Release Date: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Bob Kane (characters), Christopher Nolan (screenplay) and David S. Goyer (story/screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Ken Watanabe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Batman Begins always felt like two different movies to me.
The first 40 minutes are all about Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) going abroad to deal with his parents’ deaths and to train to be Batman. In China, intentionally serving a prison sentence for stealing WayneTech merchandise (stealing from his own company so that he doesn’t truly become a criminal), he meets a man called Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) who trains him and prepares him to join Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Shadows. However, due to ideological differences – they kill people and Wayne refuses to – he flees their compound and heads back to Gotham City.
The rest of the film tells the story of him becoming Batman. He builds the suit, acquires the Batmobile (known in this film as The Tumbler) and begins taking down the scum of Gotham. He must take on Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), a psychologist who uses fear toxins for his own research/amusement and Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), the mobster running organized crime in the city. There is also an unseen hand at work, pumping drugs into the city and preparing for a master plan.
Along the way, Bruce also reconnects with his childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). He also meets Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), the head of Research and Development for Wayne Enterprises, who supplies Batman with all of those wonderful toys. And Batman finds an ally in Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), the one truly honest cop in a sea of corruption.
Your mileage may vary, but I’ve always felt that the second half of the movie works much better than the first. There are certainly a lot of interesting moments during Bruce’s time abroad – particularly a great sword fighting scene between Wayne and Ducard on a sheet of ice (and Ducard tells him: “Your parents’ death was not your fault. It was your father’s.”) – but overall the whole thing drags on too long. Making matters worse, it beats you over the head with the film’s overarcing theme about overcoming your fears. We see young Bruce afrad of bats, older Bruce immobilized by fear when he sees his parents’ murderer and Ducard using a fear toxin to mess with Bruce’s senses. (If you took a drink every time someone talked about fear in this film, you’d be unconscious before Bruce Wayne put on the Batsuit for the first time.)