Batman Begins is a 2005 superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Christian Bale as Batman, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, and Rutger Hauer. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the character and begins with Bruce Wayne's initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, and his journey to becoming Batman. It draws inspiration from classic comic book storylines such as Batman: The Man Who Falls, Batman: Year One, and Batman: The Long Halloween.
After a series of unsuccessful projects to resurrect Batman on screen following the 1997 critical and commercial failure of Batman & Robin, Nolan and David S. Goyer began work on the film in early 2003 and aimed for a darker and more realistic tone, with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. The goal was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. The film was primarily shot in England and Chicago, and relied on traditional stunts and miniatures — computer-generated imagery was used minimally. A new Batmobile, called the Tumbler, along with a new, more mobile Batsuit were both created specifically for the film.
Batman Begins was critically and commercially successful. The film opened on June 15, 2005 in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed US$48 million in its opening weekend, eventually grossing $370 million worldwide. The film received an 84% overall approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. A DVD was released on October 18, 2005, containing featurettes and other bonus materials. Critics noted that fear was a common theme throughout the film, and remarked its darker tone compared to previous Batman films. A sequel titled The Dark Knight was released on July 18, 2008 and also sees the return of both Nolan and Bale.
Plot summary[edit | edit source]
Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne falls into a cave, where he encounters a swarm of bats. Having developed a fear of bats, he urges his parents to leave an opera featuring bat-like creatures. Outside the theater, they are mugged by Joe Chill, who proceeds to kill the parents. Bruce blames himself for his parents' murders.
Years later, Bruce returns to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against mob boss Carmine Falcone. Before the hesitant Bruce can act, one of Falcone's henchmen kills Chill. Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his foiled plan, and she expresses disgust for his blind vengeance without regard for justice. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that he is ignorant of the nature of crime, so Bruce decides to travel the world to understand the criminal mind. After nearly seven years, he is eventually detained for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he meets Henri Ducard. Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, led by Ra's al Ghul. Wayne is freed, and travels to a mountaintop to begin his combat training with the League, who secretly intend to use him to destroy Gotham. Bruce completes his training with the League, overcoming his childhood fear of bats in the process. However, when he is ordered to execute a criminal, he disobeys the order and instead initiates a chaotic scene by lighting the building on fire to escape, destroying the League's headquarters and killing Ra's in the process. Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage, and leaves his mentor at a nearby village.
Bruce Wayne returns to a Gotham City ruled by Falcone, and decides to plot a one-man war against the city's corrupt system. He seeks the help of Rachel, now an assistant district attorney, and police sergeant Jim Gordon, who consoled him in the aftermath of his parents' murder. After reestablishing his connections to his father's company, Wayne Enterprises (under the control of the unscrupulous William Earle), Bruce is able to acquire, with the help of former board member Lucius Fox, a prototype armored car and an experimental armored suit. In his new Batman costume, he disrupts a drug shipment by Falcone, and leaves the mob boss tied to a searchlight, forming a makeshift Bat-Signal. He also disrupts an assassination attempt on Rachel, leaving her with evidence against a judge on Falcone's payroll. While investigating the "unusual" drugs in the shipment, Batman is stunned by sinister psychopharmacologist Dr. Jonathan Crane, who sprays him with a powerful hallucinogen. Bruce's butler Alfred Pennyworth rescues Bruce, who uses an anti-toxin developed by Fox to save him. Crane later poisons Rachel after showing her that the toxin, which is harmful only in vapor form, is being piped into Gotham's water supply. Batman saves her and attacks Crane with his own poison. The police enter Arkham Asylum and arrest Crane while Batman escapes with Rachel. After administering the antidote to Rachel in the Batcave, he gives her two vials of it for Gordon – one to inoculate himself, and another to mass-produce for the city's general population.
During his birthday celebration in Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted by a group of League of Shadows ninjas led by Ducard, who reveals himself to be the real Ra's al Ghul, and that the man killed earlier was a decoy. Ra's, who had been conspiring with Crane the entire time, plans to destroy Gotham by distributing the toxin undetected via Gotham's water supply, and then vaporizing it with a microwave-emitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Bruce insultingly dismisses his guests under the guise of being belligerently drunk, and fights briefly with Ra's while the League of Shadows set fire to Wayne Manor. Bruce escapes the inferno with Alfred's help just as the manor is destroyed. Batman arrives at the "Narrows" section of Gotham to aid the police in battling psychotic criminals, including Crane, now calling himself "Scarecrow", whom the League set free from the asylum. Rachel is briefly confronted by Crane, but quickly wards him off; she is rescued by Batman when more criminals go after her. Batman intimates his identity to her, and leaves Gordon in control of the Batmobile to stop the elevated train used to transport the microwave-emitter to the city's central water-hub. Batman battles Ra's aboard the train, then escapes just as Gordon topples the elevated line using the Batmobile's missiles, leaving Ra's to crash to the ground with the train and perish in the resulting explosion.
Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as CEO, firing Earle. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce Wayne with his dual life as Batman. Gordon, now a lieutenant, unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman. Gordon mentions a criminal who, like Batman, has "a taste for the theatrical", and who leaves Joker playing cards at his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate it. As Batman is leaving, Gordon mentions that he has not thanked Batman for his help in cleaning up the city. Batman replies that Gordon will never have to, and flies off into the night.
Cast[edit | edit source]
|Christian Bale||Batman/Bruce Wayne|
|Michael Caine||Alfred Pennyworth|
|Liam Neeson||Henri Ducard|
|Katie Holmes||Rachel Dawes|
|Cillian Murphy||Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow|
|Gary Oldman||Sgt. James Gordon|
|Morgan Freeman||Lucius Fox|
|Tom Wilkinson||Carmine Falcone|
|Ken Watanabe||Ra's al Ghul|
|Mark Boone Junior||Detective Arnold Flass|
|Colin McFarlane||Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb|
|Linus Roache and Sara Stewart||Thomas and Martha Wayne|
|Richard Brake||Joe Chill|
|Rade Šerbedžija||“Homeless Man”|
Selected quotes[edit | edit source]
- “They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I've looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge... Me.” - Christian Bale as Batman
- “Death does not wait for you to be ready! Death is not considerate, or fair! And make no mistake: here, you face Death.” - Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard
- “People from your world have so *much* to lose. Now, you think because your mommy and your daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don't. You've never tasted desperate. You're, uh, you're Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham; you'd have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn't know your name. So, don't-don't come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you'll never understand. And you always fear what you don't understand. Alright.” - Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone.
Production[edit | edit source]
Development[edit | edit source]
In January 2003, Warner Bros. hired Memento director Christopher Nolan to direct an untitled Batman film, and David S. Goyer signed on to write the script two months later. Nolan stated his intention to reinvent the film franchise of Batman by "doing the origins story of the character, which is a story that's never been told before". Nolan said that humanity and realism would be the basis of the origin film, and that "the world of Batman is that of grounded reality. [It] will be a recognizable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises." Goyer said that the goal of the film was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Nolan felt the previous films were exercises in style rather than drama, and described his inspiration as being Richard Donner's 1978 Superman, in its focus on depicting the character's growth. Also similar to Superman, Nolan wanted an all-star supporting cast for Batman Begins to lend a more epic feel and credibility to the story.
Nolan's personal "jumping off point" of inspiration was Batman: The Man Who Falls, a short story about Bruce's travels throughout the world. The early scene in Batman Begins of young Bruce Wayne falling into a well was adapted from The Man Who Falls. Batman: The Long Halloween, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, influenced Goyer in writing the screenplay, with the villain Carmine Falcone as one of many elements which were drawn from Halloween's "sober, serious approach". The writers considered having Harvey Dent in the film, but replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized, "we couldn’t do him justice". The sequel to Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, also served as an influence. Goyer used the vacancy of Bruce Wayne's multi-year absence presented in Batman: Year One to help set up some of the film's events in the transpiring years. In addition, the film's Sergeant James Gordon was based on his comic book incarnation as seen in Year One. The writers of Batman Begins also used Frank Miller's Year One plot device, which was about a corrupt police force that led to Gordon and Gotham City's need for Batman.
Filming[edit | edit source]
As with all his films, Nolan refused a second unit to keep his vision consistent. Filming began in March 2004 in the Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland (standing in for Bhutan). The crew built a village and the front doors to Ra's temple, as well as a road to access the remote area. The weather was problematic, with 74 mph winds, rain, and a lack of snow. A shot Wally Pfister had planned with a crane had to be done with a handheld camera.
In seeking inspiration from Superman and other blockbuster films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nolan based most of the production in England, specifically Shepperton Studios. Production designer Nathan Crowley installed twelve pumps to create a waterfall and built rocks using molds of real caves. In January 2004, an airship hangar at Cardington, Bedfordshire was rented by Warner Bros. for filming in April 2004. There, the Narrows and the feet of the monorails filled the 900 ft long stage.
Mentmore Towers was chosen from twenty different locations for Wayne Manor, as Nolan and Crowley liked its white floors, which gave the impression of the manor as a memorial to Wayne's parents. The building chosen to represent Arkham Asylum was the National Institute for Medical Research building in Mill Hill, north west London, England. The St. Pancras railway station and the Abbey Mills Pumping Stations were used for Arkham's interiors. The University of London was used for courtrooms. Some scenes, including the Batmobile pursuit, were filmed in Chicago at locations such as Lower Wacker Drive and 35 East Wacker. Authorities agreed to raise Franklin Street Bridge for a scene where access to the Narrows is closed.
Despite the film's darkness, Nolan wanted to make the film appeal to a wide age range. "Not the youngest kids obviously, I think what we’ve done is probably a bit intense for them but I certainly didn’t want to exclude the sort of ten to 12-year olds, because as a kid I would have loved to have seen a movie like this." Because of this, nothing gory or bloody was filmed.
Design[edit | edit source]
Nolan used the cult science fiction film Blade Runner as a source of inspiration for Batman Begins. He screened Blade Runner to cinematographer Wally Pfister and two others to show the attitude and style that he wanted to draw from the film. Nolan described the film's world as "an interesting lesson on the technique of exploring and describing a credible universe that doesn't appear to have any boundaries", a lesson that he applied to the production of Batman Begins.
Nolan worked with production designer Nathan Crowley to create the look of Gotham City. Crowley built a model of the city that filled Nolan's garage. Crowley and Nolan designed it as a large, modern metropolitan area that would reflect the various periods of architecture that the city had gone through. Elements were drawn from New York City, Chicago, and Tokyo; the latter for its elevated freeways and monorails. The Narrows was based on the [[slum sh nature of the (now demolished) walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong.
Batmobile[edit | edit source]
Crowley started the process of designing the Tumbler for the film by model bashing. Crowley used the nose cone of a P-38 Lightning model to serve as the chassis for the Tumbler's jet engine. Six models of the Tumbler were built to 1:12 scale in the course of four months. Following the scale model creation, a crew of over 30 people, including Crowley and engineers Chris Culvert and Annie Smith, carved a full-size replica of the Tumbler out of a large block of [[Styrofoamn two months.
The Styrofoam model was used to create a steel "test frame", which had to stand up to several standards: have a speed of over Template:Convert, go from 0 to Template:Convert in 5 seconds, possess a steering system to make sharp turns at city corners, and withstand a self-propelled launch of up to Template:Convert. On the first jump test, the Tumbler's front end collapsed and had to be completely rebuilt. The basic configuration of the newly designed Tumbler included a 5.7-liter Chevy V8 engine, a truck axle for the rear axle, front tires by Hoosier (which are actually dirt racing tires used on the right rear of open wheel sprint cars), rear 4x4 mud tires by Interco., and the suspension system of Baja racing trucks. The design and development process took nine months and cost several million dollars.
With the design process complete, four street-ready race cars were constructed, with each vehicle possessing 65 carbon fiberanels and costing $250,000 each to build. Two of the four cars were specialized versions. One version was the flap version, which had hydraulics and flaps to detail the close-up shots where the vehicle propelled itself through the air. The other version was the jet version, in which an actual jet engine was mounted onto the vehicle, fueled by six propane tanks. Due to the poor visibility inside the vehicle by the driver, monitors were connected to cameras on the vehicle body. The professional drivers for the Tumblers practiced driving the vehicles for six months before they drove on the streets of Chicago for the film's scenes.
The interior of the Tumbler was an immobile studio set and not actually the interior of a street-capable Tumbler. The cockpit was over-sized to fit cameras for scenes filmed in the Tumbler interior. In addition, another version of the Tumbler was a miniature model that was 1:5 scale of the actual Tumbler. This miniature model had an electric motor and was used to show the Tumbler flying across ravines and between buildings. However, the actual Tumbler was used for the waterfall sequence.
Special effects[edit | edit source]
For Batman Begins, Nolan preferred using traditional stuntwork over computer generated imagery. Scale models were used to represent the Narrows and Ra's al Ghul's temple. There were, however, several establishing shots that were CG composite images; that is, an image composed of multiple images. Examples include Gotham's skyline, exterior shots of Wayne Tower, and some of the exterior monorail shots. The climactic monorail sequence mixed live action footage, model work, and CGI.
The bats were entirely digital, as it was decided directing real bats on set would be problematic. Dead bats were scanned to create digital models. Locations and sets were recreated on the computer so the flying bats would not be superfluous once incorporated into the finished film.
Soundtrack[edit | edit source]
The score for Batman Begins was composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Nolan originally invited Zimmer to compose the music, and Zimmer asked Nolan if he could invite Howard to compose as well, as they had always planned a collaboration. The two composers collaborated on separate themes for the "split personality" of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman. Zimmer and Howard began composing in Los Angeles and moved to London where they stayed for twelve weeks to complete most of their writing. Zimmer and Howard sought inspiration for shaping the score by visiting the Batman Begins sets.
Zimmer wanted to avoid writing music that had been done before, so the score became an amalgamation of orchestra and electronic music. The film's ninety-piece orchestra was developed from members of various London orchestras, and Zimmer chose to use more than the normal number of cellos. Zimmer enlisted a boy soprano to help reflect the music in some of film's scenes where Bruce Wayne's parents tragic memories are involved. "He's singing a fairly pretty tune and then he gets stuck, it's like froze, arrested development," said Zimmer. He also attempted to add human dimension to Batman, whose behavior would typically be seen as "psychotic", through the music. Both composers collaborated to create 2 hours and 20 minutes worth of music for the film. Zimmer composed the action sequences, while Howard focused on the film's drama.
Release[edit | edit source]
Reviews[edit | edit source]
Based on 247 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Batman Begins received an average 84% overall approval rating; the film was more balanced with the 40 critics in Rotten Tomatoes' "Cream of the Crop", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, receiving a 63% approval rating. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 70 from the 41 reviews it collected. Common criticism focused on the realism behind the character, and certain character portrayals that hindered the film. There was dissension over Nolan's ability to create a complex character and Bale's ability to portray that character.
James Berardinelli applauded Nolan and Goyer's work creating more understanding into "who [Batman] is and what motivates him", something Berardinelli felt Tim Burton's film lacked; at the same time, Berardinelli felt the romantic aspect between Bale and Holmes did not work because the actors lacked the chemistry Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder (Superman), or Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) shared in their respective roles. According to Total Film, Nolan manages to create such strong characters and story that the third-act action sequences cannot compare to " the frisson of two people talking", and Katie Holmes and Christian Bale's romantic subplot has a spark "refreshingly free of Peter Parker/Mary Jane-style whining".
Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, who felt the film began slowly, stated that the "story, psychology and reality, not special effects", assisted the darkness behind Batman's arsenal; he noted that Neeson and Holmes, unlike Bale's ability to "feel his role in his bones", do not appear to fit their respective characters in "being both comic-book archetypes and real people". The New Yorker's David Denby did not share Berardinelli and Turan's opinion. He was unimpressed with the film, when comparing it to the two Tim Burton films, and that Christian Bale's presence was hindered by the "dull earnestness of the screenplay", the final climax was "cheesy and unexciting", and that Nolan had resorting to imitating the "fakery" used by other filmmakers when filming action sequences.
Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune believed Nolan and Miller managed to "comfortably mix the tormented drama and revenge motifs with light hearted gags and comic book allusions", and that Nolan takes the series out of the "slam-bang Hollywood jokefests" the franchise had drifted into. Comic book scribe and editor Dennis O'Neil stated that he "felt the filmmakers really understood the character they were translating", citing this film as the best of the live-action Batman films. In contrast, J.R. Jones, from the Chicago Reader, criticized the script, and Nolan and David Goyer for not living up to the "hype about exploring Batman's damaged psyche". Roger Ebert, who gave mixed reviews to the previous films, wrote this was "the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for". Giving it four out of four stars, he commended the realistic portrayals of the Batman arsenal—the Batsuit, Batcave, Batmobile, and the Batsignal—as well as the focus on "the story and character" with less stress on "high-tech action".
Like Berardinelli, USA Today's Mike Clark thought Bale performed the role of Batman as well as he did Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but that the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes was "frustratingly underdeveloped". Kyle Smith thought Bale exhibited "both the menace and the wit he showed in his brilliant turn in American Psycho", and that the film works so well because of the realism, stating, "Batman starts stripping away each layer of Gotham crime only to discover a sicker and more monstrous evil beneath, his rancid city simultaneously invokes early ’90s New York, when criminals frolicked to the tune of five murders a day; Serpico New York, when cops were for sale; and today, when psychos seek to kill us all at once rather than one by one." In contrast, Salon.com's Stephanie Zacharek felt Nolan did not deliver the emotional depth expected of "one of the most soulful and tortured superheroes of all"; she thought Bale, unlike Michael Keaton who she compared him to, failed to connect with the audience underneath the mask, but that Gary Oldman succeeds in "emotional complexity" where the rest of the movie fails. However, Tim Burton felt Nolan "captured the real spirit that these kind of movies are supposed to have nowadays. When I did Batman twenty years ago, in 1988 or something, it was a different time in comic book movies. You couldn't go into that dark side of comics yet. The last couple of years that has become acceptable and Nolan certainly got more to the root of what the Batman comics are about."
Box office[edit | edit source]
Batman Begins opened on June 15, 2005 in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters, including 55 IMAX theaters. The film ranked at the top in its opening weekend, accumulating $48,745,440, which was seen as "strong but unimpressive by today's instantaneous blockbuster standards". The film's five-day gross was $72.9 million, beating Batman Forever (1995) as the franchise high. Batman Begins also broke the five-day opening record in the 55 IMAX theaters, grossing $3.16 million. Polled moviegoers rated the film with an A, and according to the studio's surveys, Batman Begins was considered the best of all the Batman films. The audience's demographic was 57 percent male and 54 percent people over the age of 25.
The film held its top spot for another weekend, accumulating $27,589,389 in a 43 percent drop from its first weekend. Batman Begins went on to gross $371,853,783 worldwide. It is the second highest grossing Batman film to date, behind Tim Burton's Batman, which grossed $411,348,924 worldwide. In comparison to the previous Batman films, Batman Begins averaged $12,634 per theater, the least of all the Batman films. It was released in more theaters, but sold fewer tickets than any of the others, with the exception of Batman & Robin. Batman Begins was the eighth highest grossing film of 2005 in the US.
Home video[edit | edit source]
The DVD of Batman Begins was released on October 18, 2005 in both single disc and two-disc deluxe editions. In addition to the film, the deluxe edition contained featurettes and other bonus materials. The edition contained a small paperback booklet, the first Batman story Detective Comics #27, as well as Batman: The Man Who Falls and an excerpt from Batman: The Long Halloween. Batman Begins achieved first place in national sales and rental charts in October 2005, becoming the top-selling DVD in the fourth quarter of 2005. The DVD grossed $11.36 million in rental revenue. The DVD held its position at the top of the sales chart for a second week, but fell to second place behind Bewitched on video rental charts.
Batman Begins was released on HD DVD on October 10, 2006. A Limited Edition Giftset of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 8, 2008, to coincide with The Dark Knight which hit theaters July 16, 2008.
Awards[edit | edit source]
Wally Pfister was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 78th Academy Awards, receiving the film's only Oscar nomination. The film received three nominations at the 59th BAFTA Awards. Just months after its release, Batman Begins was voted by Empire readers as the 36th greatest film of all time. In 2006, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honored James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, and Ramin Djawadi with an ASCAP award for composing a film that became one of the top grossing films of 2005. The film was awarded three Saturn Awards in 2006 as well: Best Fantasy Film, Best Actor for Christian Bale, and Best Writing for Nolan and Goyer. Christian Bale would go on to win an MTV Movie Award for Best Hero. However, Katie Holmes's performance was not well received, and she was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Batman Begins won the fan-based Total Film award for Best Film.
References[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
- Official site
- Official production notes
- Film analysis at IGN
- Scene-by-scene annotations of Batman Begins
- Comic Vs. Film analysis at IGN
- Batman Begins at the Internet Movie Database
- Batman Begins at Rotten Tomatoes
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