It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost ten years since Christopher Nolan released his game-changing comic book movie Batman Begins in 2005. A lot has changed since that time. BB, of course, spawned two sequels in the form of 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. DC’s rival Marvel introduced their cinematic universe in 2008 with Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. And it’s safe to say that the genre has been thriving ever since.
Overall, comic book movies are bigger than they ever were before. Films like Guardians of the Galaxy or Shazam would have never made it past the intern at the movie studio ten years ago. Yet, here we are. We have talking raccoons and blue-skinned aliens running amok in theaters across the world. With all this excitement going on it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come and how we ended up in the position we’re in.
During the ’90s, for any respectable Batman fan, it was stomach-turning to see the Batman movie franchise slowly digging its way to an early grave. After the quality Tim Burton films, the series pretty much went down the proverbial toilet, beginning an appallingly campy age of ‘Bat credit-cards’ and an armored Arnold Schwarzenegger hurling ice puns at the Caped Crusader who seemed to be trying his hardest to not be embarrassed by the fact that his costume had hard nipples. Though, we will admit that we had a thing for Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. Nevertheless, by the time the new decade came around, Warner Bros didn’t really have any other choice but to pull the plug and start from scratch.
Enter Christopher Nolan, the mastermind behind 2000’s ‘Memento’ which was widely praised as one of the most innovative films of the decade. When he was initially hired Nolan stated his intention to reinvent the film franchise by “doing the origins story of the character, which is a story that’s never been told before”. As director/co- screenwriter, Nolan ultimately created a richly dark, atmospheric world for Batman to inhabit, similar to that of the Burton films, only darker.
Christian Bale was cast as billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne who, of course, would go on to become Batman. Michael Caine was cast as Bruce’s best friend and trusted butler Alfred Pennyworth. Liam Neeson was cast as Henri Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul: a mysterious man who trains Bruce in the martial arts. Initially posing as a subservient member of the League of Shadows. We ultimately learn that he’s the one calling the shots. Katie Holmes (and her extremely hard nipples) was cast as Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s love interest and Gotham City’s assistant district attorney.
Gary Oldman was cast as James Gordon: the only cop in Gotham who seems to be worth a damn. He ultimately teams up the Dark Knight. Morgan Freeman was cast as Lucius Fox, a high-ranking Wayne Enterprises employee who was demoted. He ultimately supplies Bruce with much of the gear necessary to carry out Batman’s mission. Tom Wilkinson was cast as Carmine Falcone: the most powerful Mafia boss in Gotham. And finally we had Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow, a corrupt psychopharmacologist who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time.
During the first hour of the film Nolan puts his complete trust in the audience as the film explores Bruce Wayne’s back-story at length, with no cape donning and only a few fight sequences. Nevertheless, the pace never slows, and the story is so unexpected and absorbing there’s little chance of us losing interest.
In this film we really get a sense of who Bruce Wayne is, an attribute none of the past movies were able to capture. We see what drives him, what leads him to become this iconic crime fighter, and the reasoning behind the mask.
Nolan’s knack for realism also comes as a breath of fresh air in this age of Michael Bay CGI-filled blockbusters – there are next to no computer generated shots in the movie. Even a sequence with Batman standing on top of a high building staring down at the city was filmed with a stuntman. Overall, the film was well written, authoritatively directed, immaculately acted and was the shot in the arm that the genre needed.
Some people credit Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man film for kicking off the comic book movie craze while others credit Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men movie. Heck, some even go as far as to credit Stephen Norrington, David S. Goyer and Wesley Snipes for having the gall to make our favorite human-vampire hybrid a cinematic reality with 1998’s Blade.
However, we don’t subscribe to any of those notions. If modern comic book movies are a bunch kids running around at daycare then we’d argue that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is the papi who needs to come pick them up.