Batman Begins is a 2005 fantasy superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, and Morgan Freeman. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the title character (Bale), from his alter ego Bruce Wayne's initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, his journey to become Batman, and his fight to stop Ra's al Ghul (Neeson) and the Scarecrow (Murphy) from plunging Gotham City into chaos. 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 critical failure and box office disappointment of Batman & Robin (1997), 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 Iceland and Chicago, relied on traditional stunts and miniatures, while computer-generated imagery was used minimally.
Batman Begins opened on June 15, 2005, in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed over $48 million in its opening weekend in North America, eventually grossing over $374 million worldwide. The film received positive reviews and is considered by many to be one of the best superhero films of the 2000s. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and three BAFTA awards. It 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.
As a young boy of 8, Bruce Wayne falls down a well, where he is caught in a swarm of bats. Bruce is rescued by his father Thomas, but he is left with a fear of bats. When Bruce and his parents attend the opera Mefistofele, Bruce is frightened by the portrayals of bat-like demons in the performance. He and his parents exit into an alley, where they are confronted by an armed mugger, Joe Chill, who shoots and kills Bruce's parents. Chill is arrested and convicted for the double murder, but Bruce is left traumatized by the incident. The family's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, raises Bruce in the absence of his parents.
When Bruce becomes a young man, he returns home to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Joe Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against the mob boss Carmine Falcone. Chill is assassinated by one of Falcone's henchmen, depriving Bruce of his opportunity. When Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his foiled plan, she expresses disgust and gives him a lecture about the difference between justice and revenge. Realizing she is right, Bruce decides to confront Falcone himself, but the mob boss dismisses him as ignorant of nature of the underworld (Saying, "You're Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham--you'd have to go a thousand miles to find someone who doesn't know your name!"), having his thugs rough him up. Realizing that Falcone is right, and that he cannot truly understand what he intends to fight as a wealthy playboy, he abandons his life at home, stowing away on a cargo ship and traveling the world for nearly seven years.
He associates with criminals to learn their ways and is thrown in Bhutanese prison by police for theft, ironically of Wayne Enterprises property. After a prison brawl, an enigmatic man who identifies himself as Henri Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, under the leadership of Ra's al Ghul. Bruce is freed the next day and travels to the top of a Tibetan mountain to begin his combat training with the League. In his training, Bruce overcomes his fear of bats while under the hallucinogenic influence of a mountainside blue flower. However, Bruce soon realises that he will be forced to lead the League in its fight to restore order to Gotham by creating chaos and murdering its population. When Ducard orders Bruce to execute a murderer as a final test, Bruce refuses to obey and destroys the League's headquarters, killing Ra's in the process. However, Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage and leaves his mentor at a nearby village.
20 years after the Wayne Murders, Bruce returns to a Gotham City that is mostly ruled by Falcone and begins plotting a one-man war against the corrupt system. He seeks the help of Rachel, now an assistant district attorney, and police sergeant Jim Gordon, who consoled him in the aftermath of his parents' murder. Bruce pays a visit to Gordon one night in disguise to establish communication. After reestablishing his connections to his father's company, Wayne Enterprises, Bruce is able to acquire, with the help of former board member Lucius Fox, a prototype armored car and an experimental armored suit. He augments the suit with League of Shadows armor, and a special cape that can become a rudimentary hang glider.
During his first night as Batman, he disrupts a drug shipment by Falcone, and leaves the mob boss tied to a searchlight, forming a makeshift Bat-Signal. He also disrupts an assassination attempt on Dawes, leaving her with evidence against a judge that has gone soft on Falcone in the past. While investigating the "unusual" drugs in the shipment, Batman is stunned by Dr. Jonathan Crane ("The Scarecrow"), who sprays him with a powerful hallucinogen. Bruce is rescued by Alfred, administered an anti-toxin developed by Fox and awakens two days later on his thirtieth birthday. The Scarecrow later poisons Rachel after showing her that the toxin, which is revealed to only be harmful in vapor form, is being piped into Gotham's water supply. She is saved by Batman. The police enter the asylum, and Batman escapes with Rachel in his Batmobile. After administering the antidote to Rachel in his cave, he gives her two vials of it for Gordon; one for the detective to inoculate himself, and another to mass-produce for the city's population.
Later at a party held at his mansion, Bruce, much to his surprise and shock, is confronted by Ducard and a group of ninjas from the League of Shadows, who then reveals himself to be the real Ra's al Ghul, the former who died being a decoy. Ra's, who had been conspiring with the Scarecrow the entire time, plans to destroy Gotham by distributing the toxin (which was extracted from the mountainside blue flowers) undetected via Gotham's water supply, and then vaporize it with a microwave emitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Bruce, tricking his guests into leaving, fights briefly with Ra's while the League of Shadows set fire to Wayne Manor. Bruce escapes the inferno with Alfred's help just as the manor is destroyed.
Batman arrives at the "Narrows" section of Gotham to aid the police, who are engaged in battle with psychotic criminals set free from Arkham Asylum by the League. After saving Rachel, and intimating his identity to her, he leaves Gordon in control of the Batmobile to stop the elevated train that is being used to transport the vaporizer to the city's central water hub. Batman battles Ra's, then escapes just as Gordon topples the elevated line using the Batmobile's missiles, leaving Ra's to crash with the train to the ground.
Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as CEO, firing Earle. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce Wayne with his dual life as Batman. Gordon, newly promoted to lieutenant, unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman and mentions a new criminal that, like Batman, has "a taste for the theatrical", leaving a Joker playing card at his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate and Gordon mentions that he forgot to thank Batman for his efforts. Batman replies by saying that he'll never have to, as he takes off into the night.
Batman Begins received a PG-13 rating for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements by the MPAA. The film is rated 12 by the BBFC for moderate horror and violence.
- Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
- Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul
- Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes
- Gary Oldman as Det. Sgt. James Gordon
- Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow
- Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone
- Rutger Hauer as William Earle
- Ken Watanabe as Ra's al Ghul (Decoy)
- Mark Boone Junior as Det. Arnold Flass
- Linus Roache as Thomas Wayne
- Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
- Larry Holden as Carl Finch
- Colin McFarlane as Gillian B. Loeb
- Sara Stewart as Martha Wayne
- Richard Brake as Joe Chill
- Tim Booth as Victor Zsasz
- John Nolan as Douglas Fredericks
The project had been in development hell for six years after the financial and critical disaster of the previous Batman film. Director Joel Schumacher had desired to create a Batman: Year One adaptation after Batman Forever had been financially successful and had approached Warner Bros with the idea. However, it was pushed aside at the time in favour of a more campy sequel; Batman and Robin was produced to commercial and financial failure. In 1998 Warner Bros then decided the right direction was to reboot the series and began developing the adaptation of the Batman: Year One comic as well also seriously considering a crossover with the planned revival of the Superman film franchise titled "Batman VS Superman". But they never considered Schumacher for the job of directing despite the reboot being his original idea and the desire to redeem himself to Batman fans. From 1998 to 2003 various directors and writers were subsequently attached to the project including, amongst others, Darren Aronofsky. But the film never came close to entering formal production at the time.
In January 2003, Warner Bros. Pictures then hired Memento director Christopher Nolan to direct the untitled Batman: Year One adaptation ending its time in development hell. In March 2003, David S. Goyer was signed on to write the script for the movie. In April 2003, Christopher Nolan was attached to direct The Prestige under Warner Bros. and Disney, indicating a possible delay in developing the new Batman film. In a July 2003 interview, however, Nolan said that the Batman film was in the early stages of production. In September 2003, Warner Bros. and director Christopher Nolan announced a production start in early 2004 for a 2005 release date.
In February 2004, president of DC Comics Paul Levitz said that the company's role with the film was as an advisor would remain hands-off during production.
Director Christopher 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 bases of the origin film. "The world of Batman is that of grounded reality. [It] will be a recognizable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises," said the director. Screenwriter David S. Goyer said that the goal of the film was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Christian Bale felt the previous films had underused Batman's character, overplaying the villains instead.
The film's overall look, feel and story was inspired by several works. DC Comics president Paul Levitz, director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer worked as a team to draw ideas from thirty years' worth of Batman comics. Nolan's personal "jumping off point" was Batman: The Man Who Falls, a short story about the death of Bruce Wayne's parents and Bruce's travels throughout the world. The early scene in Batman Begins of young Bruce Wayne falling into a well was directly adapted from The Man Who Falls. The group also drew June 1971's Batman #232: "Daughter of the Demon" ("the classic arc that introduced Ra's al Ghul") and "the two or three best Scarecrow stories ever done" to help write the film's main villains. While the Scarecrow stories were mentioned more ambiguously, the Scarecrow's line in the film, "Dr. Crane isn't here right now…" was drawn from the story "Choices" from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special (December 1993) by Jeph Loeb. In addition, the story Batman: The Long Halloween 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 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 in Year One. Frank Miller's Year One plot device about a corrupt police force creating Gordon and Gotham City's need for Batman was also used by the writers of Batman Begins.
In addition to drawing from Batman canon, director Christopher Nolan used the science fiction film Blade Runner as a source of inspiration for Batman Begins. The director 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.
Gotham City is depicted as still being affected by a long Depression, making way for Ra's al Ghul's determination to destroy what he perceives to be a corrupt city. Wayne Enterprises creates a train line to connect the poverty stricken Narrows and the richer parts of the city, and the end point is also above the city's main water supply within W.E.'s main tower. Carmine Falcone is the main source of corruption in the city, having bribed many judges, policemen, and lawyers whilst overseeing the drug stock. His partnership with Jonathan Crane allows his men to avoid jail, instead being sent to Crane's asylum. The Wayne family lives somewhere outside the city and has a long history: during the American Civil War Bruce's ancestors used Wayne Manor as a safe house in the Underground Railroad.
Director Christopher Nolan worked with production designer Nathan Crowley to create the look of Gotham City. Nolan designed Gotham City to be 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. In Batman Begins, the Narrows was based on the slummish nature of the (now demolished) walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong.
In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne acquires a mothballed Wayne Enterprises military vehicle, called the Tumbler, to serve as his Batmobile. Originally sporting military camouflage paint, Bruce Wayne requests Lucius Fox to have the Tumbler painted black. The Tumbler possesses a jet engine which can propel the vehicle in the air over a short distance. The vehicle has two driving positions: one for actual driving, and one for shooting missiles. Stealth capabilities are also built into the Tumbler, which includes a silent, electric motor drive that helps render the vehicle "invisible" at night.
Nathan Crowley, one of the production designers for Batman Begins, started the process of designing the Tumbler for the film by model bashing. One of the parts that Crowley used to create the vehicle was the nose cone of a P-38 Lightning model to serve as the chassis for the Tumbler's jet 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, which was a process that lasted 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 100mph, go from 0 to 60mph in 5 seconds, possess a steering system to make sharp turns at city corners, and to withstand a self-propelled launch of up to 30 feet. On the very 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 racing tires by Hoosier, rear 4x4 mud tires by Interco., and the suspension system of Baja racing trucks. The design and development process took nine months and cost several million dollars.
With the design process completed, four street-ready race cars were constructed, with each vehicle possessing 65 carbon fiber panels and costing $250,000 each 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. Due to the poor visibility inside the vehicle by the driver, 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 1:5 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 race car was used for the waterfall sequence.
In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne physically becomes Batman by wearing a fictional Nomex Survival Suit created by the Applied Science Division of Wayne Enterprises. Wayne modifies the undersuit by adding defensive gauntlets, Kevlar gloves, a cowl, and a cape. The cowl has a composite-graphite exterior with the interior containing microphones and a radio antenna. The cape is made of memory fiber, another fictional product of Wayne Enterprises' Applied Science Division, which allows the fabric to become stiff via electrical charge and enable the cape user to glide, mimicking the skeletal structure of a bat's wings. Batman also has multiple gadgets on his utility belt, including a magnetic grappling gun. In addition, the Batsuit has a sonic device built into the heel of one of the boots to attract bats to use for distraction.
The filmmakers intended to create a very mobile Batsuit that would allow the wearer to move easily in order to fight and crouch. Previous film incarnations of the Batsuit had been stiff and especially restricted full head movement. Lindy Hemming, the costume designer for Batman Begins, 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. Batman actor 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.
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.
For the film, three people were needed to dress Christian Bale up in the Batsuit. Since Bale wore the Batsuit for hours at a time, overheating became an issue. Plastic tubes were occasionally routed into the Batsuit as Bale wore it to provide a "cool suit" similar to those worn by high-altitude pilots and astronauts. To best pose as Batman, Bale studied graphic novels and illustrations of the superhero. Nolan said that Bale succeeded in his intimidating pose, recalling, "Everyone on set felt quite a charge when Christian would walk on in the Batsuit." Bale had a love-hate relationship with the suit, which had often sent him into foul moods, helping him transform into Batman. Bale 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."
In January 2004, the untitled Batman project was scheduled to film in London, New York City, and Iceland. In February 2004, crews transformed the restaurant Plateau in Canary Wharf for a hotel restaurant scene. In the same month, an airship hangar at Cardington, Bedfordshire was rented by Warner Bros. for constructing a set in time for filming in April 2004. Filming began in March in Iceland, and Nolan refused a second unit, to keep his vision consistent. The crew was hampered by 75mph winds, but nonetheless they moved ahead to London by March 20, 2004.
The building chosen to represent Arkham Asylum was the National Institute for Medical Research building in Mill Hill, north west London, England. The interior shots of Arkham's stairwell were filmed in the abandoned Midland Grand Hotel near the St. Pancras railway station in London. Some scenes were also filmed in Chicago at locations such as 35 East Wacker.
- Main article: Batman Begins (soundtrack)
The film score for Batman Begins was composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Director Christopher Nolan originally invited Zimmer to compose the film score, and Zimmer asked the director if he could invite Howard to compose as well. 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 12 weeks to complete most of their writing. Zimmer wanted to avoid composing a film score that had been done before, so the score became an amalgamation of orchestra and electronic music. Zimmer and Howard sought inspiration for shaping the score by making set visits to Batman Begins. The film's orchestra was developed from members of various London orchestras, and Zimmer chose to use more than the normal amount of cellos. Zimmer enlisted a choir boy to help reflect the music in the film's scene where Bruce Wayne's parents are killed. "He's singing a fairly pretty tune and then he gets stuck, it's like froze, arrested development," Zimmer said. Zimmer also attempted to add 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.
Batman Begins Novel
- Main article: Batman Begins (Book)
Batman Begins Video Game
- Main article: Batman Begins (Video Game)
Batman Begins was positively received by the majority of professional critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received 85% overall approval out of 235 reviews. The film also rated 70% on Metacritic. Roger Ebert gave Batman Begins 4 stars out of 4, calling it "the Batman movie I've been waiting for". Empire magazine declared Batman Begins the second best film of 2005.
The film also received a welcome from comic book fans and writers. Dennis O'Neil felt it was, "the best of the Batman films, by a wide margin". Frank Miller said he "walked out of [the film] with a smile on his face" and that it was a strong interpretation of the character. Grant Morrison found Christian Bale's performance "definitive".
Box Office Performance
Batman Begins opened on June 15, 2005 in the United States in 3,858 theaters, accumulating $48,745,440 over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $371,853,783 worldwide. Batman Begins is the third highest grossing Batman film behind the 1989 Batman and 2008 The Dark Knight. Batman Begins was the eighth highest grossing film of 2005 in the US.
Awards and Nominations
Just months after its release, Batman Begins was voted by Empire readers as the 36th greatest film of all time. Batman Begins was nominated for one Academy Award:
- Best Cinematography
- Main article: Batman videography
Batman Begins DVD and Blu-ray was put out on October 18, 2005. Various Versions include:
- DVD Single Disc
- DVD 2-Disc Steelbook
- Blu-ray Single Disc
- Blu-ray 2-Disc
- DVD Limited Edition Giftset
- The Dark Knight Trilogy: DVD boxset
- The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray
- The working title for Batman Begins was The Intimidation Game.
- David Goyer's draft script for Batman Begins leaked to the internet in early April 2004.
- This is the only film in the Dark Knight trilogy to not have "Dark Knight" anywhere in the title.