Like many of you out there, I am a huge Batman fan. I am 34 years old, and as I get older, I feel as if I am getting closer to the character. I remember as a child, Saturday mornings were extra special, knowing I had cartoons to watch for two hours. I would run into the family room, turn on the TV, and watch my superheroes, and the one character I just couldn’t get enough of was the Batman.
I loved (and still do) drawing, so I would draw him over and over again, and if i was lucky enough my parents would buy me the occasional toy. Batman relates to so many people around the world on a variety of levels. For me, I appreciate the character so much because he doesn’t have any superpowers. He is a man who is driven by horrendous circumstances, and as a result, he has an unconditional promise with himself to achieve his goal. Putting that into practice, we see a man who uses his fortune to train his mind and his body to be something that can strengthen his own mortality. A symbol. A symbol of hope and justice, so much so that he arguably has the biggest following in the world of any other superhero today.
The Tone is set in 1989
1989. As a child growing up, I had yet to see Batman in a feature-length film. Batman was on the verge of being released in theaters, and I just couldn’t wait to see this new persona of my favorite superhero. Unfortunately, I had to wait for the video release before I could watch the film. That poor VHS tape, I’m pretty sure I ran it into the ground watching it so many times. I loved the dark and mysterious nature that was built around the character, and after Tim Burton gave us two sensational takes of the Dark Knight, I simply wanted more. Like many of you out there, I was just devastated at what Joel Schumacher did to the franchise. As a teenager, I was so disappointed at what I saw with Val Kilmer and George Clooney in the cape and cowl, it sent me back to those cartoons I watched as child. Then, I had to wait so long to see the next incarnation of Batman on the big screen.
Let’s fast forward to 2004: Enter the savior, Christopher Nolan. I was 23 years old and word was spreading early on that year a new Batman origin film was coming. While in production, the project was so secret, it had a code name that was being used within the industry to avoid too much information getting to the public. ‘Intimidation Game’. What a bloody cool code name; just finding that out got me pumped. The film was released June 15, 2005 and went on to be the 8th biggest film of the year. I remember finding out that Christian Bale was cast to play Bruce Wayne/Batman and at the time, I only recently watched him in American Psycho and thought the decision on him was something that was needed, considering what we last saw in the mid 90’s. The character, in my opinion, needed to get back to a more dark, deeply driven story with no time for humor. Christopher Nolan didn’t disappoint. He stripped away the bright colors and kiddy elements to deliver an origin story that was both realistic and dark and he crafted it in a manner that we hadn’t seen prior to the release. Batman Begins is one of the best origin films I’ve seen, so let’s relive the first full-length trailer that had me breathless.
It has been ten years since the release of Batman Begins, and the trailer still holds its own.
After what we saw last of Batman in 1997, to have this presented to us was just unbelievable on all fronts. I distinctly remember watching this online at work, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck rose. The first thing I wanted to do was control my level of expectation. That didn’t happen. It ran away from me so fast that Barry Allen himself couldn’t catch it.
To help celebrate 10 years since the release of Batman Begins, here are my top themes.
Christian Bale’s dedication to the Bruce Wayne / Batman
The character we have read in the comic books and come to love over the years demands such a physical presence. For me, because he has no super powers, the physicality of Bruce Wayne and how he builds his body is hugely important in his crusade. Transforming what is a physically perfect Bruce Wayne / Batman onto film is not an easy task. Christian Bale had his work cut out for him when preparing for his role in Batman Begins. His dedication to creating a real life incarnation of the character was something to behold! Bale had just come off the back of filming The Machinist and for that role, he had got his body weight down to an incredible 124 pounds. Standing tall at 6 foot 2, that is amazingly thin! Wanting to nail the physical nature of the Batman, he threw himself into a transformation program of both diet and training and got himself to 185 pounds (filming weight).
Prior to getting into shape for Batman, Christopher Nolan told him to become “big as you could be,” so he started a five-month diet and exercise regimen and got up to 220 pounds! When he arrived on set to shoot Batman Begins, the crew nicknamed him FatMan because he was too big. He quickly dropped 20 pounds to lean out.
That was the final result of what was a total of over 100 pounds of muscle gained in under five months! He shocked the world with how quickly he transformed.
A driven Bruce Wayne
I admired how Christopher Nolan carefully crafted the back story to just what Bruce Wayne was willing to put himself through to understand the underworld of crime. As a result, we see a young Bruce Wayne throw himself into a journey of the unknown, committing crimes, standing up to the Falcone family, and eventually finding himself locked in jail. The events that take place result in a “truly lost” Bruce Wayne that manages to attract the attention of Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul. Nolan articulates just how a driven Bruce Wayne has the dedication and power to becoming something special, but doesn’t know how to channel that energy. The components of the story that take us through Bruce Wayne’s time with the League Of Shadows explains a transformation of not just body, but mind. Throughout the time Bruce Wayne spends with the league, he forms his own philosophy on how justice should be upheld. This is made evident once Bruce’s training is complete and he is at odds with Ra’s over the beheading of a criminal.
Why Bats, Master Wayne?
Christopher Nolan creates a short scene that is very clear and direct in the intention that Bruce Wayne has for when he becomes the Batman. A clear motivator in the pursuit for justice is for Bruce Wayne to ensure he can inflict his fears onto those who prey on the weak. Alfred himself wonders what the motivator is for Wayne, as he assists him throughout the process of his transformation. He asks, “Why Bats, Master Wayne?”
The Mortality of the Batman
Within the context of a superhero film, one of the major factors that makes Batman Begins a great origin story is its steady theme of realism that is indisputable. I could highly appreciate how Nolan takes the time to explain and show how Bruce Wayne harnesses his craft as a vigilante. Once he has formed the symbol of the Batman and embarks on his journey to find the source of the drugs that the Falcone family is selling, he runs into trouble. One of my favourite scenes is when Batman finds drugs in an apartment block and to his surprise, Scarecrow (and his goons) crash the party. A very young Batman in nature drops what he is looking at and disappears into the shadows to surprise the goons. However, his inexperience is his undoing. Just when we think he has the situation under control, Scarecrow comes out of nowhere to spray his toxic fear gas onto the Batman. This scene is incredibly important in the context of the story because we see the mortality of Batman, and the fact that Bruce Wayne is risking his life to take on the crusade he has set out for himself. We all need to start from somewhere, and I am a true believer in that an audience builds a relationship much better with a character when they see what they have gone through to get to where they need to be. Batman has no superpowers, he is vulnerable, and his mortality is evident here.
Does it come in Black?
Prior to Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins, the best Batmobile on the big screen was Keaton’s 1989/1992 version. That car today still looks amazing. I particularly liked how there was no reference to a Batmobile in Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne didn’t assist in building his vehicle. The background story of a “bridging vehicle” set a nice tone to what we were eventually introduced to. Enter the Tumbler. The tank-like vehicle looked brute, mean, and complemented Bale’s Batman very well. Let’s go back and relive the moment when Bruce Wayne is introduced to what would become his Batmobile.
The Docks Scene
This scene goes down as my number one scene in all Batman films to date. I remember sitting in the theatre and experiencing this scene for the first time. It was our introduction to the Dark Knight. I drew so many parallels from the Batman comics I’ve read throughout my time and I was glad to see such an accurate and true representation of Batman, finally. The structure of the scene was carefully crafted; the quick shots and rapid movement meant we could only catch a glimpse of a “massive black shadow” moving in and out of the darkness. The scene was shot in the eyes of what Falcone’s goons were experiencing. Not being able to tell what was going on, only to know that they where being hunted. Quick, sharp, swift movements, picking off Falcone’s gang one by one in the fashion only known by someone trained by the League of Shadows. The drop where Batman lands between a group of goons and throws a well-coordinated combination of punches and kicks draws you into the scene. The camera work slices left and right, and before you know it, Batman is gently stepping back over a body after getting the job done. The introduction to the Dark Knight in Batman Begins can be experienced again here.
Batman Begins Soundtrack
Music is an art form. A medium of expression that inserts (if done properly) the right tone and character throughout a story when needed. The original film score for Batman Begins was carefully crafted and brought a unique experience to the film. Hans Zimmer is an amazing artist and when asked to compose the film score, he took it on, but wanted James Newton Howard to collaborate with him. The two created a unique blend of sound that was a combination of orchestra and electronic music, and the motivation for this was to represent the “split personality” between Bruce Wayne and Batman. A great piece of work that I still listen to today.
Batman Begins ten years on is just as brilliant as it was when released. Christopher Nolan produced a masterpiece that honoured the character we have grown to love, and set the benchmark for how superhero films should be created.
Comment below and let us know your thoughts on Batman Begins. What did you like or dislike about the film? Did you watch it on the big screen? Ten years on, do you look at the film in the same way you did when it was originally released?