Batman Begins kicked off Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which has gone on to become an integral part of the world’s conception of not only Batman but also superhero movies in general. While debuting in 2005, Batman Begins is a far (at least 4,350 miles) cry from the last Batman flick—1997’s critical Titanic Batman & Robin. While Batman Begins no longer feels like anything particularly special, there is no doubt that it ushered in an era where superhero movies are taken seriously, both by critics and broad audiences.
The production value of the film is off the charts. Seventeen years later, it still feels natural to watch and does not struggle too much with outdated visuals or storytelling. Helmed by 11-time Academy Award winner and acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, it is obvious that the film’s baseline quality was one of the most important characteristics of Batman Begins. This next paragraph is about to be obnoxious, but it makes a point.
The movie stars Academy Award winner Christian Bale as the titular Batman, Academy Award winner Michael Caine as Alfred, Academy Award winner Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Academy Award nominee Liam Neeson as the villain as Ra’s al Ghul, Golden Globe nominee and the guy with the super intense eyes Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow, and Academy Award winner and global treasure Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Batman Begins is scored by Academy Award winner and legend Hans Zimmer, and the Batsuit was even designed by Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. These likely only scratch the surface of the level of talent brought in for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Aside from the output quality, the story comes across quite differently than most—if not all—superhero movies to come before the film. The focus is on Bruce Wayne himself. His own personal demons and battles drive the narrative rather than fantastical, caricaturized, and shallow shiny-costumed heroes or villains. Rather than the adversary being campy or corny villains taken straight out of a classic comic book, Batman’s fight is ultimately against the manifestations of long-lasting systemic crime in Gotham City. There is an element of realism in Batman Begins that frankly did not exist before in the cinematic genre. The film takes its time—albeit a lot of time—to try and explain Bruce and his origin like a fully-established character. We are not just given the Bat. We have to earn the Bat.
Batman Begins is certainly not perfect. Watching it now, it can be rather dull and boring at times. While systemic crime is the real culprit, a somewhat messy mixture of Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, and Carmine Falcone make up the individual villains. Because each is diluted, none have the presence of an actually foreboding villain, but the combination and realism influence gives the movie more of its well-rounded and structurally-solid qualities. One thing that the movie provides that was surprisingly refreshing upon re-watch is the steady building of Batman’s arsenal. As far as previous Batman movies are concerned, Batman already existed and had his awe-inspiring collection of gadgets, gear, and Batmobiles. Here, watching it all play out with genuine attempts at describing how Batman’s stuff works is nice.
At the end of the day, Batman Begins feels now like an overtly middle-of-the-road, standard high-quality superhero movie. With its level of realism, it honestly simply feels like a “not bad” general action film. Still, the fact that the quality of Batman Begins is now something ordinary to talk about in the genre is something taken for granted now. As another reminder, Batman & Robin was released only eight years before Batman Begins. Now, the internet goes insane over a 4-hour, black-and-white director’s cut of a superhero film fans felt let down by, and perfectly OK Eternals is absolutely slammed for each and every potential weakness because it touted itself as being both “cinema” and a superhero movie. That type of discussion only exists because of the legacy and influence of The Dark Knight Trilogy, which in turn came into existence with Batman Begins.