Scott Bailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me"
So after the disaster that was Batman & Robin, superhero movies pretty much died out. It's considered to this day to be one of the worst films of the genre and I pretty much agree with the general consensus on that one, although the abhorrent Suicide Squad really gives it a run for it's money in my opinion.
It would be 8 years before we saw another Batman movie released. And in the hands of Christopher Nolan, 5 years after what I consider to be his masterpiece Memento, Batman Begins was a gritty, dark and psychological look at the world of the caped crusader and in my opinion he does a great job with this first film.
Villains like Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow and Falcone was a much needed change of pace compared to the absurd camp villains of the Joel Scumacher era. It also plays up the importance of characters like James Gordon and Alfred much more than any of the previous films did. And to my knowledge the original films didn't have Lucius Fox who in this film helps Bruce make the weapons and gear to fight crime.
Batman Begins is a full blown origin story for Batman, and it explores and analyses everything about the character. It gives you more of a background about his childhood and it even gives his parents screen time before they are murdered. Theres a great scene which shows you why he doesn't believe in killing. His training under Ra's Al Ghul is great to watch because you see how their ideologies completely clash and it shows the fine line between good and evil.
Christian Bale is an excellent Bruce Wayne, and what I've always liked about his acting in this trilogy is how his double life truly affects him. How it affects his relationships with different characters like Alfred and Lucius, and how it virtually destroys his romantic interests with childhood friend Rachel Dawes. His role as Batman however, I'm not the biggest fan of it. Don't get me wrong, he kicks ass as the character, but for me he strikes me as someone who is trying to be intimidating as opposed to say Michael Keaton and recently Ben Affleck, who are naturally intimidating in that role. I will never understand why they give him such a ridiculous voice in this version. It's not too bad in this film too be fair... well apart from the "Where are the other drugs going" scene, but as the trilogy progresses it just gets sillier and sillier. It's a shame because he has such a natural charisma as Bruce Wayne.
The two characters I think was most underplayed in Tim Burton's movies was Alfred and Commissioner Gordon and for me they are probably the best and most consistent thing about this trilogy. Michael Caine and Gary Oldman are both absolutely fantastic in their respective roles. Caine's Alfred truly feels like the only family Bruce Wayne has. Every scene Caine and Bale are together on screen, Caine just feels like a natural father figure to Bruce and the one he always fall back on. Oldman I feel is even better in the sequel but is still given plenty to work with here. Gordon's story feels very similar to one of my favourite graphic novels of all time Batman: Year One, where Gordon is one of the few incorruptible officers in a corrupt force that's paid off by criminals and mob bosses. Gordon and Batman rely heavily on each other clean up the streets of Gotham.
The character this film will have introduced many fans to is Lucius Fox who is a trusted employee at Wayne Enterprises, and the man that makes all the equipment for Bruce Wayne and I couldn't think of a better man to play him than Morgan Freeman. I just what makes his character work so well is the natural charm and charisma he has as an actor, it really does translate so well.
I don't really have a whole lot to say about Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. I like her better than Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel, and I think shes fine as the character herself, but really I just didn't find myself buying the chemistry between her and Bale, at all.
I absolutely loved Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy as Ra's Al Ghul and Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow. It's kinda scary how alike Wayne and Ra's are in this film yet how different their paths deviate. The scenes where Ra's trains Wayne to become the warrior he is truly riveting to watch, it really develops both characters so well. And am I the only one who just wanted to punch that slime ball Jonathan Crane throughout the entire movie? The Scarecrow has always been one of my favourite villains so it's awesome to see him done justice in this movie. The added effects when he uses the fear toxin is just awesome honestly resembles a horror movie. The fear toxin stuff generally adds a lot of creativity to the visuals in this film to.
The most disappointing thing about Batman Begins is the action scenes. It has its great moments. That chase scene in the Tumbler is enthralling to watch because it is really well shot, The minimal use of CGI really pays off in that scene and makes it feel realistic. I just wish the camera wasn't so shaky when it came to the fist fights. To be fair though this would be improved significantly in the two sequels.
The way it uses the real location location of Chicago, is a very different approach to Burton's fantasy gothic style and Nolan does make this work because it is consistent to the way he presents the story and characters this version. The Tumbler is a pretty damn cool version of the Batmobile and Hans Zimmer's score is great and really matches the tone it goes for.
Batman Begins is a great movie, followed by an even better movie in The Dark Knight. I cannot wait to re-watch and review that one :)