, but arguably the second-best motion picture superhero narrative (topped only by the linked duo of Superman and Superman II). For those who thought Spider-Man and X-Men had a lot to offer, wait till you see where this film goes.
- He is surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast, with Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman leading the way. Also on hand are Gary Oldman, playing against type as a good guy; Tom Wilkinson, chewing a little on the scenery; Ken Watanabe, who barely speaks a word; and a chilling Cillian Murphy. Katie Holmes has the thankless role of the "love interest" - one of the few elements of Batman Begins that doesn't work. Holmes and Bale never "click" (at least not in the way that Christopher Reeve and Margo Kidder did in Superman, or Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man), and her character feels superfluous - just a damsel in distress.
Although there's less of a stylized noir feeling to Batman Begins that there was to Batman, Nolan nevertheless keeps things dark, since bats hunt at night. The action scenes are, for the most part, kinetic and exciting - things that have rarely been true of fights and chases in the superhero's previous incarnations. Burton was at a loss how to do action, and Schumacher was perfunctory. Nolan understands how to elevate the adrenaline level, with interesting camera angles, strong editing, and effective special effects work (light on CGI and heavy on models and working gadgets) all contributing.
- James Berardinelli, "BATMAN BEGINS". Reelviews. August 28, 2007.
- In this retelling of the story, Bale's Bruce Wayne is the son of an idealistic American billionaire, an FDR-style patrician liberal who withdrew from the day-to-day running of the family corporation to practise medicine and donate vast sums to establishing a proper public transportation system for Gotham: a gleaming new monorail. As a child, Bruce remembers riding on this train with his parents, instead of in a limo, but Nolan neatly contrives that it is this monorail which, in the denatured and decadent city of Wayne's adulthood, is the scene of Gotham's operatic Armageddon.
- But Nolan's film gives us an interesting new twist. After 13 years in the joint, this mugger is up for a parole court hearing, proposing to offer inside information that could convict Gotham's biggest villain Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). It turns into a Jack Ruby-style bloody fiasco; Bruce flees abroad to find himself and brood on who the real bad guys are, and winds up thrown in jail in China where he encounters a mysterious sect of righteous assassins, led by Liam Neeson, who propose to instruct him in the vocation of the masked avenger.
This is the movie's big influence: a wholesale borrowing from the new wave of action movies like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Batman's big credibility gap has always been that he is the superhero without superpowers. Nolan's film imports the concept of Asian martial arts to bolster Batman's credentials.
Back home, the young corporate princeling works on his new persona, with the help of his butler and confidant Alfred, amiably played by Michael Caine. As Batman, Bale does look quite creepy, especially close up, his mouth and chin transformed into something bestial - with a growling voice that drops an octave when in character. His batmobile isn't the sleek black convertible of old but a chunkier Humvee-ish ride, more suitable for paranoid urban combat and originally designed for the military by the Wayne group's tech maestro (played by Morgan Freeman). Bale brings to this some of his American Psycho performance, a rich loner compulsively assuming a new identity to purge his self-loathing, and indeed ambiguous loathing of a father who failed to stand up for himself.
Certainly, the muddy colours of Nolan's visual palette make everything look appropriately dark - and dark is what so many movies nowadays claim to be, perhaps confusing darkness with factor, however, by casting Cillian Murphy as an unprincipled psychiatrist who specialises depth. (I am tempted to say: you want dark? Try the daylit nightmares of Neil LaBute or Michael Haneke.) Nolan certainly intensifies his own darkness-visible in getting obvious villains off on insanity charges, and is involved in a plot to use a fear-inducing poison gas. Murphy, with his uniquely sinister good looks and sensuous, predatory mouth, is the scariest actor I know.
- Peter Bradshaw, "BATMAN BEGINS", The Guardian, (16 JUN 2005).
- The idea that Batman has a dark side has had mixed success at the box office. Michael Keaton seemed disoriented and sad, batty rather than dark. The preening Val Kilmer perfected an air of preoccupation, but you suspected it was merely with himself. I spent most of Batman Foreverworried that any moment Kilmer would stop proceedings to ask "Does my bum look big in this?"
And George Clooney? Well, George Clooney looked like a man who'd turned up in fancy dress to the wrong house. The latest model, Christian Bale, offers some hope. We've already seen him as a pale screw-up in Velvet Goldmine and considerably more screwed up in American Psycho.
- Matt Buchanan, "BATMAN BEGINS", SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, (4 OCTOBER, 2005).
- If Bale's superhero and Katie Holmes' assistant district attorney were more romantically inclined in Batman Begins, you could imagine her telling her gal pals, "There's just something about his chin."
- Batman has a twisted and repressed relationship with Holmes' Rachel (read: Peter Parker and Mary Jane).
The idea is frustratingly underdeveloped, but then, he is Batman; he's not going to go on Oprah to profess his love.
- "Batman starts stripping away each layer of Gotham crime only to discover a sicker and more monstrous evil beneath, his rancid city simultaneously invokes early '90s New York, when criminals frolicked to the tune of five murders a day; Serpico New York, when cops were for sale; and today, when psychos seek to kill us all at once rather than one by one.
- Mike Clark, "Batman role fits Bale, but 'Begins' wears thin", USA Today, (June 13, 2005).
- Nolan asked a very simple question for what would come to define his Batman movie. Why would a grown man dress up like a bat? This is a query that Tim Burton glossed over in 1989, because the world he created didn’t need an explanation. Nolan took a wholly opposite approach. Citing influences like Richard Donner’s 1978 adaptation of SUPERMAN, he wanted to ground Batman, as much as possible, in a world similar to our own. Instead of Batman being a product of a fantastically gothic world, he’d be a man who could justify costume dress-up as a lifestyle choice. To help with the shift, he brought in life-long comic book fan David S. Goyer to co-write the first draft of the screenplay.
- In Nolan’s world, Batman isn’t so much a character as an idea. He is a construct that Bruce Wayne creates to galvanize the people of Gotham to improve their rotten lives. His goal isn’t an eternal war on evil, but a targeted campaign against corruption and crime. Most of Batman’s toys were created by Fox for military application. The only thing Bruce adds are black paint jobs. Gordon isn’t so much a piece of expositional furniture as in the previous series, but a partner and confidant for the winged avenger. Only together can they wage war on the mob and clean up the police force. In this Gotham, it takes a village to make a Batman.
And that all feeds into the underlying draw of this Gotham. Events and characters have repercussions, because this time the city isn’t a fantasy island. In the previous four Batman pictures, Gotham always went through a subtle or massive reworking. The only major consistency for the urban environment is it was always created on back lots and sound stages. In Nolan’s iteration, Gotham is the scariest thing of all…an American city. Shot primarily in Chicago, Batman inhabits a living and breathing urban jungle. The film still pulls from Batman’s pulpy roots for its backdrop to a point. The initial threat is super-sized organized crime, reminiscent of 1930s gangland. However, Wilkinson’s deliciously broad mobster is soon suppressed by what the filmmakers know really scares us today. The villains are more than just criminals or the madmen of the comics. Scarecrow isn’t a demented gangster like Jack Nicholson’s Joker. No, these are terrorists.
The League of Shadows is an ideologically driven organization of non-state actors who want to make a statement by destroying a major American city. You can find that just as easily in a newspaper as a comic book these days. What is Scarecrow’s master plan? It’s to infect the city with a toxin that would literally cause citizens to destroy each other out of fear. In a post-9/11 world, that isn’t exactly a subtle metaphor.
Nolan may have originally pitched this as a Batman origin story, but what he made was an unbridled epic reflecting its time. He and Goyer pulled from several comic book sources, most notably “Batman: Year One” and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “The Long Halloween” and created a protagonist who more closely resembled his modern comic book likeness. This Batman would not kill, was not created by his villains and he was a worldly super-ninja detective. However, even if it still features a guy jumping off rooftops and gliding to our rescue, he now fights bearded fanatics bent solely on our destruction. It is a theme that would only become better articulated in its sequels, but it works just fine in BATMAN BEGINS. This is the movie that brought Batman back from the dead and reintroduced him as the king of superheroes for a whole new generation. It gave depth to Bruce’s problems while also telling a rip-roaring adventure. Even if it suffers from a far too conventional third act, BATMAN BEGINS’ overall approach was anything but that in 2005. It took the franchise and genr to new heights. And it did come in black.
- David Crow, , Den of Geek, (Dec 23, 2012).
- *“Like [Frank] Miller’s Batman, Mr. Nolan’s is tormented by demons both physical and psychological. In an uncertain world, one the director models with an eye to our own, this is a hero caught between justice and vengeance, a desire for peace and the will to power,” Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times.
But Nolan memorably made his mark with the death scene that incites Bruce Wayne’s eventual transformation. There’s certainly no shortage of Bruce Wayne’s parents dying in film and television, but Nolan’s interpretation, which builds for a surprisingly long time before Batman appears in full cape and cowl onscreen, has become one of the defining iterations of the sequence, exploring the man behind Batman more so than most films had before. (As the Washington Post‘s Desson Thompson put it, the film had a “thoughtful, methodically structured narrative that works on you for days afterward.”)
- And perhaps that quest to ground Batman in a believable world is Begins‘ greatest lasting impact. Nearly every superhero origin story to which the words “dark and gritty” could even vaguely apply is framed in terms of its similarity or dissimilarity to Batman Begins—and from Daredevil to Arrow, Batman Begins has a number of direct descendants within the superhero genre. But Begins was originally favored, and continues to be such a source of inspiration, because of its content, too—not just its structure or its style. Batman Begins cared about making its billionaire-playboy hero someone audiences could relate to, even if he had some serious problems to work through.
- Jonathan Dornbush, "Batman Begins' reviews and reception, 10 years later", (JUNE 15, 2015).
- "Batman Begins" at last penetrates to the dark and troubled depths of the Batman legend, creating a superhero who, if not plausible, is at least persuasive as a man driven to dress like a bat and become a vigilante. The movie doesn't simply supply Batman's beginnings in the tradition of a comic book origin story, but explores the tortured path that led Bruce Wayne from a parentless childhood to a friendless adult existence. The movie is not realistic, because how could it be, but it acts as if it is.
- I admire, among other things, the way the movie doesn't have the gloss of the earlier films. The Batman costume is an early design. The Bat Cave is an actual cave beneath Wayne Manor. The Batmobile enters and leaves it by leaping across a chasm and through a waterfall.
The Bat Signal is crude and out of focus.
The movie was shot on location in Chicago, making good use of the murky depths of lower Wacker Drive and the Board of Trade building (now the Wayne Corp.). Special effects add a spectacular monorail down La Salle Street, which derails in the best scene along those lines since "The Fugitive."
- Bale is just right for this emerging version of Batman. It's strange to see him muscular and toned, after his cadaverous appearance in "The Machinist," but he suggests an inward quality that suits the character. Rachel is at first fooled by his facade of playboy irresponsibility, but Lt. Gordon figures out fairly quickly what Batman is doing, and why. Instead of one villain as the headliner, "Batman Begins" has a whole population, including Falcone, the Scarecrow, the Asian League of Shadows leader Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and a surprise bonus pick.
- Roger Ebert, "BATMAN BEGINS" Rogerebert.com, (June 13, 2005).
- As we saw in Burton's films, the portrayal of Gotham is often directly related to the overall take on Batman. Burton's Gotham was like a twisted nightmare come to life. It was surreal -- beautiful to look at, but not an actual city. The Gotham City of Batman Begins, which was filmed largely in Chicago, is a sprawling Metropolis. It looks like a real city, in part, because it is a real city. The altered Chicago is made to look like a vast metropolis, too big for its own good. So large, in fact, that it feels inescapable.
Connecting the sprawling city is a commuter rail built by Bruce Wayne's father just short of his murder. It's one of the few noticeable CG images in the film, but the train plays a vital role.
Gotham is vibrant and its demise into poverty is explained in the film. This isn't just a version of New York gone bad, Gotham is a city that has been bludgeoned by corruption and crippled by an insidious economical plague. This is a city that has lost the war to save itself. What hope does Batman have?
- Bruce has indeed wandered the world and had some training. However, that singular purpose often shown in the comics is not evident at first. He is merely rage without direction. It is Ducard (Liam Neeson), who finds Wayne and gives him the training and guidance he needs to get on the proper path. It should be noted that Ducard is never referred to by his first name Henri, nor does he bear a French accent (thankfully).
- Most of the Batman comics offer little true motivation for Bruce becoming Batman. They say, merely, that he witnessed his parents murder and swore to avenge them by cleaning up Gotham. Batman Begins takes this further. It gives a real sense of who Bruce Wayne is and why he must fight criminals. Further, it shows the moment when Bruce gains understanding that he cannot fight crime just as a man, that he must become a symbol, a myth, a legend.
- The main piece of advice from just about everyone who saw Joel Schumacher's terrible take on the Dark Knight in Batman & Robin was to focus on a single villain. Nolan has ignored this advice. He focuses on no villains -- the focus is all on Batman. However, there are more villains in Batman Begins than any Batman film since the camp '60s flick. Yet it works, because this is a story about The Batman and none of the villains comes close to overshadowing the bat.
- Remember how stiff Batman was in those other films? Guess what -- he can finally move his neck! The battles in Batman Begins are frenetic, fast and almost impossible to see clearly
- There's some brilliant psychology at work in Batman Begins. The way Goyer and Nolan have crafted this tale, it becomes clear that there is no other possible path for Bruce Wayne other than as Batman. It's not just a conceit that he's going to wear a suit, you will actually understand why he must. Sure, it's not a 100% perfect and literal translation of the comic, but it doesn't have to be.
Again, this is not a comic-book movie, just a movie that happens to be based on a comic book. Oh, and it's great.
- Hilary Goldstein, BATMAN BEGINS: COMIC VS. FILM, (13 JUN 2005).
- Bale is the first Batman since Michael Keaton to bring a skewed and somewhat vulnerable sensibility into the psychological equation. Bruce's ultimate decision to become the caped crusader is presented here as a neurotic person's way of channeling his neurosis toward a positive end. Since he knows he'll never stop obsessing about crime -- even his stint in the Asian prison was by way of researching the criminal mind -- he might as well do something positive with his obsession.
Keaton suggested these qualities and motivations, as well, but what Bale has that Keaton didn't is a physicality that also makes sense of all the action hero elements. In an early scene, Bruce Wayne beats up a half dozen guys in a prison yard. In terms of direction, it's one of the worst scenes: Nolan, as if uncomfortable shooting a conventional action number, relies on the modern cliches of constant intercutting and of filming so close to the action that it's impossible to see what's going on. But the sequence nonetheless demonstrates that Bale, the most cerebral Bruce Wayne since Keaton, is the most lithe to date. He's physically loose and graceful and looks like what Bruce Wayne pretends to be, a handsome playboy.
- "Batman Begins" lives up to its title, concentrating mainly on the hero's pre-history. He's trained like a Ninja by a great teacher (Liam Neeson). Later, in a crime-ridden, economically depressed Gotham City, he encounters none of the familiar villains, such as the Joker, the Riddler or Catwoman. They're in the future. The villains who turn up in this early era are normal in appearance, at least by "Batman" standards. Tom Wilkinson plays an Italian mob boss, and he's like any other mob boss, full of threats and resentment, while Cillian Murphy is a perverse psychiatrist, on the mob payroll. On the side of good is Gary Oldman, as a gruff, honest cop, and an assistant D.A. played by Katie Holmes, who, alone among the actors, doesn't quite seem comfortable in her role.
- Mick Lasaslle, "BATMAN / The caped crusader has come back. He's brawnier, but he still has brains.", (June 14, 2005).
- Q: This film seems to deal a lot with the underlying issues of what makes Bruce Wayne become Batman. How much of his anger is really under control by the end of this film?
- NOLAN: Well, I think when it's harnessed, and that is a form of control, that doesn't mean it's not there and it doesn't mean it's suppressed it's channeled and it's harnessed. And that to me is what keeps him as a character frightening to his opponents and all of us to some extent.
- Q: What was your inspiration for the look of Gotham City?
- NOLAN: We tried not to be too specific. When Nathan Crowley, my production designer, started discussing the look of the film with me, we immediately rejected any reductive notions. The driving force was not to, "OK, they've done an art deco city, we'll do a modernist city," nothing like that. We wanted something that reflects the reality of a large modern city which is a tremendous variety of architecture. A tremendous variety of periods in which things were built. We wanted a history to the place as well as a contemporary feel. What we wound up doing, is that the way that we approached Gotham as an exaggeration of New York, an exaggeration of a modern American city was to look at interesting geographical features of different cities of the world. A lot from New York, some from Chicago, a lot from Tokyo because of elevated freeways and monorails. From Hong Kong we took the walled city of Kalhoon [which] is the basis for the narrows which is this kind of walled in slum. So what we really did was putting together the elements that let you exaggerate all the socio-economic factors that feed into Gotham as an exaggeration of the modern American city
- Chris Nolan in "Interview: Christopher Nolan" by Jeff Otto, IGN, (June 5, 2006).
- This is the Batman film you've been waiting for. Batman's evolution into the fabled crime fighter is carefully constructed from the first piece of the puzzle to the chiseled and fierce ultimate evolution. Each part of the process is chronicled with astute precision. Nolan actually finds a way to set-up and explain why a guy runs around in a bat suit. He explains every nuance of the character, from why he chooses the bat as his symbol to why he dons a cape to why he uses the weapons he uses. Nolan leaves no stone unturned. During one sequence, the Batmobile jumps from cityscape rooftop to rooftop. It occurred to me watching this, how exactly does he know that he won't crash through the roofs of these buildings? On the second viewing, however, I noticed something. They thought of that too! Batman has a GPS-like navigation system that gives him info on the rooftops before he topples onto them. By the end of the film, you can try to pick it apart all you want, but you will find that Nolan has covered his bases extremely well, explaining each and every aspect of the Batman arsenal.
- Alfred has always been an important character in the Batman universe, but here Michael Caine elevates the dedicated butler to a new level. He is Bruce Wayne and Batman's foremost confidant. He understands why Wayne has become Batman and he helps him to create and initiate his vision. Caine is terrific in the part, undoubtedly the best choice one could imagine. Lucius Fox, who was a slightly different character in the comics, also becomes an integral part of Wayne's crusade. Now we can understand where Batman gets all his wonderful toys and how he learned to put them to their appropriate uses. Gary Oldman is another great choice as James Gordon. This is an early incarnation of the character, before he became commissioner. The character is played very differently from prior visions of Gordon. Here he is a quiet, dedicated cop, one of the few legit men left in a town rife with corruption. Oldman is excellent, and Gordon and Batman have a very nice connection that will serve future films well.
- Jeff Otto, "Batman Begins Review", (13 JUN 2005).
- As Kane tells it, the pre-teen Bruce is out at night (circa 1924) with his parents when an armed mugger kills both of them. The orphaned lad, his hands clasped in prayer, his bedroom illuminated by a single candle, swears 'to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals'. He 'becomes a master scientist' and 'trains his body to physical perfection' and, because 'criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot', chooses to become 'a creature of the night, black, terrible... a bat... the Batman'. From these two garishly printed pages, Nolan and Goyer have fashioned a whole movie.
To a narrative that itself draws on a tradition of avenger heroes in foppish disguise stemming from Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel, they have added elements from sources ancient and modern, among them Fritz Lang's expressionist thrillers, Da Vinci Code conspiracies, kung fu flicks and Bond movies.
- Christian Bale is persuasively melancholy but less gloomily brooding than Michael Keaton, a sturdier figure than George Clooney and Val Kilmer, and more likable than any of them. He doesn't manage his character's playboy persona as easily as Leslie Howard does in The Scarlet Pimpernel or Pimpernel Smith, but that may be part of the joke.
- Marc Savlov, "Batman Begins", Austin Chronicle, (JUNE 17, 2005).
- And only then does Batman find his wings, and his mission. That Bruce’s parents were killed before his eyes, and that the heir to the Wayne fortune would be nowhere without his butler, Alfred, even the greenest newbie to the hagiography knows. But knowing doesn’t pack the same pleasurable jolt as seeing primly smoldering Christian Bale’s Batman No. 4 play so comfortably against expansively proper Michael Caine’s Alfred (taking over for Michael Gough as if to the manor born) and watching the two devise the very first Batsuit. Any familiarity with Commissioner Gordon and his place as one overmatched good cop is only rewarded by the participation of Gary Oldman as the younger Detective Gordon.
Simpatico Wayne Enterprises inventor Lucius Fox contributes his mechanical expertise (handy when it comes to Batmobiles) and cool to the proceedings in the person of Morgan Freeman. Katie Holmes provides obligatory, chaste romantic interest — superheroes are notoriously dull boyfriends, if you ask me — as Bruce’s childhood sweetheart? turned?incorruptible DA.
It’s not just the birth of Batman we’re seeing here, it’s also the dawning of Gotham City’s age of corporate greed (Rutger Hauer plays a ruthless CEO), unchecked corruption (Tom Wilkinson swings by as a crime boss), and the insidious misuse of the mentally ill by those appointed to their care (Cillian Murphy is one great creep as psycho psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane). In Batman Begins, as Nolan tells it, Gotham is poised somewhere between the Jazz Age and the Space Age, a vertiginous time warp where only a risk-taking artist can navigate. Nolan ought to get back there soon and tell us what happens next.
- Lisa Schwarzbaum, “Batman Begins“, Entertainment Weekly, (JUNE 15, 2005).
- Batman starts stripping away each layer of Gotham crime only to discover a sicker and more monstrous evil beneath, his rancid city simultaneously invokes early '90s New York, when criminals frolicked to the tune of five murders a day; Serpico New York, when cops were for sale; and today, when psychos seek to kill us all at once rather than one by one.
- Kyle Smith, "Kyle Smith review of Batman Begins". KyleSmithOnline. (March 10, 2007).
- … And it’s about time. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Bob Kane’s seminal hero returns the character to the stripped-down 1939 proto-noir of Detective Comics No. 39, flaying away all but the name and the cowl from the previous big-budget outings by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. This is as close to the Depression-era Bat Man as films have yet ventured, and although Nolan’s Gotham isn’t sporting flivvers and tommy guns – to judge by the art direction, the film takes place in the sort of retro-futuristic metropolis reserved especially for Good, Evil, and assorted Minions – Batman Begins has the denuded color palette of a chiaro-sclerotic nightmare.
- Peter Travers "Batman Begins", Rolling Stone, (JUNE 15, 2005).
- Shake off those cobwebs. There’s a new Batman in town, and he’s younger, fiercer and klutzier than before. What do you want from a rookie? The Caped Crusader that Christian Bale plays so potently in Batman Begins is still working out the kinks. He nearly gives himself a wedgie scaling a building in a self-designed Batsuit that weighs a stylish ton. Director Christopher Nolan, who wrote the script with David Goyer, shows us a Batman caught in the act of inventing himself. Nolan is caught, too, in the act of deconstructing the Batman myth while still delivering the dazzle to justify a $150 million budget. It’s schizo entertainment. But credit Nolan for trying to do the impossible in a summer epic: take us somewhere we haven’t been before.
This stripped-down prequel grounds the story in reality. If Tim Burton lifted the DC Comics franchise to gothic splendor and Joel Schumacher buried it in campy overkill (a Batsuit with nipples), then Nolan — the mind-teasing whiz behind Memento and Insomnia — gets credit for resurrecting Batman as Bruce Wayne, a screwed-up rich kid with no clue about how to avenge the murders of his parents.
Batman Begins answers a long-standing question about Bruce the tycoon playboy — a Paris Hilton with balls as previously played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney — by showing us what he was doing before he put on his Bat drag, accessorized with lethal toys and learned to kill like a vigilante.
- The buildup is steadily engrossing. That’s because Nolan keeps the emphasis on character, not gadgets. Gotham looks lived in, not art-directed. And Bale, calling on our movie memories of him as a wounded child (Empire of the Sun) and an adult menace (American Psycho), creates a vulnerable hero of flesh, blood and haunted fire.
- Although shot in Iceland amidst spectacular terrain that recalls the Alaskan setting of “Insomnia,” this long instructional section is filled with philosophical gobbledygook about developing strength by facing your deepest fears, methods of focusing anger and vengefulness, and how “you must journey inwards.”
Some of this is delivered while Ducard and Bruce face off with large swords on a frozen lake, and one must be forgiven for imagining that what’s onscreen are outtakes from “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” with Neeson’s Jedi knight teaching Obi-Wan Kenobi dueling techniques.
It doesn’t stop there, however, as “The Last Samurai” is invoked with the entrance of Ken Watanabe as the charismatic leader of a vigilante ninja org called the League of Shadows.
In the end, Bruce proves himself a worthy student, returning home to take on the rampant corruption in Gotham (or is it Sin City?). Half the city is in the pocket of gangster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Others up to no good are Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), a young psychiatrist who leads a double life as the sinister Scarecrow, and Earle (Rutger Hauer), who has taken charge of the Wayne family industries.
- What this incarnation of Batman lacks is theatricality, a sense of showmanship to put over the new approach. Although little jokes and quips are gradually introduced, only slowly does Nolan dare to begin having any fun with the material, and even then far too cautiously. It’s not that the film is prosaic, but it is terribly sober, afraid to make grand gestures and build to major payoffs. It’s as if, out of a desire to appear smart and not to pander to the large public destined to see the picture, Nolan restrained himself from providing moments that might prove too audience pleasing.
As opposed to the highly designed Gotham City of the Tim Burton pictures, this one features cityscapes that recognizably belong to the real Chicago, with a fictional monorail system added in. Nor is there anything fetishistic about the Batman costume, which is plain and functional.
- Variety Staff, "Batman Begins", (June 3, 2005).
- Forget that guy who can't remember what happened to him five minutes ago: Nolan wants to make sure we understand that this deeply gloomy Dark Knight is really messed up. As a filmmaker Nolan has made a name for himself as a purveyor of faux-Hitchcockian gloomy cleverness ("Memento,""Insomnia"), and he has meticulously designed "Batman Begins" to be the feel-bad movie of the summer. And yet "Batman Begins," its dim lighting and relentless fixation on childhood trauma aside, doesn't make us feel quite bad enough. In fact, it makes us feel virtually nothing at all, except maybe a shuddering, reluctant nostalgia for Joel Schumacher. Schumacher's two "Batman" pictures may have been wretched, but at least they didn't mistake oppressiveness for emotional depth.
"Batman Begins" leaks existential phoniness from the first frame. Young Wayne -- remember, his Batman alter ego isn't even yet a wriggly tadpole in his completely screwed-up mind -- has traveled the world attempting to understand the criminal mind. He has been falsely arrested and thrown into a tastefully sepia-toned Asian hellhole. Suddenly, a mysterious stranger appears in his cell: It's Liam Neeson, with a list of questions about his sex life. Actually, no -- Neeson's character is Henri Ducard, and he's the associate of a mysterious baldy named Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). They have a plan for Wayne, luring him into their nefarious scheme by promising that if he goes along with them, he will find the spiritual answers he seeks.
- But neither Nolan nor, unfortunately, the usually superb Christian Bale seems to recognize that darkness takes on many shades and colors: "Batman Begins" is a dull monotone of heavily theatrical, and yet wholly unmoving, angst. Nolan obviously didn't want his picture to be too cartoony, and that's a good impulse. But "Batman Begins" needs much more energy and kinetic flow -- less dolor and more dolomite. Bale can't seem to find an anchor for the character of Bruce Wayne; at times he's mildly affecting, but he can't locate that elusive hairline at which a character's self-absorption becomes engaging for an audience. His Wayne is so deep inside himself we can barely bring ourselves to care about him. (Bale made me long for Michael Keaton's first appearance, in particular, as Batman -- a performance that seemed breezily neurotic on the surface but actually cut to the heart of existential dread.)
There's another problem with "Batman Begins": Batman's stuff has no soul. His mask, with its alert, pointed ears, does manage to give Bale a somber grace from some angles. But Bale (unlike Keaton) has trouble connecting from beneath it -- it wears him instead of the other way around. In a movie whose production design is both massively ambitious and uninspired, the Batmobile is one of the biggest bummers of all: It's like a squat bug covered with clumsy square scales, a dismally unromantic vehicle that looks wholly unsuited for parallel-parking practice, let alone flying through the streets of Gotham.
And as hard as Nolan tried to make something other than a typical comic-book movie (although anyone who keeps an eye on comic-book movies realize there's no such thing), the script, by David S. Goyer, works at cross-purposes. As the movie grinds dully toward the finish line, Neeson announces, with drawing-room enunciation, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a city to destroy." And Tom Wilkinson, who seems to have wandered in from another movie with his cigar-chomping performance as a mob boss, actually says at one point, "Don't burden yourself with the secrets of scary people." In the midst of all this, Gary Oldman gives a finely tuned performance as not-yet-commissioner James Gordon: We see intelligence and honor in his blinking, nearsighted eyes and his twitchy mustache. In a movie that aspires to emotional complexity and comes up empty -- even the action sequences are cluttered and confusingly shot -- he hits the notes right. Playing a character and not a psychological case study, he's one of the few actors here who's unburdened by the secrets of scary people.
- Stephanie Zacharek, "Batman Begins", Salon, (June 15, 2005).
- Christian Bale – Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Liam Neeson – Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul
- Katie Holmes – Rachel Dawes
- Michael Caine – Alfred Pennyworth
- Gary Oldman – Detective Jim Gordon
- Morgan Freeman – Lucius Fox
- Cillian Murphy – Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow
- Tom Wilkinson – Carmine Falcone
- Linus Roache – Dr. Thomas Wayne
- Rutger Hauer – William Earle
- Mark Boone Junior – Detective Flass
- Tim Booth – Victor Zsasz
- Ken Watanabe – Ra's al Ghul decoy