In anticipation for Christopher Nolan's final entry into his Batman trilogy, we here at Cinema Blend are revisiting the caped crusader's earlier film outings to see how they hold up and speculate on how each may contribute to The Dark Knight Rises. We'll be posting a new Batman Rewind article each day, and you can revisit all the previous installments here.
Christopher Nolan had nowhere to go but up. Joel Schumacher’s one-two punch of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin had left the Caped Crusader in a bloodied, beaten heap of neon and nipples. All Nolan had to do was lay off the incessant ice puns and fans would accept his re-imagined Batman with open arms. But Nolan did so much more than that with Batman Begins. By treating the mythology of a classic superhero with a reverence reserved for royalty, Nolan shattered the template that had existed for Batman movies and raised the bar on the comic-book genre, as a whole. In short, he changed the game, completely. This revolution began with Batman Begins, an origin story.
Does Batman Begins hold up? Oh, hell yes. In fact, though some would consider this heresy, I’d argue that Batman Begins is the better of Nolan’s Batman movies to date (considering I haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet).
Without comparing it too much to The Dark Knight (which I deem as ambitious to a fault), Batman Begins streamlines the Caped Crusader’s origin into a briskly paced package. Nolan catches us off our guard almost immediately, showing us boy Bruce Wayne at Wayne Manor before jumping to an international prison where our hero’s deep into training. “You’re not the Devil, you’re practice,” he tells a hulking inmate (after dropping an off-the-cuff joke, reminding me that Batman Begins is actually funny).
There are two villains in Batman Begins (Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul), yet neither overshadow the Bat the way The Joker did in Dark Knight. (Heath Ledger is brilliant as the clown prince. Brilliant. But Dark Knight reminded me of the Burton/Schumacher era, when focus fell on the villains at the expense of our hero. Rarely good.) And Begins actually has Batman saving the citizens of Gotham from a specific threat. I still don’t understand the full implications of the Joker’s plan to blow up two ferry boats. But I’m in the minority.
How Does It Lead To The Dark Knight Rises?
Everything Nolan has said prior to The Dark Knight Rises implies that he’s concluding the trilogy that started with Batman Begins. The tagline on the first poster was, “The Legend Ends.” And in doing so, he’s likely going to tie together important themes that were launched in the initial chapter of this beloved series. Two of them stand out to me.
In training Bruce, Ra’s al Ghul talks to him about becoming “more than a man,” of establishing an overlapping culture of fear to prevent crime from spreading in Gotham. And that’s kind of where I think Nolan will head with the conclusion if Rises. Batman will vanquish Bane, a threat to his city, by establishing his own legacy as the city’s protector … a myth that might be bigger than the man. It’s a theory laced through Dark Knight as well, of a hero becoming what the people need him to be, even if its not the easiest thing for him to be at that moment. It’s bound to be an important theme as Rises draws to a close.
The second, and more important, ties into Batman falling. The wise Alfred asks, “Why do we fall, Master Wayne? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” I’m half expecting Nolan to show that sequence again in Rises, as Bruce recuperates from the brutal beating Bane (allegedly) administers. It has been the running theme of this trilogy. It’s all going to come to a head in Nolan’s final chapter. And it all started here.
And A Few More Things…
Best Scene Without question, it’s Gordon (Gary Oldman) turning over the Joker’s calling card at the end of the film, teasing a possible sequel for this incredibly enjoyable film. But the ending works in context, even if Batman Begins had tanked, for whatever reason. Nolan had established that Batman now existed in this new Gotham, and fans could take pleasure in knowing that his next opponent, at some time, would be his arch nemesis, The Joker. That we were able to see their face-off in The Dark Knight is that much sweeter.
Worst Scene Batman Begins has very few missteps. But the hero’s identity reveal to Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes is clunky, poorly timed and unbelievable. To blow his cover, he spouts back a random character quote that sounded scripted when she first said it, and sounds worse when he repeats it. Plus, there’s very little fallout (and even less gained) from this reveal, so what, really, was the point?
Best Michael Caine Line “What is the point of all those push-ups if you can't even lift a bloody log?”
Best Morgan Freeman Line “Mr Wayne, the way I see it, all this stuff is yours anyway.”
Best Liam Neeson Line “A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely.”