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Flashback Review: April 2nd, 2014 Movie – Batman Begins

batman begins

8 years after the last dismal movie, comic book movies were still making lots of money at the box office. However, the difference was that this time around, Marvel Comics seemed to be the ones ruling the box office. But that all changed in 2005, as DC decided to bring back one of their big movie earning properties. This time though, they decided to forgo the somewhat cartoonish and jokey nature of the previous films and make it a more serious and darker movie, hoping to take advantage of the new resurgence in the genre. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I will admit that my interest was piqued and I was willing to give it a shot, as it definitely looked different than the previous movies. Now, let’s see if that hope paid off or was crushed to oblivion as I watch today’s movie, Batman Begins.

The plot: After waking from a dream about a childhood incident where he is playing with his childhood friend Rachel Dawes when he falls down a well and was attacked by some bats, Bruce Wayne, who is in a prison in Bhutan, heads out into the yard for breakfast when he is attacked by some of the prisoners. Bruce manages to deal with his attackers but is placed in solitary, for the other prisoners’s protection according to the guards. While in solitary, Bruce finds himself confronted by a man named Henri Ducard, who knows who Bruce is and says he can help him find the sense of purpose that he is looking for. He tells Bruce that when his sentence is up, to find a rare flower and bring it to the top of a mountain, where the League of Shadows is said to reside. When he is released from prison, Bruce does as Ducard says, noting the fearful looks of the villagers as he makes his way up the mountain. Reaching the top, he finds the mountain villa and heads inside, where Ducard introduces Bruce to Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Shadows. After asking what Bruce is looking for, Ducard suddenly attacks Bruce, saying that to strike fear into other, you must first conquer your own fears. Ducard renders Bruce unconscious and his dreams go back to the incident in his youth. Bruce’s father Thomas rescues him from the well and sets his bone. Some time later, Bruce and his parents go to the opera but during the performance, some of the actors are masquerading as bats, frightening Bruce and he asks if they can leave early. Thomas agrees and they head out the side door, walking down the alley to reach the train station. Suddenly, a man points a gun at them, asking for their money and jewelry. Thomas hands the man his wallet but when the man points his gun at Martha, demanding her pearl necklace, Thomas steps in front of her and ends up getting shot. Martha screams out but the man shoots her as he grabs her necklace and runs, leaving Bruce standing there in shock as his parents lay dying. At the police station, a young beat cop named James Gordon tries to comfort Bruce until Alfred arrives to pick him up and the police commissioner tells Bruce that they caught the killer. At the funeral, Bruce is approached by William Earle, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, who tells Bruce that his company will be in good hands until he is ready to take control. Later, Bruce tells Alfred that it’s his fault that his parents died but Alfred consoles him and says that it wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could have done. In the present, Ducard works on training Bruce in the ways of the ninja and the League of Shadows. During the training, he taunts Bruce over the fact that his father is to blame for his parent’s death, then asks why he never avenged his parents. Bruce has a flashback to 14 years after the death of his parents, when he returned to Wayne Manor after studying abroad and learns from Rachel that Chill, the man who killed his parents, is getting paroled as part of a plea deal through the D.A. in exchange for his testimony against Carmine Falcone. Bruce heads to the hearing, with the intention of killing Chill, but as Chill is being escorted out of there, he is killed by someone working for Falcone. Rachel takes Bruce out of there and as they argue about Bruce’s desire for revenge instead of justice, Bruce reveals the gun he had and his plan to kill Chill, causing Rachel to slap him and tell him that his father would be ashamed of him. Bruce gets out of his car and as she drives away, he heads towards the restaurant that Falcone is at and confronts him. Falcone taunts him by saying that he could kill him right there and nothing would come of it, despite two cops and a judge sitting there, then has his men kick Bruce out of there. Deciding some of the things Falcone said was right, Bruce gives his money and jacket to a homeless person, then heads off on a freight shipment that is leaving the country. Back in the present, Ducard takes the flower that Bruce had brought up the mountain and after crushing it up into a powder, burns it and tells Bruce to inhale the smoke. The smoke induces a mild hallucinogen and while Bruce is under it’s influence, Ducard faces him as he hides behind rows of the League of Shadows’ ninjas but Bruce is able to outwit him and best him. Ra’s al Ghul applauds Bruce’s victory and tells him there is one last test he must do. A villager who had murdered his neighbor is brought forward and Bruce is told to kill him. When Bruce argues against killing him, Ra’s al Ghul says he must in order to lead his men into Gotham and destroy it, as a symbol of the corrupt society. Hearing their plans, Bruce chooses to turn against the League, knocking Ducard unconscious and fighting with Ra’s al Ghul. During the fight, the League’s explosive powder is ignited and Ra’s al Ghul is killed by some falling debris. Bruce and Ducard are thrown from the building and Bruce manages to save Ducard from falling off the side of the mountain, leaving him with the nearby villagers to tend to his wounds. Bruce contacts Alfred, who goes to pick him up, and on the flight back to Gotham, Alfred tells him about Earle’s plan to take Wayne Enterprises public, and how Bruce had been declared legally dead since he had been missing for 7 years. When he gets back to Gotham, he checks in on Rachel, seeing that she still works for the D.A. and has been having run ins with Dr. Jonathan Crane, the head psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who constantly deems members of Falcone’s gang insane and recommends them be sent to Arkham instead of jail. Unknown to her, Crane has a deal with Falcone and he tells Falcone about Rachel’s harrassing her and he says he will do something about it. The next day, Bruce heads to Wayne Enterprises, surprising Earle as he is holding a board meeting about taking the company public. Speaking privately with him, Earle tells Bruce that he can’t stop the sell and Bruce tells him he doesn’t plan on making problems but instead, asks to get a job so he can better understand his family’s company. Bruce chooses to work in Applied Sciences, which is run by Lucius Fox, and he learns that Lucius used to be on the board and knew his father. Lucius shows him some of the items he had designed and asks Bruce’s interest in them and Bruce comes up with a lie and tells him he doesn’t want to cause any trouble but Lucius says in his mind, all of this belongs to him anyways. When Bruce sees a bat in the house, he heads back to the well, overcoming his fear of bats in the process, and discovers a massive cave underneath the manor. Alfred theorizes it was used by his ancestors during the civil war as part of the underground railroad. Bruce and Alfred work on configuring Bruce’s costume and that night, Bruce disguises himself and pays a visit to James Gordon, commenting on how he is one of the few good cops that hasn’t been corrupted. He asks what he would need to stop Falcone’s drug shipments and Gordon tells him leverage against Judge Faden and a D.A. willing to prosecute and Bruce suggests Rachel before leaving. The next day, Bruce pays another visit to Lucius and as they discuss some of the other items Lucius has, he tells Bruce that the less he knows about what Bruce is planning, the less he would be able to tell when asked but not to treat him as stupid. Bruce agrees, then notices a vehicle nearby and asks about it and Lucius lets him test drive the Tumbler, a prototype military vehicle designed for bridge laying. That night, Falcone has Gordon’s partner, Flass, help oversea the night’s drug shipment when Bruce, donning his new Batman garb, begins taking out Falcone’s men, then knocks out Falcone and takes him out of there. Later that night, Rachel is taking the train to her apartment when she is confronted by two of Falcone’s men. She pulls out a taser and threatens one of the men, who runs when he sees Batman take out the other one. As Rachel turns around, she sees Batman and fires the taser at him but it has no effect on his armor. Batman gives her photos of Judge Faden with an underage girl and tells her about Falcone’s arrest, then leaves. Meanwhile, Gordon and the police show up and find Falcone’s men all restrained with Falcone chained to an active spotlight, causing his silhouette to form a bat in the night sky. The next day, the police commissioner chastises the police for allowing a vigilante to roam the streets like that and Gordon tries telling him he did do some good but the commissioner wants Batman arrested. At Wayne Enterprises, Earle is told of a problem with one of their cargo ships that was carrying a prototype microwave transmitter, which was apparently activated on board and caused massive damage to the ship before being stolen. Meanwhile, Alfred wakes up Bruce and tells him that if he is going to lead such a double life, then Bruce Wayne will have to start making appearances and do some reckless stuff to explain away his injuries as well as waylay suspicion. That night, Bruce shows up at a hotel with two models and when the models go swimming in the fountain area, the maitre d complains to Bruce, who decides to just buy the hotel. As he is leaving, he runs into Rachel and though he tries to explain that this isn’t the real him, Rachel appears disappointed. Later that night, Batman goes to see Gordon at his home and discusses how only half of the drugs went to the dealers. Gordon admits that Flass works as an enforcer for Falcone and so Batman goes to question him, learning where the drop off point is. At the prison, Crane is called in to check on Falcone, who had cut his wrists in order to appear crazy. Falcone tries to blackmail Crane into helping him out and cutting him in on whatever Crane’s boss has planned but Crane dons his mask, giving him the appearance of a scarecrow, then activates a canister in his briefcase, releasing a hallucinogen that causes Falcone to begin screaming in fear, which Crane exacerbates, then leaves the cell and tells the warden that he will have Falcone transferred to Arkham. Elsewhere, Rachel’s boss is going over the shipments from Falcone’s arrest and notices an extra container that wasn’t accounted for and when he has the guards open it, he sees a large crate from Wayne Enterprises, but is quickly killed by the guards. Batman heads to the drop off point and finds the dolls containing the drugs but he quickly hides when Crane and two henchmen appear. Crane tells his men to get rid of everything and then torch the place. Batman attempts to stop him but Crane, donning his Scarecrow mask, douses him with the fear hallucinogen and then proceeds to douse him in alcohol and light him on fire. Batman leaps out the window and manages to douse the flames and as the hallucinogen starts to take over his mind, he manages to contact Alfred for help. When Bruce regains consciousness, Alfred tells him that he was out for 2 days and he had called Lucius when Bruce’s condition worsened. Lucius was able to fashion an antidote for the hallucinogen and Bruce asks if he can make more, realizing that more people could soon be infected. Rachel stops by later to drop off a birthday present for Bruce and as he is talking to her, she receives a call informing her about Falcone and she heads over to Arkham. Bruce decides to go there as well, telling Alfred to keep the guests entertained until he gets back, then heads down into the Batcave to change. At Arkham, Rachel questions Crane about Falcone’s condition and he decides to take her to the basement, showing her that his men are refining the drug and pouring it into the city’s water supply. As Rachel tries to escape, Crane doses her with the hallucinogen and tries to decide what to do with her when the lights go out. Realizing Batman is there, Crane tells one of his men to call the police, saying that they won’t be able to stop them now anyways. As he leaves, Batman appears and begins taking out Crane’s men, then doses crane with the hallucinogen and questions him about what his plans are but Crane doesn’t talk. When the police arrive, they want to wait for S.W.A.T. to get there but Gordon decides to head inside on his own. Batman grabs him and tells him about what happened to Rachel and what Crane was doing, then tells him to get Rachel downstairs and meet him at a nearby alley. Using a beacon, Batman attracts all the bats in the city to fly towards Arkham, forming an effective distraction so Gordon can get Rachel out of there while he leaves another way. Meeting back with Gordon, Batman takes Rachel and places her in the Tumbler, then drives off, doing his best to avoid the police. As they are driving, Batman tries to keep Rachel calm while he works on evading the police but she ends up slipping into unconsciousness just as they reach the Batcave. Bruce finds the antidote that Lucius left for him and uses it to cure Rachel and when she wakes up, he tells her that he is going to give her a sedative so she can rest and when she wakes up, she needs to take the two remaining vials to Gordon, one to innoculate himself and the other to use for mass production. HEading upstairs, Alfred chastises Bruce for his actions but Bruce says he didn’t have a choice as Rachel’s life was on the line. When he asks if Lucius is there, Alfred says he is and Bruce says he needs Alfred to take Rachel back to her place and then they need to send everyone home, causing Alfred to chastise him again for not caring about his family name. As Alfred leaves with Rachel, Bruce heads to the party and is met by Earle, who tells him the stock prices of Wayne Enterprises have soared since they went public. Bruce then approaches Lucius and asks how long it would take to mass produce the antidote and Lucius tells him weeks. When Bruce tells him about the chemicals in the water, Lucius says that won’t work to spread an inhalant, then pauses and tells Bruce about the missing microwave emitter. Bruce asks him to go back to Wayne Enterprises and work on making more of the antidote and Lucius tells him about his being fired bu Bruce says that shouldn’t be able to stop Lucius. As Bruce prepares to send the guests home, one of the women introduces him to Ra’s al Ghul but when Bruce comments that he watched Ra’s die, Ducard speaks up behind him and Bruce realizes that his mentor is the real Ra’s al Ghul. Realizing that Ra’s would kill everyone there without regret, BRuce chooses to act as the spoiled rich boy that he is presumed to be and yells at everyone to get out, calling them all phony. Ra’s mocks Bruce’s efforts, saying that they will all be dead soon anyways, and as his men proceed to set Wayne Manor on fire, Ra’s attacks Bruce and manages to trap him underneath some debris, leaving Bruce to the same fate he left him. Ra’s and his men leave, leaving one man behind to ensure Bruce doesn’t make it out but Alfred knocks the man out and proceeds to help Bruce make it to safety in the Batcave. Meanwhile, more members of the League of Shadows, disguised as cops, release the prisoners form Arkham so they can wreck havoc on the city. Rachel wakes up after hearing the disturbance and heads down there to find Gordon, handing him the antidote she was given. Meanwhile, Ra’s and his men arrive on the island and proceed to use the microwave transmitter to vaporize the water in the area, releasing the toxin into the air and infecting everyone in the area. Batman gears up and heads to the Narrows, where he meets up with Gordon. Batman tells him that the people responsible plan on loading the transmitter onto the train, which runs parallel to the water lines, and take it to the main station at Wayne Tower, where it will vaporize the water all over the city. Batman tells him he will go try to stop the people but he wants Gordon to take the Tumbler and blow up the track, ensuring the train doesn’t reach the station. Rachel encounters Scarecrow as she is protecting a kid but she is able to use her taser on him, sending him screaming off in pain on a horse. When some of the crazed people move towards her, Batman saves her and the kid. As he goes to leave, she asks his name and he repeats the words she told Bruce, and as he leaps off the building, she realizes Bruce is Batman. Batman heads towards the train terminal to stop Ra’s, who has some of his men stall him long enough for the train to leave. Batman is able to use his grapple to swing onto the train and begins fighting with Ra’s. Meanwhile, Gordon gets into the Tumbler and takes off, following the train and reaches Wayne Tower before the train gets there, then works on taking out the support columns for the track, collapsing the track. As Ra’s notices the falling track, Batman gets the upper hand and when Ra’s asks if he will finally commit “true justice”, Batman says he won’t kill him but he doesn’t half to save him. Batman then uses explosives to separate the back cars from the one they are in and glides out, leaving Ra’s to fall to his death as the engine runs off the track. The next day, Earle enters Wayne Enterprises to find that Lucius Fox has been made the new CEO, under Bruce’s authority. When he contacts Bruce to find out what gave him the right, Bruce reveals that he had secretly been the one to purchase all of the Wayne Enterprise stock, making him the sole owner of his family’s company. Bruce heads to the remains of Wayne Manor and Rachel meets him there, telling him that she had never stopped thinking about him when he was gone all of those years. She kisses him and tells him that one day, when the city doesn’t need Batman anymore, maybe there will be a chance for them to be together. She asks him what he is going to do and he says he will rebuild the manor just as it was and after she leaves, Alfred suggests making some modifications to the foundation in the south west corner, right over the Batcave. That night, Gordon, now a Lieutenant, uses a newly fashioned Bat-signal, to get Batman’s attention and have him meet him on the police station rooftop. He tells them that they started something but there is a lot of work to do, as Crane and half of the inmates have yet to be captured. He then asks about escalation, showing him the calling card of a theatrical criminal that had committed a double homicide and as Batman looks at the Joker card in the evidence bag, he tells Gordon he will look into it and then glides off into the night.

Batman Begins was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, ” Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.” Hans Zimmer, who scored the movie, named the tracks after various types of bats, with tracks 4-9 actually spelling out BATMAN. While shooting on the streets of Chicago, a person accidentally crashed into the Batmobile. The driver was apparently drunk, and said he hit the car in a state of panic, believing the Dark Knight’s vehicle to be an invading alien spacecraft. When the film was released, The movie was a financial success, earning $374.2 million off of a $150 million budget and would spawn two sequels, all three of which would later be referred to as The Dark Knight trilogy.

DC redeemed themselves because this was a great movie. The acting was really good on almost every count. I thought Christian Bale did a great job as Bruce Wayne/Batman, but the whole deep yelling voice he chose to use for Batman was a bit much in my opinion. I thought Cillian Murphy was the perfect casting as Crane while Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul), Gary Oldman (Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius), and Michael Caine (Alfred) were also great in their roles, but I was honestly rather indifferent towards Katie Holmes character of Rachel. I know it was supposed to help with Bruce’s character but she honestly didn’t really seem to add anything except be a somewhat weak plot point. The story was rather good, taking it’s influence from several different Batman story lines from the comics that depicted some of the early stages of Batman’s development. I’m glad they decided not to use the Joker as the first villain Batman faced and allowed one of his “less famous” villains in Scarecrow make an appearance, while also have Ra’s al Ghul show up as his mentor/arch rival made for a great bit of a plot line. The special effects and fight scenes were pretty good and I liked that the gave the movie a sense of realism, not making it to over the top ridiculous like the last few movies where. Definitely a great way to reboot the series and a really fun film to watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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