|Distributor:||Warner Home Video|
Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.
Batman Begins discards the previous four films in the series and recasts the Caped Crusader as a fearsome avenging angel. That’s good news, because the series, which had gotten off to a rousing start under Tim Burton, had gradually dissolved into self-parody by 1997’s Batman & Robin. As the title implies, Batman Begins tells the story anew, when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) flees Western civilization following the murder of his parents. He is taken in by a mysterious instructor named Ducard (Liam Neeson in another mentor role) and urged to become a ninja in the League of Shadows, but he instead returns to his native Gotham City resolved to end the mob rule that is strangling it. But are there forces even more sinister at hand?
Co-written by the team of David S. Goyer (a veteran comic book writer) and director Christopher Nolan (Memento), Batman Begins is a welcome return to the grim and gritty version of the Dark Knight, owing a great debt to the graphic novels that preceded it. It doesn’t have the razzle dazzle, or the mass appeal, of Spider-Man 2 (though the Batmobile is cool), and retelling the origin means it starts slowly, like most “first” superhero movies. But it’s certainly the best Bat-film since Burton’s original, and one of the best superhero movies of its time. Bale cuts a good figure as Batman, intense and dangerous but with some of the lightheartedness Michael Keaton brought to the character. Michael Caine provides much of the film’s humor as the family butler, Alfred, and as the love interest, Katie Holmes (Dawson’s Creek) is surprisingly believable in her first adult role. Also featuring Gary Oldman as the young police officer Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as a Q-like gadgets expert, and Cillian Murphy as the vile Jonathan Crane. —David Horiuchi, Amazon.com
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A sizable number of critics and fans alike have called Batman Begins the greatest comic-book movie ever made, a claim that would be difficult to dispute even if we wanted to. The film has been made without any trace of condescension or campiness by Christopher Nolan, a talented director whose previous thrillers, Insomnia and Memento, both bear the noirish hallmarks he brings to Batman’s origin. The story begins with multi-millionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) drifting around the Orient and winding up in the mountain fortress of Ra’s Al Ghul, the enigmatic head of a vigilante fighting force devoted to exterminating evil without regard for the niceties of due process. Wayne trains with these warriors but spurns their offer of membership, instead returning to his hometown, Gotham City, to wage his own secret war against the criminals that have overrun it. And to do that he decides to become…well, you know. It’s great to see such a film brought to the screen with a serious tone and respect for the underlying property; a respect Nolan underscores by casting A-list actors in the supporting roles. Oscar winner Michael Caine does fine work as Wayne’s butler, Alfred, whose wry sense of humor isn’t overlooked by the screenwriters. Liam Neeson plays Henri Ducard, the front man for Ra’s Al Ghul and Wayne’s primary instructor. Morgan Freeman appears as Lucius Fox, a Wayne family confidant who helps the grimly determined scion adopt his new identity by secretly furnishing state-of-the-art gadgetry. The earnest performances of these superlative actors—along with those of supporting players Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman, and Rutger Hauer—lends Batman Begins credibility usually absent from comic-book adaptations. This Batman is truly a frightening figure, an eerie apparition of the night that swoops from the sky and takes human form to pummel his prey. Destructive but non-lethal, he cuts a wide swath through Gotham’s underworld while maintaining the pose of irresponsible playboy Bruce Wayne. Here, finally, is a Batman movie that gets it right. Those who grew up with the character as depicted in the ‘60s TV show might find Bale’s incarnation a trifle too revisionist, but it’s actually a whole lot closer to the Dark Knight created for the comics by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939. And we approve heartily. Ed Hulse
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.