It’s Comic Book Movie Month on Filmophilia. April sees us highlighting material that centers on comic book movie-related material. This is one of those posts.
X-Men and Spider-Man helped reignite interest in comic book films. They were fun, they were more grounded than adaptations in the past but they still remained slightly tongue in cheek (Spider-Man more so than X-Men). Together they gave studios a remit on what style of film comic book films should be. But before long the film market was saturated with various comic book films all trying to perfect that very balance of grounded and jovial. Films such as Daredevil, Catwoman
(who we’ll be seeing soon in The Dark Knight Rises) and Blade: Trinity
were proof that the formula was far from foolproof. In 2005 a then up-and-coming English director named Christopher Nolan sought to reinvent the wheel with regards to comic book adaptations and gave the world Batman Begins. Superhero films would never be the same again.
Batman Begins is everything the original Spider-Man and X-Men weren’t (meaning no disrespect), it is dark, brooding and genuinely scary at times. Nolan grasped the ‘grounded’ idea and took it to another level; no longer was there a bat-mobile, there was a Tumbler; no more cartoony Gotham, now a Chicago-influenced home for the Caped Crusader, no magic utility belt and definitely, definitely, no nipples on the batsuit (thank you very much Joel Schumacher).
Within 15 minutes the memories of the turgid Batman & Robin are blown away and we’re given the Batman we’ve always been craving for. Dark and gritty though never overbearing; it balances the noir aspect with patches of humour and some terrific action-sequences. Despite the numerous jumps in chronology to show Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) training to become the masked vigilante we’re never confused but we’re not talked down to either; Nolan respects the audience and doesn’t drown the film in exposition.
We see Bruce as a young boy, as a petulant youth and we identify with his struggles (despite his affluence). This is where other Batman films have failed. Not only do we finally get a film that’s almost exclusively about the eponymous hero (no Robin, no Bat-girl, no villain stealing the show) but for the first time we really see the man behind the mask who is lonely, headstrong and vengeful.
Famously Bruce Wayne loses both his parents at a young age and one of the main themes in Batman Begins is his struggle to identify a father-figure and role model between all the older men he’s surrounded by. Christian Bale is supported by an all-star cast: Gary Oldman plays honest cop Jim Gordon, Michael Caine the loyal family butler Alfred Pennyworth, Morgan Freeman is an ostracized gadget wizard called Lucious Fox and Liam Neeson is a mysterious man by the name of Ducard who trains him with The League of Shadows to fight and harness the power of theatricality and fear .
Final Verdict: It’s almost 2 and a half hours long and the 3rd act does falter slightly as the film evolves into a regular superhero film but by that point we’re so invested in Bruce Wayne it doesn’t matter. Ever since Batman Begins was released comic book films have striven to match its grittiness. Reboots of Spider-Man and Superman are both promising a more edgy look on their respective leotard-donning superheroes but none will come close to this; a film that is bold, daring and original.
- Retro Review: Batman and Robin (filmophilia.com)
- The Buzz: The Amazing Spider-Man – How Is The Reboot Shaping Up? (filmophilia.com)
- Guilty Pleasures: Batman: The Movie (filmophilia.com)