Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Nolan doesn’t understand people, emotions, character or story.

I talk about this in my entry about The Dark Knight Rises, which was easily the worst of these three Batman films (and let’s be clear: the only reason there’s even any discussion of Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is because of Heath Ledger’s Joker in the middle film – a performance which Nolan apparently neither guided nor much understood). It’s especially disappointing in Batman Begins, given how promising the setup is: a gritty, realistic telling of the Batman story, using some of the more conceptually interesting characters from the comic. Yet ultimately, director Christopher Nolan wastes the opportunities he’s created for himself, squandering them on a (lack of) storyline that ultimately degenerates into cartoonish-villain-masterplan chicanery (poison the water supply? Really? Again?).

In the comics, Ra’s Al Guhl was one of Batman’s more ethically challenging villains: an eco-terrorist and an alchemist, whose daughter is the one woman who married Batman and who ultimately bore his child. The relationship between Ra’s and Batman was a complex and enduring one, primarily because the insanity of Ra’s immortal mission was rooted in an understandable passion for the Earth’s preservation, but also because of the tragedy in Ra’s own life. Ra’s was a challenge to Batman’s principles and dialectic crusade, not least because of his respect for the “Detective”.

Yet Nolan abandons all this, instead turning Ra’s into a guy with a grudge against a city (again: why? What did Gotham, as an entire city, do to him? Why is Gotham the epicentre of planet Earth?). Nolan’s Ra’s lacks eco in his terrorism – and as a result, lacks anything that makes him remarkable or even sympathetic as a villain or a character.

Batman: The Animated Series, and many of the earlier subsequent DC Animated Universe movies, manage to pull off almost every time what Nolan (and most other film adaptors of comics) fail to do: not condescend towards the material or the audience.