Batman Begins is the film that fans of the comic book have been waiting for. The versions from the late 80’s and early 90’s were a bit of fun which drew their main influence from the camped up TV series with only the two made by Tim Burton having some emphasis on the darkness that makes the comics so appealing.The story of Batman Begins fully explains how Batman came to be. The earlier films have had reference to the brutal deaths of his parents that Bruce Wayne witnessed as a child but this one documents the whole story right down to him blaming himself for their murders, his obsession with revenge and why he chose bats to represent a symbol of fear for the criminals that he loathes.
The film opens with Bruce Wayne in prison in an unspecified Asian country, far from the glamorous playboy lifestyle he led in Gotham City. He is bailed by Ducard (Liam Neeson) a member of a mysterious ninja group who trains him in their form of martial arts before he returns to the crime ridden and poverty stricken Gotham City, which is now run by the mafia and crooked cops. Wayne uses his vast inheritance to buy the finest tools for vigilante crime fighting as well as a very slick suit designed to protect him whilst striking fear into the hearts of villains.
He is assisted by his faithful Butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucious Fox (Morgan Freemen) on gadgets and the only straight cop left in town Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). The appealing thing about Batman is that he has no superpowers and he has to deal with very human emotions whilst we are left questioning whether he does it for the good of the people or for his own personal revenge.
Christian Bale is a real talent who is breathing down the necks of Hollywood’s current leading men and he does not disappoint here. This Welsh actor has deservedly landed a blockbuster role after flawless performances when starring in more independent films such as American Psycho and Laurel Canyon. There are very few actors that would be able to don the batsuit and deliver a role that is to be taken seriously. Keaton came close; Kilmer or Clooney certainly did not. Much like Christopher Reeves playing Superman, it is now difficult to imagine anyone else in the role, Bale is a perfect fit.
The supporting cast is also great with heavyweights such as Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman all excellent in their roles. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) is suitably smug and creepy as the villain Scarecrow and Katie Holmes is the only weak link as Bruce Wayne’s friend from childhood and possible love interest, the district attorney Rachel Dawes. She by no means does a bad job but I would have expected someone with a more sophisticated and tough appearance than the baby faced Holmes. The other factor that makes this work is a very strong script with an engaging plot.
My only complaint would have to be the fight sequences which are filmed so close to the action and edited so rapidly from camera to camera, it is difficult to make out exactly what is going on. The sound effects and editing are awesome fully working the surround sound whilst the subwoofers rumble like never before. The stunts are breathtaking and it should be noted that there is a very limited use of CGI at the insistence of Nolan who wanted make it as believable as possible - even the batmobile is a fully operational vehicle offscreen.Batman Begins indeed - rather than this just being a prequel it would be great if the studios saw this as a new beginning for the Batman franchise clearing the way for more sequels. Sure the two Tim Burton films were fun but it would be great to see what this team could do with some classic villains like The Joker and Two Face. I would go as far to say that this is the best superhero adaptation ever made and has set a new standard for the genre.