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.
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:
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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