Rewatched Jul 12, 2012
In 1989 Warner Brothers released a superhero movie that completely changed the style of the genre and there account on screen. 'Batman', a film by Gothic director Tim Burton was released to high critical acclaim. Carrying a high substance and respect for the material it was based on, the film was commissioned a sequel to also be directed by Burton. In 1992, therefore 'Batman Returns' was released. Carrying on from what benchmarks the first film had set, this film gave more over to the audience and became another blockbuster hit. However, this was not to be the way no more. After Burton declining to direct the third in the series, the head of Warner Brothers decided to change the feel to reach a strong audience share, bringing in and settling on Joel Schumacher to achieve this new approach. Having a new lead actor and director, 'Batman Forever' was released in the summer of 1995. Having not reached the critical acclaim and success of the first two movies, a third sequel was green lit in hopes of turning it back around. 'Batman and Robin' to try and counter the poor film that was the third, but this failed. Critiques throughout the world slated the film, citing things such as poor storyline, no respect to the source material and poor acting had lead to a poor and sloppy movie to be produced. Having lost a cash cow for their studio, Warner Brothers let there once successful property falter and stop. That was until 2002, when a young British director pitched the idea back to the studio to create a reboot of the Batman films. One that was based more in reality and would have underlining themes throughout, would create more substance and a film that could be seen as a mix of many different genres. That man was Christopher Nolan.
Having created only three films prior to taking on this source material, it was a massive risk for the studio to give the young filmmaker the responsibility to handle a film of this size. However this risk paid off. Having created an original idea in "Memento' - Nolan's second feature - that was widely considered impressive by many, Nolan had always shown his skill at creating a storyline that not only gripped audience members but also gave about the human characteristics of his characters. One such skill that was implemented into the heart of 'Batman Begins'. Sharing writing duties with his brother also paid off, both brothers bouncing ideas back and forth until one became cemented. And through having a financial backing by a major studio also meant that the dream cast could be selected, which it was. With all aspects of the film's production paying off well, the film became an instant unmissable movie that showed audience members that comic book movies can be seen as more than just that.
Deciding on an origin story to the comic character; the film begins with a young Bruce Wayne playing with a young girl in the gardens of Wayne Manor. Whilst hiding on-top of an old well, the wood splits plummeting Bruce to the depths below. There upon he is barraged by a cluster of bats that live on the grounds, creating his fear of bats - a fear that is constant to the films narrative. At a theatre show with his parents, the performers appear to Bruce in a way that mirrors the shapes of the bats, thus meaning his desire to leave. His parents agree to leave and on exiting the building they are attacked by a street thug who shoots and kills them both, leaving Bruce an orphan. With the anger and guilt inside him constantly, Bruce grows up with a desire to exact revenge on those who plague Gotham's City and prey on the fearful. Therefore, he travels around the world, picking up new skills and doing little bits to help those who have been prayed on. This way of life leads to a stint in an asian prison. There he meets a representative of the 'League of Shadows', a cult of ninjas who train him to be more than just a man. When however the two parties disagree on a way of handling crime, Bruce leaves and returns home to use his skills in battling the shady underworld of his beloved city. In the darker parts of town a Psychiatrist John Crane (Cillian Murphy) is using an illicit substance to control thugs in using their fear against them. Creating a symbol for people to fear and respect, Bruce utilizes his money into creating a high end assortment of equipment that will help him achieve the cities retribution. In short he becomes 'Batman'.
As origin story lines go this is among the best that have been put into production. Through crafting his own origin for the character, from the comic material but his own interpretation, Nolan has been able to not only give across new themes and characteristics for the roles but also redesign Gotham and the inhabitants into what he believes will suit the nature and feel of the film. This comes across with Gotham feeling like a working city, multi layered in nature but completely realistic in its content. Unlike what many people would have believed to be a safe option in casting a well known villain, Nolan has utilised those who he deemed would better fit the origin and beginning of his series. The Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul, although known by fans of the comics, are not widely known and as such, this gives the film a further way to start afresh. Audience members begin with this film in much the same way that Bruce does, unknown of what is to come, crafting a narrative that has multiple pay offs. Using a theme, in this film 'Fear', throughout means that the film is always able to feel thorough and realistic in the characters that they put on show. These characters are flawed and therefore have a more human quality to them self. These are the complete strengths of this production and proved that the studio was correct in trusting a director that had multiple ideas for this universe.
Another strength to this film was the acting on show. Christian Bale portrays both Bruce Wayne and Batman perfectly throughout. The embodiment of both characters means that throughout the film multiple differences are delivered to the audience. This works as it creates something that is different to previous incarnations of the characters. He is extremely strong in his performance and as such, carries the film correctly. Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson find the human characteristics in there approach to the films primary villains and as such acts as counters to the way the audience sees the protagonist. What they have achieved with their roles, is create a mystery that is found in their performance. Audience members grow to understand these villains and the film utilises the story to create a reason behind there actions, which the two actors show throughout. Background roles in this film, are amongst the best. With many characters picked up and played by established actors, it has a feel of a complete ensemble piece, with some characters only having extremely small roles. With a cast of Michael Caine, Rutger Hauer, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe filling the roles there really is a lot of acting talent on show and it pays off with the finished production. It is complete testament to the vision and style of Nolan that so many known actors are able to achieve a lasting impression in the screen time they are given. All roles seem appropriate to the performers and no-one is seemed unneeded in context to what their character brings across narratively.
What Nolan has achieved with rebooting a franchise, which should be the groundwork for any others, is entirely appropriate to the acclaim he has received for this film. Grounding the characters in a strict realism allows audience members to find an easier engrossment to the material on show. Through casting roles perfectly, everyone seems to know the way to achieve his vision, and with a great development team behind a new Gotham allows all characters to have a life behind what is shown. Changing the way comic book movies are seen forever but completely in the right manner.