Following the disaster of Batman and Robin, the franchise went into somewhat of a stall having abandoned plans for a further Joel Schumacher film for the series. It was only in 2003 when the series was re-booted by Warner Brothers, this time with Christopher Nolan at the helm.
The re-boot took the shape of the 2005 film Batman Begins, which was not only directed by Nolan but also co-written with David S. Goyer.
The film was, in part, inspired by the work by Frank Miller in the 1980’s in the Batman : Year One story arc which tells the story of both Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman, and Officer Jim Gordon’s first year in Gotham.
The tale works through the origins of Batman in both the journey of Bruce Wayne is taking on the role, and the collation of the various gadgets, suit and batmobile (if you remember the line from the Joker in the original movie – Where does he get all those wonderful toys? – This film answers that question).
As a young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) struggles to move on past the death of his parents, he takes to travelling the world to find a way to fight injustice and ‘turn fear onto those who use fear against others’. This journey takes him to a meeting with Ra’s-Al-Ghul representative – Ducard (Liam Neeson).
Through this meeting, he trains with the League of Shadows before returning to Gotham to begin his journey as ‘the Bat man’. The Gotham that he returns to is one that (much as when he left) riddled with bribery and corruption, with Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) a prominent local gangster. Wayne’s childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes) is now an assistant district attorney attempting to bring Falcone to justice.
Furthermore, Falcone has a partnership with Dr Jonathon Crane (Cillian Murphy), who has been developing a hallucinogenic drug to cripple people with fear with his ‘Scarecrow’ mask.
In parallel to this is police officer Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) who is struggling as the only clean cop in the city, who finds an ally in the new nighttime vigilante.
Supporting Wayne in his transition to Batman is the loyal Alfred, played by Michael Caine, and Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman.
The film itself was a masterful re-poisitioning of the Batman saga by Nolan in a far more realistic, darker setting which was certainly far better received that the work by Schumacher.
Bale’s performance is outstanding, essentially playing 3 roles in the film when you allow for Bruce Wayne’s ‘public persona of billionaire playboy’. He brings darkness to the personna of Batman and brings out the true motivations of Wayne.
Michael Caine is also superb in the film, transforming the role of Alfred from the straight butler of Michael Gough (although he was strong throughout his 4 films) to more of a guardian feel.
The film transformed the perception of Superhero films to a place where they can be perceived with artistic merit beyond that of special effects alone and the stellar cast and set of performances, provide a very worthwhile watch.