Batman Begins (2005) *****
Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to fight the city's criminals.
I'd forgotten how much I had enjoyed this film. As big a step upward as the 1989 Batman
was over what had preceded it Batman Begins
takes it to another level. There is very much a Batman: Year One
feel to this movie. Yeah, they fudge Batman's origins by adding Ras al Gul into the mix too soon, but aside from that they put it all together rather well. Also I really like that for this reboot they avoided the Joker the first time around and gave us an interesting take on a lesser known villain, the Scarecrow.
With any superhero film you're going to get a fair amount of symbolism and exaggeration, but you can offset that with a good dose of realism to foster a decent suspension of disbelief. Nolan jettisoned Tim Burton's Gothic like Gotham City for something of a more modern feel. Nolan's Gotham is a mix of contemporary and post WW2 look to it.
One aspect of this film makes it feel older than more current superhero films: it takes its time building the foundations in the beginning. Everyone knows the basics of Batman's origin and yet the first half of the film is very much focused on Bruce Wayne before the Batman persona is invented. I found myself liking this although I could see how someone else might get more impatient for Batman to finally appear onscreen.
One thing that surprised me was the infamous growling Batman voice didn't seem so pronounced this time around. Only a few times did it feel just a touch overdone while the rest of the time it sounded mostly like Christian Bale's voice pitched a bit lower.
I recall a lot of criticism over the Rachel Dawes character when this film came out, but again this time around I really didn't have any issue with her. I felt all the characters were decently done in this. I liked Gary Oldman's take on Gordon although I could quibble about introducing him so soon in Bruce's life. I really
liked Morgan Freeman's portrayal of Lucius Fox.
I was one of the many who didn't care for the new "Batmobile," the Tumbler, when early pics surfaced, but seeing it in action onscreen I near instantly bought into it. I certainly like it more compared to the Batmobile of the previous four films. It look much more like what a more realistic Batman would have at his disposable rather than an overly designed show car.
I really liked a lot of the imagery in this film. I also appreciated the more serious sensibility to it and with the camp elements turned way done to almost zero.
In the end this was a damned good start to Nolan's Batman trilogy of films. It certainly had me pumped for its sequel.