By Jess Lomas
May 21, 2014
Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits! This month, they look back on some blockbusters. ’tis the season!
In 2005, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins found the Hollywood Holy Grail, turning a tired, camp franchise into a fresh and exciting blockbuster. As with any superhero reboot, Batman Begins concerns itself with the origin story; from how a young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) first encountered bats, to the death of his parents at the hands of a mugger, to how he came to wear the form-fitting suit. At his side is the family’s butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), who helps him discern between revenge and justice.
When Bruce flees Gotham to travel the world and learn the criminal mind, he finds himself in a Bhutanese prison where he is headhunted by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) eager to recruit him to the League of Shadows. He teaches Bruce the ways of the ninja and helps him confront his fears, but when Bruce learns the true intent of the League he retreats to Gotham where he begins to transform into the playboy face of Wayne Enterprises as well as the cave dwelling, gadget-loving Batman. His first mission as the hero Gotham deserves is to take down mobster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), before he’s faced with the even more villainous Dr Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), aka Scarecrow, who plans on drugging the entire city with a hallucinogenic.
There’s a scene in Bad Neighbours where Seth Rogen and Zac Efron compare the Batmans of their youth; Rogen favours Michael Keaton’s 1980s take while Efron sides with Bale, grunting an impersonation of the caped crusader. While Keaton unquestionably nailed the isolated and lonely Bruce Wayne, Bale in Batman Begins brought a new level of depth and darkness to the tortured character.
Impressively, Nolan chose to focus on the world and character building of Gotham and Batman and not on fast-paced action (of which there is still plenty). It’s a refreshing approach to the genre, even when revisiting years later, in an era inundated with superhero movies where each tries to better the last’s visual effects budget. Batman Begins is moody, just like its protagonist, and boasts sophisticated storytelling thanks to Nolan’s formidable expertise.
Batman Begins is available on Quickflix.