(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Batman Begins (2005)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Christopher Nolan changes the comic book genre for ???and worse by telling a Batman origin story.
Why It’s on the List: This is a movie that has broken the origin story. Many of the critiques of previous Batman movies have involved either being too dark such as Tim Burton’s Batman Returns or too campy when it came to Joel Schumaker’s Batman Forever. Batman and Robin ended the first iteration of Batman continuity, and it took nearly a decade before Warner Bros. decided to try again. Christopher Nolan did such a good job of telling this story that other filmmakers have failed spectacularly at doing anything similar. While we often hear “This is the The Dark Knight version of this film…,” what I think they’re actually doing is referencing this film.
We see Bruce Wayne develop a fear of bats because of falling in a well. Then his parents die because of his continued fear of bat imagery (a solid thematic change from The Mask of Zorro). He eventually takes that fear to realize his vision of becoming the ultimate vigilante. This is a Batman who doesn’t use guns and refuses to kill. Nolan creates this sense of morality to not only make Batman a clear protagonist, but he also makes Gotham City an important part of the story, making it one of the rare superhero franchises to make the setting an important aspect of the narrative. New York and other places in the MCU serve a cursory purpose. In all three Nolan Batman stories, Gotham plays a crucial role in positive and negative ways.
I remember being impressed with Batman Begins because it felt like Nolan and the actors were taking this seriously. There are still comic book moments and dialogue, more than many people realize, but here we get to see Christian Bale balance Batman and Bruce Wayne. They are both central to the story. We don’t even see Batman until 45 minutes into the movie, and it’s one of the greatest character introductions ever because it’s shot from the POV of the villains and comes across like a horror film in those films.
The supporting cast is laced with tremendous performers in their own as you have Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, and even the late Rutger Hauer helping to establish the credibility of this franchise. I know many people who like this even more than the sequel. I don’t agree, explanation coming tomorrow, but this is a legendary superhero film that deserves all the praise it gets.
*White dude finding himself in an Asian country and othering the society…Sadly, pretty common.
MVP: Christopher Nolan took a franchise that seemed dead in the water and resurrected it. People forget Batman was a joke for several years, and Nolan changed the game. He was already a rising filmmaker who probably could have charted his own course on the independent film scene. This combined with other successful original titles elevated him into the most successful individual filmmaker of the 21st century.
Best Performance: Honestly, I almost think Christian Bale is underrated in the way he gets taken for granted. I think people have a lot of love for Michael Keaton, but Bale does a great job of balancing Bruce Wayne and Batman. I don’t think Bale has the comedic touches (and even some of the facial expressions), but he has the physicality and looks like a man who could plausible play a rich billionaire and possibly be a psychopathic vigilante.
Best Quote: “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed, but as a symbol…as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” -Bruce Wayne
Is there a sequel? …Yeah.
How are they? I mean, only one of the greatest superhero films and just overall films period.
For podcast reviews of every Batman movie check out The Tape Crusaders.