Movies:Movie Profiles:Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Batman Begins
Photo: © 2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Director(s): Christopher Nolan

Writer(s): Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Cast: Christian Bale, Ken Watanabe, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, , , and Morgan Freeman

Release Date(s)

Jun 17, 2005 - Wide

What is the origin of Batman? What steps did he take to transform himself from an orphaned industrial heir into Gotham’s most feared crimefighter? Director Christopher Nolan has assembled an all-star cast to answer those questions in Batman Begins.

The film follows Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) on his quest to avenge the death of his parents, who were gunned down in front of him. As he travels the world he is mentored by Ducard (Liam Neeson), sought after by a vigilante group led by Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), and challenged altruistically by Wayne Enterprises new CEO Richard Earle (Rutger Hauer).

If that weren’t enough, his friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), a Gotham Assistant District Attorney, fights a corrupt justice system in the grip of mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Aided by his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), honest cop Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce Wayne unleashes his crimefighting alter-ego Batman on the shadowy streets of Gotham.

Batman first appeared in 1939. His attraction was immediate. He was a superhero without super powers. DC Comics President Paul Levitz explains the attraction:

“Batman is one of the most psychologically interesting characters in our cultural history. Batman isn’t a guy who finds himself endowed with superpowers and simply says I’ll do good with them because I’m a good person. This is a man who watched his parents die and then had to decide how to respond. He’s tortured by feelings of guilt and anger and his desire for vengeance, yet he sets out to become a transformative being, someone who can change the world.” Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan agrees. “Batman is human, he’s flawed. But he’s someone who has taken these very powerful, self-destructive emotions and made something positive from them. To me, that makes Batman an extraordinarily relevant figure in today’s world.”

Nolan’s co-writer David Goyer further supports the theory why people relate to Batman. “What distinguishes Batman from his counterparts is that he’s a hero anyone can aspire to be. You could never be Superman, you could never be The Incredible Hulk, but anybody could conceivably become Batman. If you trained hard enough, if you tried hard enough, maybe, just maybe, you could become Batman.”

This grounding in reality was very important to Nolan. Says Goyer, “One of Chris’ mantras when we were working on the script was It has to be real, it has to be real. We applied that philosophy to every aspect of the story, even down to the most minute details – Why are the bat ears so tall? Why does the Batmobile look the way it does? We developed a logical explanation for everything that Bruce Wayne does and for every device he acquires in the film.” Actor Christian Bale was attracted to the many layers of Bruce Wayne/Batman. “He is in a constant battle with himself internally. He must continually assess his actions and control his demons, overcoming the pull toward self-destruction and the negative emotions that will destroy his life if he allows them to.” Bale had also read several Batman graphic novels that found in a Santa Monica bookstore several years ago. “He was dark and dangerous and more interesting than any other comic book hero or villain.” Nolan says that Bale actually has to play three characters. “To truly represent his journey, we needed to portray the three distinct facets of his character: Batman, the iconic masked warrior who is the channel of Bruce’s inner rage; the private Bruce Wayne, a damaged man who dedicates his life to ridding Gotham City of the evil that took his parents’ lives; and the third individual, the public face of Bruce Wayne – a spoiled playboy, the last person anyone in Gotham society would suspect of caring about the city’s decline, let alone of being Batman. The public Bruce Wayne persona is as much a mask as the mask that Batman wears.”

Nolan looked to another superhero for his casting inspiration. “We looked back to the incredible cast of Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman. He had Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty and so many other great actors in supporting roles. We cast our film in a similar fashion, with an ensemble of wonderful actors who bring a depth and complexity to the characters that make Bruce Wayne’s world all the more real.”

The butler, Alfred, a fixture in the Wayne family and Bruce’s most trusted advisor is played by Michael Caine. Caine understood the pivotal role he was playing.

“Alfred is the one constant in Bruce’s life, the one person who never gives up on him,” says Caine. “He’s also Bruce Wayne’s moral compass. Batman walks a very fine line between himself and the criminals he pursues, so he must maintain a higher moral code. Alfred isn’t afraid to give his opinion, especially when he thinks Bruce may have taken things too far. You cannot make it personal; otherwise you’re just a vigilante.” Caine also liked that Nolan and Goyer had focused on the reality of Batman’s life. “I liked their vision of showing Batman coming from a natural man. If he’s bulletproof, where’s the suspense? If you have a real man, you have jeopardy and you have suspense. That’s what interested me.”

Liam Neeson plays Bruce Wayne’s mentor, Ducard. “Ducard has committed himself to an ideal of how he would love to see the world and he sees Bruce Wayne as someone who could make these ambitions tangible and real. Ducard reminds me of Ignatius of Loyola in the 15th Century, who formed the Jesuit Society. Ignatius was a very famous playboy and drunkard before he became an incredibly disciplined man and a saint. He’s someone I have a lot of admiration for – an extraordinary disciplinarian on a quest to find a true, natural justice in this world that will help mankind.”

Katie Holmes plays ADA Rachel Dawes, a childhood friend of Bruce’s. Holmes likes her character’s idealism.

“One of the things about Rachel that I find so appealing is that she’s so idealistic,” says Holmes, “At one point she says to Bruce, ‘It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.’ That line defines who she is. She’s the type of person that wants to make the world a better place. She wants to help people, she wants to save her city and she doesn’t have time for excuses.”

Bruce hides his crimefighting alter ego from Rachel, who just sees him a rich playboy. Her character is a new one that didn’t appear in the comics. Nolay and Goyer said they created her to “represent the life Bruce Wayne might have if he weren’t tied into his destiny of having to create a very dark alter ego through which he helps people.”

The ensemble cast of Batman Begins supports the conflicted caped crusader when the film opens on June 15th.