Geoff T’s review published on Letterboxd:
NOTE: Again, apologies for my lack of activity. I'll probably be fully active again in a week or so. In the meantime, here's a review that I just recently finished up.
The first entry in an acclaimed superhero trilogy, that I couldn't have been more ashamed to have missed out on, until now. The movie depiction of Batman had pretty much been tarnished with the disaster that was Batman & Robin, but one up-and-coming Christopher Nolan showed he was more than capable of giving the series the reboot it deserved.
Disregarding the Burton/Schumacher films, Begins begins a much more grounded and narrative-driven arc. As it title implies, it's an origin story depicting Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) on how he became to be the bat-winged vigilante. He's a troubled soul, having a phobia of bats and witnessing his parents being murdered by a mugger on the mean streets of Gotham. Presented in a non-linear narrative for the first half or so, it switches between Bruce's troubled childhood, to working his way up under the guidance of League of Shadows leader Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson).
So while Bruce intends to use his new-found abilities to protect Gotham and rid it of it's crime and corruption, Ghul has other plans in mind, to rid the city of it's entire self. Upon escaping and returning to Gotham, he keeps management of his father's business and legacy, and begins his abilities as a crime-fighting vigilante under the guise of 'Batman', until he finds himself up against asylum administrator Jon 'Scarecrow' Crane, and his plot to poison Gotham hallucinogens drive the entire city into fear.
Now one thing I will say that Bale is a brilliantly talented actor and makes for a solid and convincing Bruce Wayne. I won't lie however that I find his overly gruff voice for Batman a little hard to take seriously, which is probably more to do with the fact that it's been parodied and imitated by so many. Bruce/Batman as a character on the other hand, feels far more humane and developed than in previous irritations.
I'll also say that I love the cast that Nolan has assembled here. Not just Nolan and Neeson, but Michael Caine as Wayne's trusty butler Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox (who provides Batman with all the gadgets he requires to survive the night), and Gary Oldman as the Commissioner Gordon, who is mostly obviously corrupt and a bit incompetent, but well-meaning in that he actually supports Batman's efforts to clean up the city rather than have him taken down.
For me, this is the one entry in the trilogy that nails the look of Gotham. It's a truly dark and ugly metropolis that no normal person would want to find themselves in alone. It doesn't disappoint with Bat action either, with plenty of fight sequences and a car chase through the streets in the Batmobile. As for the music, even though I've always really liked Hans Zimmer as a composer, I'd hardly consider this my favourite scoring work of his. However, it's a serviceable and atmospheric score that fits the gritty tone nicely.
With it's high-quality production values, brilliant cast and it's compelling narrative, I would say that this is as excellent as any start to a trilogy can be. It fully sets the mood by presenting a much darker affair than before, that feels much grittier and down-to-earth compared to a lot of superhero films at the time.
Although I won't say I'll be fanboying over Nolan any time soon, this is a fine place to start.