Origin stories are no stranger to the world of superhero adaptations. Comic book capers can nary exit the opening minutes of their narrative without murdering a plot device here or strapping a protagonist with a bit of devastating backstory there. At the end of it all, few are as frequently told as that of Batman. Batman Begins is no stranger to the story of Bruce Wayne, his aversion to winged beasts and living parents wheeled out in every iteration the big screen could possibly throw at audiences. As audiences, we find comfort in similar entertainment, and that, to some degree, is the appeal of superheroes. We are told the same story consistently, with a handful of variables found in-between. It is Christopher Nolan’s work with Batman Begins that massages both entertainment value and storytelling prominence, to varying degrees of success.
By far the biggest issue with Batman Begins is its legacy. Scenes that are built up solely to provide some form of quotable or credible dialogue. This forced exposition lingers rather sourly throughout, every scene has some poetic justification for the actions of immoral men and women, but none come across as genuine or wholly interesting. Tom Wilkinson and Michael Caine offer the best opportunities for these quotable moments, their supporting performances outshine that of Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes. But, inevitably, the best performance of the bunch is from Cillian Murphy, whose presence is brief, simple and invitingly manic. There is, however, issues surrounding the pacing. With so much to take hold of, the supporting performances are estranged from those around them. Neeson and Gary Oldman in particular are fleeting, and hold little relevance as the later scenes depict Batman doing much of the heavy lifting, their happenstance appearances an inevitably oddity.
Even then, at least they are included. Nolan does as good a job he can when blending these narratives together. One of the key inclusions is strong cinematography. Not all the time, that would be far too much to bear for the man. But sprinkled throughout the horribly cut action set pieces and choreography are a few moments of brilliance. He captures the Hollywood sparkle rather nicely, with pleasure being the key to his craft. Nolan uses his big-budget antics to full effect, striking up more than a few moments of thoroughly engaging craftsmanship, although it is far from perfect. Does Nolan engage his audience on an emotional level? Not quite. But the marks of quality are there, if a bit rugged from time to time.
Nolan has often struggled to loosen his grip on the hand of his audience, guiding them exactly where they should go and at exactly the right time. There is nothing wrong with that in Batman Begins, which is simplistic enough to work with or without this guidance, but it’s the clarity of the story that beckons the possibility of Nolan leaving his audience to their own devices. That moment never comes, but Batman Begins is enjoyable enough and goes from strength to strength through a fairly interesting origin story, retold once more with an impressive cast of incredible actors. Its key to success not found in the CGI or high-octane students, but the slight risks taken in shedding the Joker and Two-Face antics of a previous century, and opting for villains who had yet to expose themselves to the spotlight.