Batman Begins ★★★★

Fear is powerful.

Nolan is truly an expert at blockbuster filmmaking, managing to satisfy both casual and discerning filmgoers. Before watching Batman Begins, I had little interest in the superhero genre. Imagine my surprise when Christopher Nolan defied the genre by painting a gritty picture of the caped crusader combining some of my favorite film elements: neo-noir, gothic horror, and action!

What I appreciate about Batman Begins is its realistic depiction of fear in its characters, especially Bruce Wayne. About half of the movie’s runtime is dedicated to uncovering his motivations and fears. Bruce is a victim of Gotham’s ever increasing corruption and evil, and is driven by anger to avenge his parents. Initially, vengeance and justice are synonymous to Wayne, but he soon comes to realize that he must dispel his personal vendetta for the sake of bringing justice to Gotham. Fear is a powerful tool in Batman Begins and is utilized by its characters in radically different ways. Crane and Ducard exploit their opponents’ fear by using it as a means of control, while Batman sees fear as a double-edged sword: he understands the redemptive power in fear brought about by confronting and reckoning with it, but he also respects its universality, knowing that while it drives Gotham’s criminals, they are also still subject to it.

I felt that the themes in this film were much less cohesive than those in either The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises, but I appreciated the gothic look of the film (especially Arkham), which is beautifully shot by Wally Pfister. Gotham is portrayed despairingly, completely eclipsed by the shadow of corruption and criminality. Upon a second viewing, I found the action sequences a little chaotic and difficult to follow, but I can see how that may be an intentional decision to elicit panic and fear similar to that instilled in Batman’s victims.

DC has been successful in finding its niche in darker, grittier films containing more mature themes. In the future, I would like to see them create more films similar to those in The Dark Knight Trilogy rather than trying to imitate what Marvel is currently doing.

While is darker in tone, Batman Begins is a must-watch for all filmgoers, whether or not you are a comic book nerd.

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