Spelunking, Alfie, and the Tumbler: Batman Begins
In preparation of the July 20th release of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated trilogy closer, The Dark Knight Rises, The Bro Journey is reviewing each of the previous six Batman films (in order) that have preceded it. We continue with 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2003, relatively unknown director Christopher Nolan (note- Memento, the film that really helped launch his career, can be seen all OVER the most recent Batman trilogy) finished a script to a new movie with the working title of Intimidation Game. Besides his co-writer, a few select producers, and the Warner Bros. execs who were forced to read said-script inside of a rented garage where the small unit was writing the script, along with working on early visuals for the new movie, NO ONE was permitted to see the script.
Nolan had a vision for his Intimidation Game that was not to be shared. He foresaw a new take on a well-known story, one involving darkness, vengeance, and the lengths that human beings are willing to go to to keep a clean conscience. He also foresaw the lead in Intimidation Game as being played by an actor who up to this point was known for playing a crazed Wall Street trader and one of the original Newsies. Did I mention that when Nolan found his lead, the man had lost enough weight to pull off playing an insomniac factory worker whose ribs could be counted from a mile away? That dear readers is the origins story to the mother of all origins stories from the past decade. THIS is how Batman Begins came to be.
Eight years after George’s Nipples & the Governator got together and chilled, Christian Bale donned the batsuit and led audiences down a rabbit hole to explain the real story of how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight, but not without a little help from some friends. One thing that you quickly notice in Batman Begins is the level of recognizable talent that appears in the first part of Nolan’s epic trilogy: everyone’s favorite butler Alfred is played by Michael Caine, Lucius Fox (the Q to Bale’s James Bond) is played by God, I mean Morgan Freeman, the three villains in the movie are played by Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, and Liam “Qui-Gon/Everyone’s favorite dad from Love Actually/that dude who kills EVERYONE” Neeson respectively, soon-to-be Commissioner Gordan is played by Mr. Get Off My Plane himself Gary Oldman, and the newly single Katie Holmes plays assistant DA/love interest/human who magically morphs into another form in the next movie Rachel Dawes. With all of these parts combined, along with the new perspective from Nolan on one of the oldest comics to date, Batman Beginscompletely changed how every member of our generation looked at the caped crusader. Oh and the Batmobile is WAY more awesome, but that’s just a side note.
Besides the obvious though, including Batman’s innate ability to fly, call bats by pressing a button found on the bottom his shoe, Dr. Crane/Scarecrow unleashing weaponized hallucinogens on everyone, Alfred finally kicking ass, Bruce Wayne basically just doing whatever the hell he wants, Neeson’s sweet facial hair, Bruce Wayne curling a 200 lb.+ man with one arm while hanging off a cliff in which he is solely attached to the earth by way of his forearm fronds, and, again, the batmobile, the BIGGEST thing that makes Batman Begins so shockingly good and so watchable is (warning: MINDBLOW on the horizon) the fact that the director actually placed some emphasis on acting. OH NO HE DIDN’T! OH YES, YES HE DID.
Now this is no disrespect to Jim Carrey, Val Kilmer, and Chris O’Donnell, however this is totally to shit on Mr. Freeze, but good ol’ Joel Schumacher didn’t seem to care too much about the performance of his actors, but, unlike Batmans past, Nolan sought out someone who could be believable as A) Bruce Wayne, B) Batman, C) Both A&B, D) a fearless vigilante driven by rage and watching his own parents die before his eyes, in an alley, after going to the Opera (terrible way to go). Christian Bale is a questionable human being, but how many of his Batman predecessors adopted the actual persona of Bruce Wayne and literally became that character for the duration of the movie? You think Beetlejuice/Mr. Mom was into method? How about the only Batman to ever smile? Or maybe good ol’ Nips McGee? No way folks, unlike the others, you watch Bale jump off rooftops and build a batsuit and think, “this really isn’t that farfetched…”
Batman Begins includes things like actual character development, plot, story arcs, and one sweet ass, military-grade, bridge-jumping tankasaurus Rex. Although those who have played Bruce Wayne have been described in many disconcerting ways (i.e. aloof, goofy, awful, shiny, chilly), none of them has ever possessed the intensity and sincerity that Bale brings to the role and, besides Holmes’ Omni-present nipple hard ons and Michael Caine’s overall banter, it’s this aspect that makes Batman Begins so believable and genuine.
Of course, like all other super hero movies there are points of mockery and we would be doing our gushing admirers a disservice if we didn’t point these aspects out to you in an easy to read list (in no specific order):
– Little Bruce in a tux
– Scarecrow’s cry after getting tazed to the face!
– King Joffrey from Game of Thronesplaying the distressed boy who is protected by Holmes after engulfing the weaponized hallucinogen
– The fact that half of everyone seen in the movie trips their balls off
– Ken Watanabe as Ra’s AL Ghul/not Ras’s Al Ghul
– Batman’s ability to ascend in almost angelic fashion
– Wayne’s hair
– The scene where Bale drops face forward into a push-up
As you can see though, these are all rather nitpicky and most of them could be overlooked, particularly because of one of the last scenes in the movie. Of course it was assumed that when Batman Begins was released, it was going to be the first part of a series, but no one could really tell what direction the movies would take. However, towards the end of the movie, when Gordon calls Batman by spotlight for the first time, he explains how a variety of convicts that had escaped from Arkham Asylum were still on the loose, including one who leaves a calling card at the scene of his crimes. I remember sitting in the theater as Batman turned over the card, when a sudden jolt of excitement shot up my spine unlike anything I can remember experiencing while watching a movie (in public at least). The foreshadowing of the Joker card left every single person in theater begging for more and wondering one thing: who is going to play him? However, that is a story for another day.