"The birth of a legend."

Like his masked vigilante, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins has chosen to jettison the pseudo-fetishistic camp for a dark and frightening entry into the Batman chronicles. Abandoning almost everything that Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher brought to Gotham City, Nolan and his co-screenwriter David S. Goyer (Blade, Dark City) begin with the genesis of Bruce Wayne's trauma, the gunning down of his parents - genuinely frightening as delivered by Nolan - and fear of the dark, with the bat as its potent symbol. The strength of these flashbacks is multiplied by their selective use.

The film features exceptional direction, tight, crisp editing and a strong focus on the essence of the story - the strong-willed hero. Batman's ninja training and state-of-the-art corporate gadgets, show us how a super hero can come into being - and make us believe the villains are genuinely scared of him. The film is rough-hewn and intentionally lacks gloss - reflecting the effort to make it as believable as possible.

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After witnessing his parents' death and swearing vengeance on their killer, Joe Chill, Bruce devotes his life to fighting criminals - from petty vicious thieves at the lowest social order to the mysterious and strongly amoral League of Shadows led by Rhas-Al-Ghul and the top dogs of the Gotham underworld.

He blends his study of evil with punishing training (a wonderful Liam Neeson as his mentor - geeks rejoice - it's Darkman training Batman, for heaven's sake!) and his fashioning of a fearful alter ego with which to deal out punishment for crime. Christian Bale has both the physicality and the acting chops to deliver what is unquestionably the finest portrayal of the Dark Knight ever filmed. His eyes show the borderline psychosis of his duality, both as the terrifying Batman and the damaged playboy. He is assisted by the best supporting cast of the year, with Michael Caine getting the lion's share of laughs as the irrepressible Alfred, Gary Oldman playing against type as decent cop Jim Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a scientific genius locked away in the bowels of Wayne Enterprises.

Batman Begins is a rousing entertainment - one of the best in years - with top-drawer visual effects and design sans polish, and yet is so much more than that. It works dramatically - taking a morbid fascination with the telling of a damaged man's story, along with the depiction of an urban cesspool. And of course, its action sequences are very nearly beyond reproach; the sequence where Batman evades the police in his Batmobile is right up there in car-chase scenes.

Batman Begins is far from just a cool freak show - it is the birth of a legend.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2005
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The evolution of mixed up rich kid Bruce Wayne into the Dark Knight of Gotham City.
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Read more Batman Begins reviews:

Stephen Carty *****
Angus Wolfe Murray ****
The Remote Viewer ****

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman, Linus Roache, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Gus Lewis, Sara Stewart

Year: 2005

Runtime: 141 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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