Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) is Marginally Dated but Sufficient

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Yeah, I saw that new Matt Reeves Batman trailer. Robert Pattinson as a Hot-Topic Batman? Paul Dano as a terrorist-driven Riddler? Uh-uh-uh… Zoë *faint* Kravitz. A murdered Alfred? Nirvana? I’m all for it. Anyways, it got me in the cinematic mood for some caped crusading…

I like Batman Begins. As to my knowledge, this is the first live-action Batman movie to showcase the detailed, inner-workings of Batman’s inception and all his established trademarks: the Batcave, the Batsuit, the Batmobile, the Bat-combat, the Bat-etc. The movie has a sturdy antagonistic group to partner with this origin film, as well, one that features a surprising amount of insinuation on the pretentiousness of cults which are symbolized with the arsonistic ninja group lead by Ra’s al Ghul. 

Coming from the inner, Batman-geek myself, though, I do appreciate Nolan’s interpretation of The Scarecrow in this adaptation—a villain I never could’ve imagined being on the big screen. The visual and vocal effects they use on him are imposing. The simplicity of the bag-mask is furthermore a qualitative bonus. I especially liked, however, the special effects used for the hallucinations; it truly added to The Scarecrow’s contrasting physical presence. Bale’s impersonation of Batman has become undeniably iconic and tastefully frightening, as the Batman was always meant to emanate—his take on Bruce Wayne is another story, howbeit, considering I often found some of his motivations in Begins to be illogically enigmatic. Regardless, that’s really just a writing issue and nothing to do with Bale; he’s still a good Batman and an acceptable, faithful Bruce Wayne. Batman using actual bats to aid him in one particular and splendid scene was also quite—like, YES, finally!—geektastic in my mind. Furthermore, though, The Tumbler jumping off roofs… can badassery really exceed this?

Despite Nolan, pretty much doing most in his capacity to please the fans of this famed superhero character, there are cavernous dilemmas with Begins that simply detract me from finding the all-inclusive movie from being great. But, let’s start off with my biggest drawback first…

The issue with how Nolan writes dialogue in Batman Begins is that, while a lot of it carries the necessary themes and information that the movie needs to convince the audience of Bruce Wayne’s upbringing, much of it is always brought up during amateurish, quixotic circumstances, ones that only exist to manifest the audience with something needed in the completion of these motifs when being followed by even more circumstances. For example, just in the opening 20 minutes of the movie, we see Bruce being lectured by his father about the dangers of “fear,” which is immediately followed (on the same day too) by the sequence of his parent’s dying while his father’s final words happen to revolve around the concept of not letting “fear” get the best of Bruce during that detrimental situation. There are loads of (and that’s not an exaggeration) of moments like this in Batman Begins, disclosing how Nolan rather verbally explore key topics in unrealistically expeditious matters rather than ones that trick us with at least the slightest of authenticity.

As far as any other qualms I have, there’s a lot of story to cover in Batman Begins making it feel pretty crammed, and it shows when the editing, structure, and continuity occasionally gets jarring and borderline idle; this is why, as I mentioned before, Wayne’s incentives sometimes feel cryptic, because the film tries to career too much of the character’s moral psyche into a minimal two-and-a-half hours while having the classic “save-the-city” comic-book story transpiring simultaneously. Additionally, Nolan’s method of directing action in this first installment is tediously average, in my humble opinion; he’s certainly matured in this area after the release of this film, especially in the number of cuts he uses per scene or how vivid and clear he makes each shot—thankfully. The semi-romance between Bruce and Rachel is pretty “meh” too. Plus, goofy, cheesy plot conveniences, here and there, etc. etc.

Batman Begins is, overall, decent though. It hasn’t held that much up to the test of time fifteen years after its release, but as far as comic-book origin stories go, this is arguably one of the better. The tone may not be as “serious” as fans tend to make it out—I believe Nolan doesn’t bring that quality until its predecessor—but he successfully brought the beloved crime-fighting character into an innovative, new light for the 21st century. 

On a side-note, I never noticed how influenced Nolan was of Tim Burton’s Batman, which gave me a slight referential dose of satisfaction. Bruce bringing Rachel to the Batcave while she’s intoxicated so that he can send her off with the antidotes to the main villain’s deadly toxin is one example of this. Even in The Dark Knight, there are those shots of The Joker encouraging Batman to kill him with his vehicle but the Joker ultimately gets the best of him. Even better though, there’s also the scene where Batman throws The Joker off the edge of a building but then catches him—a sign of Nolan keenly switching up the end results to play with Burton’s interpretation. Neat call-backs. 

Verdict: B-

Christopher Nolan Ranked

“Batman Begins” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

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