Batman Begins ★★★★½

1hr 3minutes. That's how long it takes before you see Batman properly on the screen for the first time, although you wouldn't know it.

This film grips you from the off, it yanks you up on a high powered grappling hook by the ankle and doesn't let you back down for two hours.

Skipping frenetically from the child Bruce Wayne learning that bats and deep wells are scary, to adult Bruce beginning his training in "Iceland", then back to child Bruce losing his parents. These first 40 minutes are dedicated to establishing Bruce Wayne. Who is he? Why is he an orphan? Why are bats so scary? How can he kick the shit out of people and hide in the shadows so well? Why is he a nice guy when he's alone with Alfred but a complete cock when he hits the town or the boardroom?

So good is this story it almost comes as a surprise when the film's main villain (according to the clever marketing campaign) The Scarecrow appears on 43mins, with Bruce rapidly finding the yet to be built bat cave on 45minutes.

From this point in the film, you know you're in for a decent Batman, just from how carefully established the protagonist is and how new and original the opening story was before the familiar beats of bat cave, bat suit and bat mobile kick in.

Surprisingly, there's more room for amusing moments in this than there are in the far more intense sequels, "does it come in black?" "I gotta get me one of those" and countless open mouthed cops guffawing at Batman's tech came as a surprise on this re-watch but only add to the fun of discovering Nolan's Batman for the first time.

Interestingly, there's a line from Freeman's excellent "Q", Fox, that contradicts an irksome scene from Rises, "This sucker will stop a knife" he says about the Kevlar bat suit. If only his upgraded suits in latter films hadn't compromised on this important feature! Speed and agility from lighter suits is a little more difficult to represent on screen than stab proof. No one wants to see a badass turned into a squirming mug victim from Salford by a pen knife. We get too much of that in real life!

Anyway, back to Begins. The action scenes are oft criticised but really shouldn't be. Bruce Wayne fighting in training was pure steadi-cam, amazing vistas and great indoor sequences on the poles and with the ninjas, the tumbler chase was both easy and fun to view, only the Batman fist fight scenes were deliberately shot and edited to confuse and excite the viewer. (Similar to Greengrass Bourne movies). Quick cuts are meant to tease the viewer in Batman's initial appearance (much like Burton did) and subsequently used effectively to portray just how shit hot he's meant to be at confusing and surprising his enemy. As the film progresses we see more and more of Batman, culminating in the fun metro fight.

The twist is a pretty solid if not a totally unpredictable one, but Watanabe's casting was a good choice to add to the diversion and Neeson's turn is a reliable one. Cleverly, Nolan doesn't waste time with villain origin stories here too, something The Amazing Spider-Man could potentially have benefitted from. Just like the Joker, these villains are already established and in full flow, both the audience and Batman need to play catch up and suss out just what they're capable of and why. This allows more time for what we wanted to see, Batman Beginning.

In light of how well The Dark Knight turned out, the ending of Batman Begins comes off even better than it did back in 2005. That "escalation" speech from Oldman's fantastic Gordon concluding with that Joker card reveal. What a play from Nolan. He certainly had Cajones. Back then it confused audiences, was it a prequel to Burton's Batman? But the stories contradict each other? Would anyone else really play The Joker? Is this movie popular enough to get a sequel?

Well all those queries are now answered, the trilogy is complete and we get the pleasure of finding out just what Gordon meant about escalation in the next two films. When that Joker card is on screen, we see Ledger in our mind subconsciously, we know what's coming, and we want to put The Dark Knight Blu Ray in ASAP.

Batman Begins is more than the solid foundation I once thought it was before this re-watch. Speeches from Wayne about Batman being a legend and Liam Neeson's character advising Wayne on creating a symbol that will live on have even more resonance thanks to the fantastic sequels that did exactly what a good sequel should do, give the audience more, but also enrich and improve on the original film too.

Well worth a re-watch and cementing what we've all known since July last year: Nolan's Batman trilogy is a modern masterpiece of moviemaking.

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