How do you take on Batman? How do you dispel any impressions of the POWs, BIFFs and Bat-suit nipples of old, and replace it with something darker? Something more tangible. Something that people will take seriously. After the smaller intricacies of Following, Memento, and Insomnia, Christopher Nolan was ready for something bigger. He was ready to answer those questions. He was ready to take on The Batman.
Often the forgotten child of what would become a trilogy, Batman Begins is one of the most important films of Nolan’s career. He had worked hard to get this opportunity, after proving he could tackle story and the big names. Now was the true test. It was time to see what he could do with the budget, the stars, and the challenge of modernising The Batman. If Nolan had failed in his vision, we likely wouldn’t have had the unique blockbuster films that he would later become synonymous with.
Where Nolan truly succeeded is by defying this film’s need to be a blockbuster film. Batman Begins is slow, deliberate, and light on action. It takes the best part of an hour before Bruce Wayne even dons the cowl, yet because of that, every punch is felt, and every glide leaves you fulfilled by some adult version of your childish superhero aspirations. It is everything a grownup fan of Batman could ever want. And more importantly, it was the beginning of the Nolan we know and love today.
With the unconquerable vision, narrative patience, and a respect for what the audience could follow, Nolan finally found his footing, whilst discovering who he was as a filmmaker, and what kind of films he wanted to make.
The importance of Batman Begins cannot be understated. Often outlets will cite The Dark Knight, or Iron Man as the moment where Hollywood realised how to tap into the well of superhero content. Batman Begins however, is the film that took the plunge into serious storytelling and found the balance of how to be a comic-book adaptation that stayed true to its roots, whilst also being dark, dramatic, and serious. It was of course surrounded by films like the first two of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the insufferable Daredevil, but these both remains firmly within the realm of light entertainment. Batman Begins was heavy, thought-provoking, and about as artsy as a big budget film could allow.
I was only nine when Batman Begins was released, and because of that I missed out on any hype that came with “a new Batman movie”. I feel like that excitement would have been insurmountable, if not dashed with a little dubiousness after the scolding that was Batman and Robin. Like Insomnia before it, Batman Begins may be soiled for some by the oversaturation of Batman in the following fifteen years, along with the incessant need for superhero origin movies following the MCU boom.
As such a beloved character, with as many incarnations as this one has, your enjoyment of Batman Begins is about as subjective as one’s music taste. But undeniably Nolan overcame the obstacles, and delivered a Batman that may have been lacking in some of his more comic-book-y elements as it grounded itself in the real world, but one that demanded that audiences take it seriously. And one that showed that Nolan had what it took to deliver something brilliant and unique. Batman Begins wasn’t just the Caped Crusaders origins. Incidentally it was also Nolan’s true beginning.