In this series of blogposts, I am going to go through the movies of the highly beloved screenwriter and director Christopher Nolan, startubg with Batman Begins. I consideres calling the series something clever and funny like “Nolan’s Land” (A play on the phrase “No man’s land”), but seeing as all names I came up with sounded stupid and/or confusing, I instead went with a simple title, that clearly stated what this is all about. The series of posts is going to be my personal take and opinions on the repertoire of Chris Nolan. Expect there to be some controversial statements in there. If there wasn’t, what fun would any of this be? If, however, I say something really mean about you favorite Nolan movie, feel free to jump down into the comments, and tell me exactly what I don’t get. I like nothing more than to be shown how I am wrong, by an intelligent and well-structured argument made in the comments. So with no further ado, I will jump right into it. I have decided to start this all out with Batman Begins. Yes, I know this is not his first feature-length movie. That honor instead goes to either Following or Memento (depending on your definition of Feature Film Length) . I did, however, believe it fitting for my beginning to be the movie that is literally about a beginning. So let us jump into it.
If you are one of the few people out there who does not know, Batman Begins is the story about playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, who haunted by the trauma of witnessing the brutal murder of his parents, decide to become the superhero Batman. He initially trains with a group of skilled assassins, but when he refuses to kill a man on their orders (believing killing to be wrong always), he ends up fighting his old training partners, burning their whole society down, sparing only his mentor (Liam Neeson). He then heads back home to Gotham, where he dresses up like his personal fear, a bat, in order to strike fear into criminals. At the same time, however, a somewhat mad doctor has a similar idea about striking fear into people, though for a somewhat less applaudable reason, using a toxin he has created himself. Batman decides to stop this villain, and at the same time again comes face to face with his old mentor, who has arrived to free Gotham of all it sins.The movie was a much grittier take on the iconic superhero, whom most people had mostly seen as silly in the later years. While Tim Burton’s movies on the character was certainly taken seriously, the George Clooney and Val Kilmer iterations had been silly goofballs, with weird gadgets, stupid puns and over the top acting. It was therefore quite an incredible feat of Nolan to breath life back into the character the way he did. He managed to once again make Batman someone audiences actually cared about, and were intrigued by. The dark colors, amazing acting and interesting plot showed that superhero movies could actually be great movies and even pieces of art.
Thoughts on the Film
Even though Nolan’s next entry in the Batman series, The Dark Knight, is the most critically acclaimed in the trilogy, Batman Begins might actually be his masterpiece of a Batman movie. The Dark Knight will forever be remembered for its iconic lines, and more than anything the goosebumb raising performance of Heath Ledger. But when it comes to Nolan’s part in it, Batman Begins is where he truly excels. The plot in BB is certainly more coherent than in DK, which should be an important point to a wrtier/director known for his intricate storytelling. The minor plot holes that are there a easily forgiven, and there are fewer “Don’t think about it” moments than in the sequel.
More importantly, it creates all the building plots that the sequel build upon. Though Bruce still manages to do superhuman things, there is something very human about him. He is flawed and vulnerable, and you actually understands the thoughts behind his actions. He goes from at comic book character, to an actual human being. It moves the whole genre from action-comedy to heart-wrenching drama, with some comedy sprinkled in also.
The performances in the movie are also amazing. Christian Bale is always great, and manages to inhabit his characters fully. Cillian Murphy, who plays Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow, is perfectly maniacal, managing to sell a character that is both weird and twisted, and that many people would properly never dare to bring to life in live action. Michael Cane brings all his British correctness into a deep portrayal of a father figure character, who is truly the family that our lead doesn’t really acknowledge that he has, and therefore never truly appreciates.
I must, however, admit that I was never really drawn to Liam Neeson as Cane’s evil counterpart, the assassin father figure R’as al Ghul. He was the more classical and straightfaced villain, to Murphy’s high-energy maniac. That does, however, work extremely well. One villain is an insane and gimmicky supervillain, who appear as a more immediate threat, while the other more classical villain has a more personal connection with Bruce, and must be defeated in the end. This formula worked very well both here and in The Dark Knight, which made it at shame that it was dropped in The Dark Knight Rises, undoubtedly the weakest of the three.
While I now have been praising this movie, there are however also some negative points to it. I mentioned earlier how quotable DK is. In contrast I can only think of a single line uttered in the entirety of this movie (The climatic “I won’t kill you. But i don’t have to save you”. Overall, many parts of the movie seem somewhat forgettable. While Rachel is undoubtedly an important character, what actually happens between her and Bruce in any scene is hard to actually remember.