We started with cartoons, continued with a mix between gothic and campy, and now we have reached the Nolan trilogy. These are some of the most successful Batman movies out there, delivering apparently what people expect of the caped crusader. I’ll touch more on that another day, but for now, we begin with Batman Begins.
The movie begins with Bruce Wayne (Mr. Christian Bale) meeting Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), an actual established character in the comics, which is a distraction from the fact that he looks like most interpretations of Ra’s al Ghul. He claims to work for Ra’s, and he trains Bruce to be a master assassin. When Bruce opts not to kill a criminal and ends up burning down the monastery, he heads back to Gotham with a plan in mind. We see him slowly become the hero we recognize, working with Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and original character Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) against Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) and the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). Big cast. But then it turns out that Ducard actually was Ra’s al Ghul the whole time! His plan is to have Gotham destroy itself, and it takes just about everyone to stop the plan, albeit at the last minute and with Ra’s dying via Batman’s patented “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.” Rachel and Bruce almost get together, but she can’t be with him as long as he’s Batman. The movie ends with a tease of the Joker, leading into The Dark Knight.
I’d talked previously about how so many Batman origin stories reference Batman: Year One, and this is no exception. The most obvious nods are corrupt cop Flass, and my favorite scene from Year One, where Batman summons a fuckload of bats to cover his escape from Gotham SWAT. We also feature the relatively minor detail of Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace snapping and the pearls scattering, as (apparently) first seen in the comic series The Dark Knight Returns. Why bring it up? Well, looking into that moment I found out that pearl necklaces don’t do that; they’re typically tied off periodically so that if the necklace breaks, only one or two pearls will fall off. Why even bring up such a minor plot hole? Turns out there are a couple in-comic explanations for why it happened, ranging from “it was a fake” to “it was to identify Martha as a target for assassination” to “comic books are dumb.”
Anyway, while this is a pretty good movie, I think it gets blown out of the water by its sequel, The Dark Knight. No surprise, I’ll be talking about that one tomorrow.
Next: The Dark Knight
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