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BATMAN BEGINS

Batman Begins is a 2005 British-American superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Christian Bale as Batman along with Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the character from Bruce Wayne's initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, his journey to become Batman, and his fight against Ra's al Ghul's plot to destroy Gotham City. It draws inspiration from classic comic book storylines such as 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 failure of Batman & Robin, Nolan and David S. Goyer began to 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, which was primarily shot in England and Chicago, relied on traditional stunts and miniatures. Computer generated imagery was used minimally.

Batman Begins was both critically and commercially successful. The film opened on June 17th, 2005, in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed $48 million in its opening weekend in North America, eventually grossing over $372 million worldwide. The film received a generally positive critical response and has been considered by many as one of the best superhero films ever made. Critics noted that fear was a common motif throughout the film, and remarked that it had a darker tone compared with previous Batman films. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and three BAFTA awards.

The film is followed by The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) in a continual story-arc, which has later been referred to as The Dark Knight trilogy.

Memento director Christopher Nolan (pictured right) was hired to direct an untitled Batman film in January 2003, 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." Nolan felt the previous films were exercises in style rather than drama, and described his inspiration as being Richard Donner's 1978 film 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.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman:

Wayne is a billionaire industrialist whose parents were killed by a mugger when he was eight years old. Traveling the world for several years to seek the means to fight injustice, he returns to Gotham. At night, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Bale was cast on September 11th, 2003, having expressed interest in playing Batman since Darren Aronofsky was planning his own film adaptation. Some of the early candidates for the Batman/Bruce Wayne role were Billy Crudup, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Joshua Jackson, Eion Bailey, Cillian Murphy, and Heath Ledger. Amy Adams served as the casting reader for the casting of Bruce Wayne/Batman in a favor to the casting director. Bale felt the previous films underused Batman's character, overplaying the villains instead. To best pose as Batman, Bale studied graphic novels and illustrations of the superhero. Director Nolan said of Bale, "He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for." Goyer stated that while some actors could play a great Bruce Wayne or a great Batman, Bale could portray both radically different personalities. Bale described the part as playing four characters: the raging Batman persona; the shallow playboy façade Bruce uses to ward off suspicion; the vengeful young man; and the older, angrier Bruce who is discovering his purpose in life. Bale's dislike of his costume, which heated up regularly, helped him get into a necessarily foul mood. He said, "Batman's meant to be fierce, and you become a beast in that suit, as Batman should be – not a man in a suit, but a different creature." Since he had lost a great deal of weight in preparation for his role in The Machinist, Bale hired a personal trainer to help him gain 100 pounds (45 kg) in the span of only a couple of months to help him physically prepare for the role. He first went well over the weight required and created concern over whether he would look right for the part. Bale recognized that his large physique was not appropriate for Batman, who relies on speed and strategy. He lost the excess weight by the time filming began. The role of Bruce Wayne at age eight was portrayed by Gus Lewis.

Gary Oldman as James Gordon:

One of the few uncorrupted Gotham City police officers. He was the officer on duty the night of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. In this way, he shares a special bond with the adult Bruce and thus with Batman. Nolan had originally approached Oldman about playing a villain, but when Chris Cooper turned down the role of Gordon to spend time with his family he decided that it would be refreshing for Oldman, who is renowned for his portrayals of villains, to play the role instead. "I embody the themes of the movie which are the values of family, courage and compassion and a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and justice," Oldman said of his character. Oldman filmed most of his scenes in Britain. Oldman heavily resembled Gordon as drawn by David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One.

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox:

A high-ranking Wayne Enterprises employee who was demoted to working in the company's Applied Science Division, where he conducts advanced studies in biochemistry and mechanical engineering. Fox supplies Bruce with much of the gear necessary to carry out Batman's mission and is promoted to CEO when Bruce takes control of the company by the end of the film. Freeman was Goyer's first and only choice for the role.

Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth:

The trusted butler to Bruce Wayne's parents, who continues his loyal service to their son after their deaths. He is Bruce Wayne's closest confidant. Nolan felt Caine would effectively portray the foster father element of the character. Although Alfred's family is depicted in the film as having served the Wayne family for generations, Caine created his own backstory, in that before becoming Wayne's butler, Alfred served in the Special Air Service. After being wounded, he was invited to the position of the Wayne family butler by Thomas Wayne because, "He wanted a butler, but someone a bit tougher than that, you know?"

Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard:

A mysterious man who trains Bruce in the martial arts. Initially posing as a subservient member of the League of Shadows, an organization led by Ra's al Ghul, it is later revealed that he is Ra's al Ghul himself who used the name "Ducard" as a pseudonym to hide his true identity. Writer David Goyer said he felt he was the most complex of all the Batman villains, comparing him to Osama bin Laden; "He's not crazy in the way that all the other Batman villains are. He's not bent on revenge; he's actually trying to heal the world. He's just doing it by very draconian means." Christopher Nolan had discussions with his Memento collaborator Guy Pearce about playing the role, but both of them decided that the actor was too young for the part. Neeson is commonly cast as a mentor, so the revelation that his character was the main villain was intended to shock viewers.

Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone:

The most powerful Mafia boss in Gotham. He had shared a prison cell with Joe Chill after Chill murdered Wayne's parents. He had Chill murdered when he decided to testify against Falcone. He goes into business with Dr. Jonathan Crane and Ra's al Ghul by smuggling in Crane's fear toxins through his drug shipments over the course of several months so that they can be mixed in with the city's water supply. Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) was played by Cillian Murphy. Crane is a corrupt psychopharmacologist who works as Chief Administrator of Arkham Asylum and developed the fear-inducing toxin from a flower that grows in Ra's al Ghul's sanctuary. He takes on the persona of the Scarecrow to use during his experiments, in which he uses his patients as human guinea pigs for his toxins. Nolan decided against Irish actor Murphy for Batman, before casting him as Scarecrow. Murphy read numerous comics featuring the Scarecrow, and discussed making the character look less theatrical with Nolan.

Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes:

Bruce's childhood friend and love interest who serves as Gotham City's assistant district attorney, fighting against the corruption in the city. Nolan found a "tremendous warmth and great emotional appeal" in Holmes, and also felt "she has a maturity beyond her years that comes across in the film and is essential to the idea that Rachel is something of a moral conscience for Bruce". Emma Lockhart portrays the young Rachel Dawes.

Nolan's personal "jumping off point" of inspiration was The Man Who Falls, a short story by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano 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 they "couldn't do him justice". The character was later portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight. 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.

A common idea in the comics is that Bruce saw a Zorro film with his parents before they were murdered. Nolan explained that by ignoring that idea, which he stated is not found in Batman's first appearances, it emphasized the importance of bats to Bruce and that becoming a superhero is a wholly original idea on his part. It is for this reason Nolan believes other DC characters do not exist in the universe of his film; otherwise, Wayne's reasons for taking up costumed vigilantism would have been very different.

As with all his films, Nolan refused a second unit; he did this in order to keep his vision consistent. Filming began in March 2004 in the Vatnajökull 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 75 miles per hour (121 km/h) winds, rain, and a lack of snow. A shot Wally Pfister had planned to take using 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. A Batcave set was built there and measured 250 feet (76 m) long, 120 feet (37 m) wide, and 40 feet (12 m) high. Production designer Nathan Crowley installed twelve pumps to create a waterfall with 12,000 imperial gallons (55,000 l; 14,000 US gal), 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 feet (270 m) 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, northwest London, England (right). The St Pancras railway station and the Abbey Mills Pumping Stations were used for Arkham's interiors. University College London was used for courtrooms. Some scenes, including the Tumbler 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 scenes was filmed.

Nolan used the 1982 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 slummish nature of the (now demolished) walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong.

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 turbine 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 Styrofoam in 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 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), go from 0 to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in 5 seconds, possess a steering system to make sharp turns at city corners, and withstand a self-propelled launch of up to 30 feet (9.1 m). 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), 4 rear 44/18.5-16.5 Interco Super Swamper TSL tires (44" tall, 18.5" wide, mounted on a 16.5" wheel) 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 panels and costing $250,000 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. The visibility inside the vehicle was poor, so 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 1:6 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.

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The filmmakers intended to create a very mobile Batsuit that would allow the wearer to move easily to fight and crouch. Previous film incarnations of the Batsuit had been stiff and especially restricted full head movement. Costume designer Lindy Hemming and her crew worked on the Batsuit at an FX workshop codenamed "Cape Town", a secured compound located at Shepperton Studios in London. The Batsuit's basic design was a neoprene undersuit, which was shaped by attaching molded cream latex sections. Christian Bale was molded and sculpted prior to his physical training so the team could work on a full body cast. To avoid imperfections picked up by sculpting with clay, plastiline was used to smooth the surface. In addition, the team brewed different mixtures of foam to find the mixture that would be the most flexible, light, durable, and black. The latter presented a problem, since the process to make the foam black reduced the foam's durability. At his audition, Bale wore the batsuit Val Kilmer donned for 1995's Batman Forever.

For the cape, director Christopher Nolan wanted to have a "flowing cloak that blows and flows as in so many great graphic novels". Hemming's team created the cape out of their own version of parachute nylon that had electrostatic flocking, a process shared with the team by the British Ministry of Defence. The process was used by the London police force to minimize night vision detection. The cape was topped by a cowl, which was designed by Nolan, Hemming, and costume effects supervisor Graham Churchyard. The cowl was created to be thin enough to allow motion but thick enough to avoid wrinkling when Bale turned his head in the Batsuit. Churchyard explained the cowl had been designed to show "a man who has angst", so his character would be revealed through the mask.

Fight choreography utilized the Keysi Fighting Method which itself gained fame after it was used in the movie Batman Begins and its sequel, The Dark Knight; however, it was not used in The Dark Knight Rises due to a change in fight team. The method is a self-defense system whose training is based on the study and cultivation of natural instincts.

For Batman Begins, Nolan preferred 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 (except in shots containing only one or two bats), as it was decided directing larger numbers of 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.

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 in earlier Batman films, 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 the film's scenes where tragic memories of Bruce Wayne's parents 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 a 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.

Comic book writer and author Danny Fingeroth argues that a strong theme in the film is Bruce's search for a father figure, saying "[Alfred] is the good father that Bruce comes to depend on. Bruce's real father died before they could establish an adult relationship, and Liam Neeson's Ducard is stern and demanding, didactic and challenging, but not a father figure with any sympathy. If Bruce is anyone's son, he is Alfred's. Morgan Freeman's Lucius is cool and imperturbable, another steady anchor in Bruce's life." Blogger Mark Fisher states that Bruce's search for justice requires him to learn from a proper father figure, with Thomas Wayne and Ra's al Ghul being the two counterpoints. Alfred provides a maternal figure of unconditional love, despite the overall lack of focus on a mother figure in Bruce's life.

Fingeroth also argues that a major theme in the film is fear, which supports the story of Bruce Wayne becoming a hero. Director Christopher Nolan stated that the idea behind the film was "a person who would confront his innermost fear and then attempt to become it". Fingeroth referred to this film's depiction as "the man with fear but who rises above it". The theme of fear is further personified by the choice of antagonist, the Scarecrow. The film depicts how fear can affect all creatures regardless of might. Allusions to fear are seen throughout, from Bruce's conquering of his demons, to becoming Batman, to the Scarecrow and his deadly fear toxin. The macabre, distorted images presented in the Scarecrow's toxin-induced hallucinations also express the idea of terror to an extreme.

Critic Brian Orndorf considered Batman Begins "fierce" and "demonstrative in brood", giving the film an abundance of gravitas and energy. It strays away from the lighter fare of Joel Schumacher's 1997 Batman film, Batman & Robin, which contained camp one-liners throughout. The theme of fear is intensified with the help of the musical score by Zimmer and Howard, which also "eschews traditional heroic themes". Also contrary to previous Batman films, a psychological investigation of Bruce Wayne's split personality in the bat suit is only lightly touched upon. Orndorf noted that Bruce is a "character constantly striving to do the right thing, not worn down by incessant reexamination".

Batman Begins has received generally positive reviews from critics. 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".

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, Tumbler, and the Batsignal, as well as the focus on "the story and character" with less stress on "high-tech action".

Film director 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."

Batman Begins opened on June 17th, 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 to date. The audience's demographic was 57 percent male and 54 percent people over the age of 25. Batman Begins was the eighth-highest grossing film of 2005 in the US.

Wally Pfister was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 78th Academy Awards, receiving the film's only Academy Award nomination. The film received three nominations at the 59th British Academy Film 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. 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. In November 2008, Empire ranked Batman Begins 81 in its 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list.

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Trailer for Batman Begins. Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Katie Holmes and Gary Oldman. You can add Batman Begins to your DVD collection here.

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