Director: Christopher Nolan
With: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes
Runtime: 141 min
With Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan accepted the difficult task of breathing new life into a franchise that was seriously on the ‘Wayne’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). The Batman films generated a new wave of comic book adaptations in the 90s that began as a successful stylistic/gothic crime caper and ended as a camp, star studded flop. With this installment Nolan ignores the styles of the previous films and in some cases most contemporary comic book adaptations to re-imagine an old icon.
The new Star Wars films revealed that a prequel could give a concrete back-story to the original film, allowing for many sly asides as the audience are aware of what happens before the characters in the film. For fans only familiar with the Batman films, this is not the case with Batman Begins. After the opening flashback from his childhood, we see our protagonist in the middle of a Mongolian prison, not something normally associated with millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. The first third of the film charts his journey from grief stricken child to angst ridden adult intent on bringing real justice to Gotham.
But hold on guys, this is Christopher Nolan, things don’t run so predictably as that. The adult and child storylines run parallel to each other, with little Bruce’s story interupting the present action to give weight to the emotional and dramatic aspect of the film. Here we also see the director of Memento effectively playing with narrative to place us in the perspective of one of the central characters Ducard, as we simultaneously learn more about Bruce’s fear.
In the midst of shallow, generic comic book capers (Underworld, X-Men, Blade) Batman Begins gives us a complex protagonist, who is as much an empathetic human as a hero. This is why it is so refreshing. Nolan manages to effectively reveal the mechanics behind Batman’s powers while also changing the perspective, when needed, to create an element of surprise for us and his foe’s in the action sequences.
Although the cast were generally very good, there were some interesting cast choices. Tom Wilkinson, for example, seemed miscast as mob boss, Falconi. The way he played the role seemed more ‘Bugsy Malone’ than Al Capone, which is strange because little kid, he ain’t. Katie Holmes was out of place as a ‘lawyer’, but Nolan has to make some concessions to appease those movie dates looking for a pretty couple on the screen to emulate.
The odd cast decisions were insignificant however, compared to the achievement of a British director and a mainly British cast who rejuvenated a very American franchise.