The Dark Knight Trilogy Reviews Part 1: BATMAN BEGINS
A seven year journey from the depths of a Bhutanese prison to the Batcave. The first in a series of reviews of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy.
The Dark Knight Trilogy. A seven year journey from the depths of a Bhutanese prison to the Batcave. A journey showcasing the triumph of good over evil and the consequences that arise from trying to stop it. It’s a story about fear, chaos, pain, love, corruption, the consequences of your actions, power and overcoming obstacles. So, now that the trilogy has wrapped up, I thought it’d be a good time to give my own reviews of each film. This is the first of three reviews coming for the trilogy.
Batman Begins introduced a radically new interpretation (for film) of the Batman story, grounds him in a heightened reality similar to our own and shows what it truly means for someone to take on the duty as a city’s protector.
Batman Begins was no doubt going to be an improvement on the previous instalment, I don’t think there was a possibility that it could be worse than Batman and Robin, but no one knew if it was going to be better than Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns or Schumacher’s Batman Forever. For a lot of fans, this was the best thing to happen to the Batman franchise. It brought more weight to the character, and even started a whole new era of comic book movies. Without Begins, we wouldn’t have Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk or the rest of the MCU. Begins was, and is, the template for origin stories. In fact, it is widely regarded as the best on screen origin story (it’s major competition being Iron Man).
The story of Batman Begins is the journey of Bruce Wayne. Taking inspiration from Year One and The Man Who Falls, Nolan and Goyer crafted one of the best stories of a man becoming a legend that has been told. Bruce Wayne is lost after the death of his parents and travels the world to learn how to fight injustice in Gotham City. On his travels, he meets Ra’s al Ghul and trains under him for years. Though, this apprenticeship is broken when Bruce is asked to kill a man. Instead, he burns down the temple and escapes. He travels back to Gotham and begins his mission to become a legend. With access to the Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences Department, courtesy of Lucius Fox, and help from the James Gordon, he takes on both the Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul. The story, for me, gets an 8/10. The first and second acts were some of the best Batman moments on screen and it crafts a wonderful origin story that will likely be used as a model for years to come. But, around the third act, it begins to kind of fall a bit flat. It was just a little predictable. 8/10
Another major component to this film was the acting. The acting in this film is simply phenomenal from most of the actors and actresses in this movie. Christian Bale plays the best on screen interpretation of Batman to date, playing his three personalities with ease. He plays the billionaire playboy, which was missing in most of the older movies for me, Batman and the more casual Bruce Wayne. Each personality feels like a real person.
Every other actor plays their role extremely well. But, the standout performance from the supporting cast, in my eyes, is Gary Oldman. He absolutely nails James Gordon to a T. His looks, his characterizations, everything. The character was one of my favourite parts of this movie. In this trilogy, Jim Gordon is the heart and soul. Well, him and…
Michael Caine as Alfred. Michael Caine, in everything I’ve seen him in, has never had a bad performance. He gives it his all each and every time. And his role as Alfred is no exception. He plays the role with a heart and soul, bringing more emotional weight to the franchise.
Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul/Henri Ducard. Liam Neeson is a fantastic actor, even when in one of the worst pieces of garbage imaginable (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). His acting was one of the few positives in that movie. He’s often seen as a protagonist, or as another heroic role. Ra’s/Ducard, to my knowledge, was his first villain role and he did it amazingly. Liam brought the character to life on screen and did it perfectly.
One of the threads in every film of the trilogy, Scarecrow, is played by Cillian Murphy. And this portrayal of Crane is absolutely perfect. He looked and acted as I imagined Scarecrow would, given the circumstances. He was always a pleasure to see on screen.
Now, for my biggest gripe in the movie, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. I don’t know, something about me just didn’t like her. Maybe it was the writing? Maybe it was her acting? I don’t know, there was just something about her that just put me off. Possibly the fact she was too self-righteous to seem a real person. She was just too one dimensional for me.
Morgan Freeman brought an excellent performance as Lucius Fox, seeming to leap right off the pages of the comic books and graphic novels. There is simply no one I can see surpassing him as Lucius Fox in a future film, he just is the character.
The acting for this film gets: 9/10.
Let’s start off with the major villain in the movie, Ra’s al Ghul (Ducard). Ra’s is a great villain. He’s an eco-terrorist, he (in this interpretation, I’m not sure about if this is done in any comics) trains Bruce, he’s his physical equal. The two of them are fighting for the same cause, to purge the world (and Gotham City, specifically here) from crime. But, while Bruce does this without killing and keeping to a moral code, Ra’s has no moral code. He will drive a city insane to have it destroy itself in order to achieve his goals. One interesting question that isn’t answered is this: Is Ducard always Ra’s? Or is Ra’s al Ghul a title? Did Ducard just inherit that title after Bruce accidently killed the other Ra’s? Or was he Ra’s the whole time? I’m going to assume he was Ra’s the whole time, because of certain events in the third. But, it could have been a name change. He could have changed his name to Ra’s al Ghul from Ducard. Seeing as this trilogy is over, we’ll never know. Ra’s is a fantastic villain, but he is one of this franchise’s weakest. Liam portrayed him perfectly and he was written spot on but he just doesn’t match up to the likes of The Joker and Bane. So, for that, I give Ra’s 4/5.
Scarecrow is a thread that runs through the entire series but this is when he has a major starring role. He’s clever, cunning and sneaky. To me, this was Scarecrow right out of the comics (albeit with costume changes). He, like Batman, used fear as a weapon. But, unlike Batman, he had not embraced his fears. He was still afraid of bats, and Batman, as shown when Batman is his worst nightmare after he got gassed with fear toxin. But, Crane really is a minor villain in the grand scheme of things. He is taken out rather quickly and besides getting the toxin into the water supply, he doesn’t do too much. He’s a great character but out of the villains in this series, he’s probably the second weakest. I love him, but I’m going to give him a 3.5/5.
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, as with everyone involved with this film, bring their A game to this film. They crafts one of my all-time favourite scores, with themes of it echoes in both follow up soundtracks for the sequel films. Music is an often overlooked element of storytelling. Music can set a mood without words and without pictures. Fast paced music implies an action sequence and gets us in the mood for that even without a visual aid. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard perfectly set the tone in this film with their score. And that is why the score gets a 10/10.
The proper director is crucial for a film. It can make a film (Whedon and Avengers) or it can break a film (Schumacher and Batman). Christopher Nolan seemed like an odd choice, given his previous picture, Memento. But, this gamble paid off in the end with one of the greatest comic book films and the greatest origin film yet. The cinematography by Wally Pfister is simply amazing. The production design is perfect. Gotham, for the first time, feels like a real, breathing city. It was nice to see Batman return to his darker roots after the campy Batman and Robin. It was also and interesting decision to base Batman in a heightened reality based on the real world. The fight scenes in this film are often criticized for being too distracting and making it unable to figure out what's going on in the scene, though I never actually felt that way. The direction for this film gets a 10/10.
Now, I love this film, as you can probably guess, but does it have its flaws? Yes. First of all, Bruce Wayne has a no kill policy. I can understand Ra’s because Ra’s killed himself by destroying the controls of the train. But, he did burn down the temple in the mountains. That at least killed the farmer he refused to murder. Then there had to casualties from the amount of ninjas inside. I can understand a lot escaping, but at least some had to die. Then there’s the biggest casting mistake in this franchise: Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. Chalk this up to poor writing for her character or Katie’s acting (or both) but I never could really buy Rachel in this movie. She was too good to be real. She was too clean cut. She barely had any personality to her. Also, how did Scarecrow survive the concentrated dosage that Rachel got when he didn’t get an antidote? For this one, I’m going to assume that he got an antidote off screen, but it still bothers me.
Act 1 Notes:
-After the scene with the death of Bruce’s parents, I didn’t notice until this viewing that when he’s sitting in the GCPD, he has his father’s jacket on. It’s way too big for him and hangs around him like a cape, Batman’s cape. It occurred to me that maybe the cape is more than just a glider, maybe it’s a tribute to his father’s murder. Maybe it’s to remind him of his father’s embrace and as a tribute to the protective blanket that Thomas Wayne tried to cover Gotham with.
Act 2 Notes:
-It occurred to me while watching this time that the mention of the civil war ties into the themes of the film. It’s a small beat but it ties into the larger picture of the series, that right and wrong are a constant flow and is being fought every day on every level of society.
Act 3 Notes:
-I find it funny that Bruce finds a stethoscope in the ashes of Wayne Manor. His father was a doctor, so it makes sense but what I find funny about it is its usage. A stethoscope is used to listen to one’s heart. Not only does Bruce learn to listen to his own heart in this movie, but the heart of Gotham. As we are reminded by Thomas Wayne, Wayne Tower is in the heart of Gotham City. Bruce is the heart of Gotham City.
The revival of the Batman franchise gets a 44.5/50.
Do you agree with my review? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading.
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