There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself!
Why do we fall, when there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself? That is a nice paradox, right there. Being afraid of pure horror is basic instinct, but at the same time – very mature thing to admit. And Batman Begins is exactly that – embracing fear in its purest form.
For more enjoyable reading, I strongly recommend playing the soundtrack. Are you ready? Let’s dive into dark and corrupted Gotham City together!
If you make yourself more than just a men, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and they can’t stop you, you become something else entirely… A legend, Mr. Wayne, A legend!
I was 12 when this movie came out and my superhero knowledge was limited. I knew that there was Batman, Superman and Spider Man. What I didn’t know was that Batman and Spider Man were from two different franchise. Wow! So yes, Batman Begins was the first time I’ve ever heard about DC Comics as a separate universe. Don’t get me wrong – I did watch old Spider Man cartoons and I’m pretty sure I owned couple of comic books. Or, my brother did but who cares? I stole all of his things (to be fair, I did that because I wanted him to pay more attention to his little sister). Anyway, movie was a big deal to me, but I couldn’t figure out why – I got an answer few years later, when in high school a friend of mine introduced me to the amazing world of soundtracks.
I didn’t watch it on the big screen (which I obviously regret), but when I look back, I’m grateful my mum said I’m too young to see movie alone. And back then she thought that Batman was stupid (thanks to my dad who saw the old ones million times, yet every time they were on the TV, he said this is the first time he’s seeing it, typical dad). So eventually I saw it few years after, I was a bit older and much more aware.
Movie starts with classic flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood. Batman Begins focuses on what and how, it’s a phycological leap into the origins. What happened to Bruce and how it made him feel. What motivates him and how it could affect others or the Gotham itself. What has he become and how it changed the reality. Some might say, that the movie was too dark, too long, too slow but this is the case with “part one” or “original story” if you prefer that term. It can’t be too fast, because my main concern would be – okay, well thanks for throwing me into this chaos with no background whatsoever. I like good origin story, especially when I know that there will be part two (as in this particular case, I knew that The Dark Knight will follow).
What I really like about Nolan’s take is that it’s actually a story, not another blockbuster with tons of special effects. So as a result we see a good picture of a journey that ends differently for Bruce – the hero – and Ra’s al Ghul, the villain. They start together as master and student, both with (as it seemed) similar motives and tragic past. But they have disparate understanding – Bruce wants to use his “powers” to save the city he loves, whereas Ra’s sees no point of saving something unsavable. Once again, classic motive of good versus evil but with deep dark twist of exploiting “soft” weaknesses.
Throughout the movie we see set of sequences, that combined together created a full, wide and complete picture. What stroke me, at first, as overwhelming was the complexity of emotions. Nolan didn’t hold back, showing real crime of Gotham, dirty streets with thugs ready to kill you around every corner. And 90% of cops in the city were ready to back up the criminal, not the victim. Bruce Wayne, a “rich kid” who lost everything, wanted a change. So when he grew up, he did what every Gotham-raised child would do – he planned to kill a man, who murdered his parents. Eventually, he realized that this is not the right way, and here I have to admit, with a little help from Henri Ducard, a.k.a. Ra’s al Ghul.
It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.
Christian Bale is an amazing, extraordinary actor and his portrait of Bruce/Batman is my absolute best. With all the respect to Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer, hands down, for me it will always be Christian Bale.
His on-screen relationship with Liam Neeson was magnetic, but in a very peculiar way. Liam’s villain, Ra’s is charming. With his “type” of criminal, I always hope that in the end he will turn out good, even though he ducked up. This character manipulates you to think that in his madness there is at least one good reason, one good idea. And I think that Bale’s Bruce has that hope too.
Sadly, Bale’s charisma was not enough to create captivating relationship with Katie Holmes. Her Rachel Dawes was dull and pretentious in a wrong way. Her idealism, though admirable was tiring, and overall did nothing good. Personally, I have nothing against this actress but this casting choice was poor; or maybe her character was underdeveloped… Anyway, there was nothing, not a single spark between her and Bale.
Supporting roles of Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox and his bow tie) and Cillian Murphy (Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow) – A+! Jim Gordon as a bit dreamy, but at the same time down to Earth, righteous detective who tried to do the right thing, and most importantly stay on the “good”, not corrupted side of Gotham’s finest. His relationship with Batman started on “day one”, as he was on duty when Bruce’s parents were murdered. This bond which bloomed along the trilogy, is unique. Jim Gordon, although not a perfect man, was like a dimmed light in the darkness.
Lucius Fox, working in Applied Science Division at Wayne Enterprises is the Quartermaster to our Batman. Intelligent, witty, perceptive and loyal employee is an ally we all need in our lives. Freeman’s dazzle kept me smiling through every scene he was in.
Scarecrow. Now, this is the type of antihero you literally want to slap in the face. Murphy’s smug smile was driving me crazy but this, and stuck-up attitude made him a really good fit to the story. Nolan’s trilogy introduces us to a pattern, and I think it’s a good one – Batman Begins is associated with FEAR. The Dark Knight pictures CHAOS. The Dark Knight Rises reeks of PAIN. The idea is great, but Chris Nolan is a great mind, so I’m not surprised. And if you look closely to each antagonist, you see that they impersonate all three things – like Scarecrow portraits the Fear. This is the true magic of (Nolan’s) cinema!
Mr Wayne, the way I see it, all this stuff is yours anyway.
There is a reason why I asked you to play the soundtrack. Back in high school, we had a class called “Culture studies” and we had to prepare presentations about our hobbies. So for me speedway was an obvious choice. But there was one presentation that I will always remember – Szymon prepared a speech about movie soundtracks and famous compositors. Holly crap! This was a real eye opener for me. Till that moment, movies were just movies, pictures in motion. And that day, Szymon showed me something truly remarkable – the power of music. You see, movies would be weird without music in the background. You know that famous saying that music makes everything better? It’s true. What music also does? Gives you completely new perspective. That day, and it was Monday around 2pm, I was sitting in classroom, watching the screen and listening to Szymon talking about Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, James Newton Howard… Of course I knew who they were, but did I really? Hans Zimmer was just the Lion King for me. John Williams just Star Wars. Ennio Morricone was the guy from Chi Mai. So, as you can imagine Szymon showed me that the door, that for me were only ajar, can and should be wide open.
Soundtrack is main reason why I watch movies more than once. You know, seeing a movie for the first time, especially when it’s a movie you’ve been waiting for, is a celebration. I absorb as much as possible, but to actually hear the music, to give her my undivided attention, I must watch it again. And if it’s Hans Zimmer’s music, she absolutely deserves it.
My love for this man is and will be eternal. Why? Well, like I mentioned The Lion King which as some of you know, has a special place in my heart (but that’s also story for another time). The genius of Zimmer is simple. Or is it? How can composing music, soundtrack be simple? I can’t wrap my head around it. How does he do it? Why his music flows through you, making you feel anxious, complete, powerful, sad, worried, scared, happy, surprised, calm… All at once! This is how a good soundtrack should make you feel – like you are a part of that particular scene, right in that moment. You see Batman hoovering over the city, as he stands on top of the skyscraper…It makes me want to be rich, live in a mansion outside town, have a lair underneath, train the shit out of me and save the city at night. And I can bet, that you feel that way too. How do I know that? Come on. Even YouTube comments are on point: Unless you have a Batmobile, this is the most inappropriate music for driving. Has the tendency to make you swerve through traffic, pancaking and trip mining cop cars and fly from rooftops.
Batman Begins soundtrack is special. Hans Zimmer teamed up with James Newton Howard to create musical masterpiece, unforgettable experience, capable of teleporting you to streets of Gotham if you close your eyes. Important note, Zimmer and Howard collaborated on separate themes for “split personality” effect to emphasizes Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, the Batman. The subtle differences are phenomenal.
Each track is a scientific name for different genera of bat. I MEAN! How could you even top that? Oh, I can tell you – you could just occasionally throw acrostic in the mix. Acrostic is a poem, where first letter of each line spells outa word. So, if you look closely on titles of tracks 4 through 9, Barbastella, Artibeus, Tadarida, Macrotus, Antrozous, and Nycterus you’ll get… BATMAN. My heart is so full in moments like this.
For me, this movie has a deeper meaning. First, I really like Nolan’s storytelling skills. Batman Begins kept me engaged and curious. Each puzzle piece fit perfectly together, staring from wonderful Christian Bale, charismatic antagonist, strong supporting characters and wonderful soundtrack. Second, it was my first serious superhero movie. As a teenager at that time, I was looking for something to be hooked with. Emotions associated with this movie got me thinking, that this might be my fishhook. Third, someone showed me that screenplay and story is critical, but music can make a significant difference. All it takes, is paying some extra attention.
On a scale from 1 to 10, Batman Begins is a strong 8. And going through famous movie databases like Rotten Tomatoes (84%, certified fresh, with audience score of 94%!), IMDB (8,2/10) or Letterboxd (3,8/5) I feel like a lot of people thinks the way I do – at least in terms of rating.
But I guess the ultimate award for this movie, the greatest prize Batman Begins could ever get is my mum’s undivided attention and delight. You remember her opinion about old Batman movies? Turns out, that Nolan’s version was, as she puts it, genius, outstanding and worth annual re-watch. And what else can I say? Listen to your mums, people!