If 'Batman Begins' were a graphic novel, it would be the literary equivalent of some of the best work in the medium, echoing the exemplary creation of Alan Moore's influential 'Watchmen' or Frank Miller's Batman inspired 'Dark knight returns'. Like any of those creators have always known, and director Christopher Nolan has finally proven, comics aren't just about a man in a suit and cape, but about the person underneath the tights. Working with writer David S. Goyer, Nolan has succeeded in making a movie drenched in meaning and realism; from the motivations of characters to even the way the sets are designed.
Christian Bale plays the fourth incarnation of Bruce Wayne but the first one to really get under the skin of the character and emote his personal pain and intolerance of crime. This trait is anchored in purpose, stemming from witnessing the murder of his parents as a youngster. Growing up, Wayne realizes that the only way to purge himself from his guilt (he feels responsible for their deaths, having made his parents leave an opera midway) is to understand the mindset of criminals and turn the fear they use on their victims back at them. In this quest for self-actualization he briefly crosses paths with Ducard (Liam Neeson), representing the League of Shadows and its leader, Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and though Wayne finds common ground in their refuting crime, the groups collective actions border on extremism and callous disregard of humanity. Shunning their proposals of joining them he returns to Gotham, reuniting with faithful butler Alfred (a superbly subdued Michael Caine), and discovers Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences division where the capable inventions of good natured Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) come in handy when the need for taking on new forms of criminal activity reappear.
Everything about this Batman is perfectly believable, be it his Batsuit (military Kevlar armor), the tank like Batmobile or his rationale. This authentism extends to the concrete feel of every building structure and even the mechanical nature of the trains around the city. It has been so long since a comic book adapted movie without heavy computer imagery has been seen, that the visuals are strikingly genuine. In utilizing this approach Nolan succeeds in administering the very antidote that fans of the character had been left wanting after its tumble eight years ago due to severely campy elements overpowering the story. There is another reason why this is more of a Batman movie than any of the others ever were – it's the first to feature villains (such as the Scarecrow) in supporting roles, not distractingly the focus using big name stars.
Perhaps the best thing about 'Batman Begins' is how courageous it is in exploring not the character, but the person – his agony and fear of bats as his fighting spirit. This absolutism and obsessiveness, forging him into a frighteningly effective crime fighter unfettered by conventional methods, has always been the underlying driving force of Batman and we finally get to see (and understand) why he believes in punishing any infraction. As a millionaire, his only raison d'etre on returning becomes tormenting the evil plaguing Gotham.
'Batman Begins' is so many things on so many levels and it's hard to find fault anywhere. Those skeptical about Nolan's ability to direct action sequences may not find them as kinetic as the work of his peers, but what he manages to pull off is create an intensely engaging and involving piece of everlasting cinema. It is doubtful you will relish something as much as Batman Begins for the remainder of this summer (and perhaps even the year). Do not miss it.
Note: 'Batman Begins' was viewed on the new IMAX screens that opened at the Grand Megaplex in Dubai. A highlight of the experience can be read on this site soon. - Faizan Rashid