Movie Title: Batman Begins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Date Released: June 15th, 2005
Date Seen: When it first came out, again on July 17th, 2012
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
I will start by saying that it is a great movie. The movie is a set up for Christopher Nolan’s Batman/Gotham City. We get a deep back understanding of Bruce Wayne’s background and how he comes to be “The Batman”. We understand the relationship with Alfred, Mr. Fox, Rachel, and Gordon.
Now I’ll go on to say that I don’t think it’s the best Batman movie out there. The Dark Knight is so much better, and I have a feeling that DK Rises will be as well. But this movie is necessary and important for Christopher Nolan’s world to exist and be whole.
Watch the movie, it’s fantastic – but know that the ones after it will be even better.
Part 2 – In-Depth Spoiler Ridden Review/Synopsis
The beginning… 45 minutes or so of the movie is a mix of present, past (the last three years), and childhood memories of Bruce Wayne. I’ll make sure every paragraph starts with which time frame the scene takes place in.
Childhood: Young, maybe 8 year old Bruce and Rachel, the housekeeper’s daughter, are playing in the garden. They are fighting over who gets to keep an arrow head they found on the ground. Bruce ends up with it, runs off, and falls down a well. While lying there, obviously terrified, a swarm of bats fly out (scaring him even more).
Present: Bruce wakes up and appears to be in a Chinese prison. This memory he was having was a nightmare. At breakfast, an inmate starts a fight with him. Bruce beats his ass, and then about another 6 men come attack him. He beats them all – and then the guards come up and take Bruce to solitary confinement. He says he “doesn’t need protection” and the guards say “it’s for the other inmate’s protections”. Once inside his cell, a voice from the shadows starts speaking to Bruce. It is Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). He says he knows that Bruce wants to fight for justice, and offers him to come join the “League of Shadows”. They can teach him to be strong and fight for what is right – instead of just fighting inmates already locked up in a prison. Ducard tells Bruce that he will be released from prison tomorrow – and if he wants to accept Ducard’s offer, he must go pick a rare blue flower and then bring it to a specific mountain top. Obviously, the next day, Bruce does this. Once he reaches the mountain top with the flower, he finds a door – the door to the League of Shadows headquarters. There, he meets Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Wantanabe), the head of the League of Shadows. Ducard shows up, accepts the flower, then suddenly attacks Bruce – thus the training has begun. He says that “death does not wait for you to be ready” (one of many slogans in the movie that at some point will be repeated again). Bruce loses the fight and collapses.
Childhood: Bruce is pulled out of the well by his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache). He gets Bruce out of the well, and while he carries Bruce up to the mansion, Rachel’s mom apologizes and Thomas is very nice about it with the normal “accidents happen!” Bruce also hands Rachel over the arrow head. Dr. Thomas sets Bruce’s arm, with the help of Alfred (Michael Caine), the butler. Dr. Thomas and Bruce discuss how Bruce is now scared of bats, and is having nightmares. Dr. Thomas tries to make him feel better – and even shows him a new pearl necklace he bought for Mrs. Wayne. The next night, the family is going out. Mrs. Wayne is seen wearing the pearls, as the family rides the rail train through the streets of Gotham. Dr. Wayne built the rail system because it was a cheap transportation system for the masses and was needed. The train is in pristine condition. It takes you right by Wayne enterprises – which we learn that Dr. Wayne does not actually work at, and he has left in “more capable hands”. Dr. Wayne just works at the hospital. The family is watching the Opera, and during a scene, there are men flying around that look like bats. Bruce gets scared and asks his dad if they can leave. As the family exits, Dr. Thomas tells the wife that it’s just because he needed some air and had had enough Opera for the night. A man approaches the family demanding money and jewelry. Dr. Thomas hands him his wallet, but drops it. He keeps the man calm saying “it’s alright, it’s ok” while he picks up the wallet and hands it to him. The man demands the pearl necklace, and a bit of a struggle ensues because she is being too slow for the man, and both the parents end up shot. The man runs off. Next we see Bruce at the police station with Officer Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). They have a cute moment of Gordon comforting him and giving him his father’s jacket. Then a chief comes in to tell Bruce that they caught the man – Joe Chill (Richard Brake). We see the funeral, with everyone attending, including Rachel, and then we see a scene of Bruce telling Alfred that his parent’s death was his fault. Alfred says it was not his fault at all, but Chill’s.
Present: Ducard and Bruce are training, in various locations, one of which includes a frozen lake. Ducard ask Bruce if he still feels guilty, and Bruce says that he is too angry to feel guilty anymore. Ducard keeps engaging Bruce to make him more and more angry – and even says that Bruce’s parents death was his father, Dr. Thomas’s, fault. Bruce lets his rage get the best of him, and thinks he is about to win the fight, when Ducard points out that Bruce isn’t aware of his surroundings – and has sacrificed his sure footing on the frozen lake for a “kill” shot. Bruce then falls into the frozen lake as the spot he is standing on breaks. That night Ducard says that he joined the League of Shadows after his wife was murdered and he wanted to seek his vengeance. Bruce says he can’t get his. Why not? Well there’s a conveniently timed flash back!
3 Years Ago Past: Bruce comes home from Princeton for Joe Chill’s parole hearing. Alfred has kept charge of the house, and is still worried about Bruce. Considering he’s the one that basically raised him, understandable. Rachel drives Bruce to the parole hearing. We find out that she is now an ADA, and is working on the case. Chill is most likely going to be granted parole because while he was in prison he “learned things” from his cell-mates. Bruce is obviously appalled that he would be let out, but Rachel explains that he knows important information about a crime boss, Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). At the hearing, Chill says he thinks about that day, every day, and wishes he could take it back, and blah blah blah, Bruce can’t take it and leave. Chill is granted parole. We see him walking out of the courtroom, surrounded by reporters and others, and we see Bruce from across the room approaching Chill. Bruce has a gun in his hand. Before he can reach Chill, however, a woman runs up and says “Falcone says hi!” and shoots Chill. Rachel tries to rush Bruce own, saying he shouldn’t watch it, but Bruce waits and watches Chill die. In the car, Rachel talks about how Gotham is going to shit because of Falcone and his crime/drug empire. When they get back to the mansion, Bruce reveals that he was planning on shooting Chill. Rachel slaps him and says “your father would be ashamed.” Bruce decides to go and confront Falcone – since he has nothing to live for anymore. Falcone says he has the whole town under his thumb, that everyone is dirty (dirty cops, judges, etc.), and he’s in control. He also points out that Rachel and Albert are pretty important people in Bruce’s life, and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to them now do we? Falcone’s people rough him up and throw him out. For Rachel and Albert’s safety Bruce decides he must leave Gotham City. Bruce leaves everything behind, becomes a stowaway on a cargo ship, and goes to China. There he lives on the street. Here we get some voice-overs of Bruce telling Ducard what it felt like “the first time he stole”, or the “fear before committing a crime”… all while seeing visuals of it going on. We finally see what Bruce was arrested for – stealing some cargo from a truck. Bruce tells the cops he’s sorry and the cop says “tell that to this guy” as he taps a box… that has WAYNE INDUSTRIES written all over it. Ha. So then Bruce goes to the jail we saw him at at the beginning of the movie.
Present: Bruce is finally to a point where they think he is ready to officially join the League of Shadows. There is a final test where everyone is dressed as Ninjas, including Ducard, and Bruce must defeat Ducard. Even worse – he’s been given a mild drug at the beginning of it. When he opens one box during the test he “sees” bats. But he manages to overcome his fear and eventually he tricks Ducard and gets him in a “kill” shot.
Ra’s al Ghul gives Bruce one final task, before he is officially in the League. He must kill a prisoner who murdered his neighbor. Bruce refuses, and Ra’s and Ducard are clearly taken back. They explain that Bruce was trained so that he can lead the League to Gotham City – and fix the corruption there. The League’s whole mission is to make sure everything is “balanced” and “equal”. Ducard points out that compassion is Bruce’s one weakness. This man KILLED someone and deserves to be murdered himself. Bruce still refuses and a fight ends up ensuing. It’s a quick fight, where Ra’s al Ghul ends up dead, the whole headquarters is on fire. Bruce rescues Ducard from the fire, and leaves him with a townsperson.
Somehow, Bruce has managed to contact Alfred – who comes to pick Bruce up in his plane. On the plane ride, we learn that Bruce has been declared dead because he’s been gone for 7 years. Another reason he’s been declared dead is so that 1. All the shares go to Alfred (as per Bruce’s will), and 2. Now William Earle, another person in charge of the company, has decided to take it public. Bruce tells Alfred that he is back – to clean up Gotham – and has a plan to take on the criminals of the city. At the manor, Bruce explores more, catching up on what has been going on while he’s been gone. Alfred comments about how annoying the bats are, as one is flying around the house, and that they must nest somewhere on the grounds. Bruce knows they nest in the well from the incident when he was a child and so he goes down there. He looks around and notices that it is a huge open space and would be a good place for his operations. To do this, he must confront his fear of bats which he seems to be over with now.
At the courthouse, we see Rachel working on another case. A psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), is testifying on the behalf of a serial killer, Victo Zsaz (Tim Booth). Crane recommends that Zsaz be moved to his asylum for treatment. The judge agrees. Outside the courtroom, Rachel confronts him with the fact that this is another of many of Falcone’s known thugs that has been taken out of prison custody and moved to Crane’s asylum. Crane yells for the DA to come over and threatens her with the “implications of what she is saying”. The DA tells Rachel in private that they just need proof of something going on and they don’t really have it yet. That night, Crane meets with Falcone – and tells him that Rachel needs to be dealt with. Falcone doesn’t see the problem with her, but Crane starts threatening him, with the idea that someone stronger is coming to Gotham, and won’t care about Falcone. So even though it appears Falcone has all the power in the town, Crane is working with someone more powerful that Falcone is scared of – although we don’t know who yet.
Bruce goes back to Wayne Enterprises – and announces his presence in the middle of a board meeting. Nice entrance. Earle is obviously in shock, but still says that Bruce can’t prevent the company from going public, as it’s already almost done. Bruce is ok with that, and says he just wants a job. He suggests the Applied Sciences area, which Earle is most happy with. Bruce meets the director of the Applied Sciences Department, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Fox explains that he was sent to this department as a kind of “dead-end” to shut him up. Fox was very much in line with Dr. Thomas’s type ideas, rather than Earle’s. Fox shows Bruce some of the things they have down there, including a super cool $300,000 kevlar suit. Bruce asks to “borrow” it. Fox lets him, since he considers it all to be Bruce’s anyway.
Back at the mansion, we see Bruce and Alfred exploring the cave, which is really the base of the foundation of the mansion. They find an old elevator shaft in the southwest corner leading up to the house, and discuss the history of the house. We also see Bruce altering the suit a bit (spraying it black, adding things, etc.). One night while wearing a ski mask and his suit, Bruce breaks into the now Sergeant Jim Gordon’s office. He holds a stapler (pretending it’s a gun) to the back of his head to make him listen. Bruce says he knows that Gordon is a good cop, that’s why he came. He asks why no one has taken down Falcone, and Gordon says it’s because no one is willing to take that on. Bruce says Rachel will, and what else does he need. Gordon says they need leverage on the corrupt judge. Bruce says he will get it for him, and tells Gordon to “watch for his sign”. Bruce leaves, and Gordon and some other cops chase him out. It’s obvious that at this point, Batman needs more work – because he couldn’t get from one rooftop to another, he just kind of fell down the side. But he did manage to get away. He also goes and spies on Falcone and Crane. He hears of Falcone’s plan to have some people jump Rachel off the train to off her – since random muggings happen all the time. He also hears of their drug shipment coming in a few days.
Going back to Fox, who tells Bruce he doesn’t care what he’s doing with the stuff, just to not tell him so he has plausible deniability, Bruce gets some new toys. Here he finds a cool fabric that when has electricity run through it can hold a shape. This is what he makes “bat wings” out of. He also discovers the tumbler – what shall become the “batmobile” of sorts. Now Bruce really works on his suit and getting everything together. Alfred asks why the bat symbol. Bruce says it’s because since he’s afraid of bats, everyone else should be too.
At the docks, we see Falcone and a corrupt police officer overseeing the incoming shipment of drugs. Falcone tells the police officer that half the drugs go to the dealers, and the other half go to someone else. He doesn’t know what they do with them, but doesn’t care as long as he gets paid. Around then, some of the men start freaking out – because one screamed and then disappears. Dun-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-BATMAN! So there’s a little confused battle of the Batman employing his ninja skills and kicking everyone’s ass. Including Falcone. Batman leaves Falcone on a searchlight – positioned in such a way that the shadow in the sky looks like a bat.
We see Rachel get off a train, and then start to get jumped by two thugs. She threatens one with a taser, while he is staring at a dark shadow behind her (Batman), beating up the other thug. He runs off and she is proud of herself, and then turns around and sees Batman and is scared – so shoots him with her taser. It has no effect. He gives Rachel some photographs that we don’t really see, of compromising evidence towards the corrupt judge. He also tells her that she needs to take down Falcone. Then he leaves.
The next day, the whole town is buzzing with news about the Batman. The DA agrees with Rachel that they finally have enough evidence to take down Falcone – and the police are searching for the Batman. When Bruce wakes up at 3 pm, Alfred gives him shit while he (Bruce) does some pushups about how he needs to maintain a normal appearance as to not arouse suspicions. So he does that – by taking two hot ladies in a convertible to a party that night. He does very rich party boy stuff, like watching his two ladies jump in a fountain, almost getting kicked out, but buying the hotel to avoid that and jumping in the fountain as well. As he goes to leave, Rachel walks in. They haven’t seen each other since he’s gotten back from China. He tries to explain that this isn’t him and Rachel says “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”
At the prison, Falcone has attempted suicide so they send in Dr. Crane to assess his condition. Falcone really only cut his wrists so that he could get moved to the asylum, just like all his other thugs. Falcone tells Crane he better get him moved to the asylum – or else he’ll tell the police to take a closer look at the drugs that Falcone was bringing in for him (Crane). So Crane is the man who was receiving the special half of the drugs. Crane responds by bringing out a burlap sack. He says that he uses it on his patients. And while it might not appear scary to a man like Falcone, it’s terrifying to everyone else. He puts on his mask (which has a gas mask type thing inside) and releases a toxin into the room that causes Crane to appear distorted and terrifying now. It honestly is terrifying. The voice, the mask, etc. It’s very well done to scare the shit out of you – but is over quick. Crane leaves the screaming Falcone behind and says that “oh yeah, he’s definitely insane” and has him moved to the asylum.
The next night, Batman goes to see Gordon. Batman tells Gordon that something else was in those drugs and he needs to be careful. Batman then goes and interrogates the rogue cop who was at the docks, by flinging him up and down and up and down on his grappling hook. He learns that they take the drugs to a specific location. Batman goes to this location, and then we see Crane enter. They are going to burn the apartment down. Batman knocks out the thugs and confronts Crane. Crane quickly puts on his mask and releases some of the toxin into the air, causing Batman to go crazy. He then sets Batman on fire and pushes him out a window. Although insane and hallucinating, Batman manages to get himself to a safe place on a roof and call Alfred. On the drive home he is seen shaking and hallucinating in the back seat with Alfred clearly worried. Also at some point in here, we see the DA with two cops, looking at a barge. The barge came in with one more shipping container than intended. They open it up and find a microwave emitter that was stolen from Wayne enterprises. But, the cops reveal themselves to be dirty and shoot the DA to keep this quiet. So the DA is now dead.
Bruce wakes up two days later from his hallucinations – on his birthday. Alfred had to call Fox over to treat Bruce. Fox has made some antidote, and Bruce asks if he can make more. We also find out that the antidote inoculates you from the toxin as well, so you’ll remain immune for a while (how long, we don’t know nor ever find out). Rachel comes by to drop off a present for Bruce. She mentions that her boss, the DA, has been missing for two days (duh because he’s dead!) and won’t be able to make it to his birthday party that night. She also rushes to leave as she gets word that Falcone has been moved to Crane’s asylum. She leaves, and Bruce opens up her present – the arrow head from the beginning of the movie, when they were kids. Aw how cute. But Bruce knows that Rachel is in danger if she goes and confronts Crane, so he rushes off to get ready as Batman. He tells Alfred to stall the guests at his party if he’s not back. This day also, we see Earle firing Fox for asking too many questions about the stolen microwave emitter thing. He tells Fox “didn’t you get the memo”? In response to his firing.
Rachel arrives at the asylum and is talking to Crane. Falcone is seen in the background muttering “scarecrow” over and over. Crane says he has picked that image to focus on in his insanity, and isn’t sure why. Rachel demands that Falcone be evaluated by a court psychiatrist. He agrees, but first takes her to “see the drugs they make”. He leads her to the basement and opens a door. Here we see a number of the inmates working with the toxin and pouring it directly into the city’s water supply. Rachel freaks out and tries to run away. Crane catches her in the elevator, puts on his mask, and douses her with the toxin. Again, crazy scary. About that time the lights go out – duh-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-BATMAN! Crane says to call the police – as they won’t be able to stop the toxin, but might help in stopping the Batman. He also says not to worry about Rachel because she’s been giving such a high dose of the drug that she’s not going to make it very long. Batman appears in the basement and kicks some thug ass. He also manages to get in a position where he douses Crane with his own toxin. Hallucination-Batman is creepy, but doesn’t have the same fear effect as the scarecrow did, in my opinion. He interrogates Crane and he gets out the information that Crane is working for Ra’s Al Ghul… Batman is super confused. But he gets Rachel out. There is a nice little chase scene of police vs. Batman – who was slowed down because he was carrying Rachel. So there is an epic tumbler chase scene that is a couple minutes long. Very enjoyable. He gets back to the Batcave and finds three vials of the antidote left by Fox. He manages to save Rachel. When she does wake up, Batman explains what happened and tells her that she needs to make sure the other two vials get to Gordon. One for himself, and one to create a mass antidote. He then sedates her and has Alfred take her home.
Bruce manages to walk into his party right for a nice chorus of Happy Birthday. Earle tells him happy birthday and informs him that the public stock offering went well, and mostly random trusts and brokerage firms bought the stock. Bruce also talks to Fox and thanks him for the antidote and tells him what he saw. Back at the asylum we saw Gordon discussing with a fellow cop what they were doing – dumping the powder into the water supply. Since no one seems to have been affected yet, it must need to be inhaled to have effect. Bruce tells Fox what they were doing – and says it wouldn’t matter unless you could turn that much water into vapor all of a sudden… like with a microwave emitter… like the one that was stolen…. Oh shit. Bruce tells Fox to sneak back into the tower somehow and to make tons more of the antidote. About that time, a woman comes over and tells Bruce he simply must meet this man… a mister Ra’s Al Ghul. He turns around, and Bruce says “you’re not Ra’s”… and about that time, Ducard comes up from behind him and begins speaking. Bruce starts connecting the dots and remembers one element of training was to hide oneself…. So the real Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) did this, by pretending to be Ducard, while the Ken Wantanabe character was just a decoy. Ohhhh snap. Ra’s points out that he always said compassion was Bruce’s one weakness – i.e., should have let him die. Bruce knows what’s coming, so he asks if he can get the innocents out. He does this by pretending he’s a drunken mess and insulting everyone. They leave and there is a nice scene of everyone leaving, except for the strategically placed members of the League of Shadows.
Ra’s tells Bruce that their mission has forever been to make sure that there is balance in the universe. They keep control of that balance. Gotham is so corrupt that it needs to be destroyed. Craned wanted to hold the city for ransom with his toxin, but Ra’s plans on destroying it to restore the sense of balance to the world. At the same time, we see the corrupt members of the city start to implement their grand plan. Releasing people from the prison, from the asylum, getting the microwave emitter ready, etc. Ra’s gives Bruce one more chance to join the League of Shadows, and Bruce still refuses. The other members of the League start to set Bruce’s house on fire and a quick fight ensues as the house starts to burn. Bruce once again, loses to Ra’s because he “isn’t aware of his surroundings” and a beam that is on fire falls down on top of Bruce. Ra’s leaves him to die. Alfred luckily gets back in time to save Bruce. He comes in and drags him out and informs him of the other pandemonium in the city. He goes to become the Batman.
In the midst of the complete chaos, police are moving from central Gotham to Narrows Island. They are planning on raising the bridge to the island (which is where most of the crime, the prison and the asylum are) so that they are at least contained there. They have yet to experience the toxin. After Rachel wakes up, she heads towards the island as well to give Gordon the vials. She gives them to him and he says that they must get her off the island – so he has a cop start to take her off. Around that time, we’ve seen the last SWAT vehicle being allowed on the island before they raise the bridges. We recognize the driver as one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s men. Rachel happens to see one of the men shoving away a small boy who says he can’t find his parents – and she witnesses Ra’s getting out of the van and bringing out the microwave emitter. Uh oh. They go and put it on the train (built by Bruce’s parents which is now in disgusting condition). As soon as the bridge is raised, they start moving the train and setting off the emitter. As the emitter goes over a pipeline, it vaporizes all the liquid in it – allowing the toxin to turn into steam which can be inhaled. As soon as this starts happening, Gordon gives himself the antidote and starts trying to control the chaos around him. The whole area is going insane – people trying to kill each other, being violent, etc. Rachel gets confronted by Crane, while trying to hide with the boy, who now calls himself “The Scarecrow”. In a very satisfying move, she shoots him with her taser as he rides off whining about how it hurt.
Right as Gordon is calling Gotham for reinforcements, and the police chief guy says “there is no one left to send” we see the tumbler shoot across the bridge and onto the island. He goes to Gordon and tells him that Ra’s is planning on taking the train to Wayne Tower – which is the hub of the water lines. If the train reaches there, everyone in Gotham is in for a major mind fuck. He says he needs Gordon’s help, and he asks what he can do. Batman leaves with a “well, can you drive a stick?”. Batman goes and finds Rachel and saves her from a group of inmates. He leaves her and the boy on a rooftop. Right as he is about to leave she asks who he is. He says “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” She says “Bruce?” and he jumps off. So oh snap, another one of those lines coming back to haunt us… I mean make the plot better… whatever.
After defeating some of the League of Shadows, Bruce eventually manages to get on the train. The tumbler is not far behind it. Every where the train passes, we see more of the toxin being released. Now is the final battle between Ra’s and Bruce. It’s pretty satisfying, although with way too many of those repeated lines from earlier in the movie. At one point, it looks like Ra’s is going to win. And he says something like “no matter what you do, you can’t stop this train!” and Bruce says “who said anything about stopping it?” Ra’s looks up to see the controls broken so that the car will keep moving forward, and the tumbler having reached its destination, shooting the tracks down so that the car cannot continue forward. Batman pins Ra’s down and says although he isn’t going to kill him, he isn’t going to save him either. Ra’s accepts his death and watches as the train car falls of the tracks and explodes, along with the microwave emitter.
Now, the movie doesn’t show it, but we’re supposed to believe that everyone got the antidote and was fine by the next day. Ok…..
Earle arrives at Wayne Towers for a board meeting, only to find it being run by Fox. He says he has a new job….. Earle calls Bruce and asks him on what authority he thinks he can hire Fox. Bruce says because he owns the company. Earle says that since they went public, no he doesn’t. Bruce says he bought it with some trusts and brokerage firms (repeated line!). Earle is clearly pissed and says “oh, and I took your job…. You’re fired…. Didn’t you get the memo?” (repeated line again!)
At the manor, Bruce is working on the now burned own mansion when Rachel comes up. They have emo moments that end with Rachel saying she was wrong and that Bruce’s father would be proud of him… and she is as well. Rachel asks Bruce what he will do. He says he’ll rebuild it… just like it was before… brick by brick (oh man, is he referring to the house or the city… we’ll never know!)…. After Rachel leaves, Alfred says “just the way it was? I was thinking we could make some improvements… on the southeast corner…” (which is where the elevator to the batcave was).
The final scene is Batman meeting with Gordon, who is now a lieutenant. Gordon has made the signal light that we all recognize. He mentions that he is working on a case with a killer, who leaves a calling card at the scene of each crime, and hands Batman a Joker playing card. Batman says he’ll look into it. He then jumps off the roof and glides away…..
I think it’s a great movie, but the weakest of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. The acting is great; the visuals are great, I just want so much more!