nyrobsivad99’s review published on Letterboxd:
“There's nothing to fear but fear itself!”
It is unfathomable to me that Batman Begins came out in 2005. It is weird now to think that Christopher Nolan’s first stab at the character was a comparative sleeper hit that crept under the radar but, even now, it still fails to receive nearly enough credit for how innovative and ahead of its time it was. Take a look at the landscape of comic book films in 2005; the year before Batman Begins saw the release of Spider-Man 2 and The Punisher. The same year; Tim Story’s Fantastic Four which was all soon to be followed by Superman Returns and X-Men: The Last Stand. All of these seem like the ancient history of modern comic book cinema when compared to the contemporary onslaught of WB and Marvel properties. Batman Begins does not belong among this crowd and that makes it all the more phenomenal.
These days, it is hard to argue that Christopher Nolan is generally more interested in concepts and themes than he is in characters but I think this film is one of the best examples that we have that this is not necessarily true. First and foremost, Begins is a character study of an extreme personality and humanises Bruce Wayne to an extent never seen on the silver screen before. Batman Begins practically defined what the character’s origin would be forever more. This is the opposite approach to Tim Burton’s version who walled us off from our hero to maintain his mystique. Nolan and Christian Bale’s Bruce is sympathetic, understandable and incredibly likeable all the way through to the extent that his crusade to take on crime as a giant bat becomes extremely rational to the audience. Bale is terrific in this part, probably the best he would be in his whole run, and brings Batman to life in a seemingly effortless fashion. The cast are generally great actually. The only weak link of any kind is Katie Holmes who is barely even bad, just okay, in this part.
The script for Batman Begins is practically water-tight. So obviously the film is about fear; Bruce’s character journey involves embracing and sharing his fears, the Crane is obsessed with the nature of fear and its effects and it is in perpetuating fear that both the League of Shadows and the concept of Batman hope to thrive in the air respective plans to save Gotham. The villains are wonderfully fleshed out for once. It is masterful to see main villains as layered and fascinating as we have here engaged in, what is on paper, a plot that is barely dissimilar from most large-scale comic villain plots.
Visually, Batman Begins looks really good, especially considering its age. The visual effects look great but what I love most is the feel and style of Gotham city. Everything is so dirty, wet and bleak in a way that looks like no real place specifically but captures what so many horrible places feel like on the ground. The worst visual design in the whole film is probably the Batman suit itself which looks pretty clunky and awkward in the same way the suits of the ‘90s films did. You get the impression that the main body allows for more movement than in the past but the cowl looks pretty hideous whenever it is in full light. Luckily, Nolan knows how to shoot the thing and rarely has our hero out of shadow and shot head on.
Yes, The Dark Knight is a brilliant film (*sigh*) but a lot of the praise lumped on it was actually true for Batman Begins first. The piece holds up as a shining exemplar of how to write the superhero origin and is one of the greatest superhero films of recent memory.