You know what my least favorite part of Batman Begins is? The title. Batman Begins. It just kind of sits there on the page, doing absolutely nothing to excite me about what it is I came to see. The movie is based on a graphic novel titled Batman : Year One, which itself is cleaner and sounds much less like a kid’s picture book than the former. Luckily though, marketing a film goes far, far outside of just the title and Batman Begins flat appellation effects very little of the film it precedes.
Bruce Wayne’s story has been told and referenced in a number of ways, in a number of forums. Bruce’s parents were billionaires and philanthropists until their death at the hands of a mugger when Bruce was a child. It was this event that shaped so drastically his life thereafter. It led him to abandon his fortune, his home and his name, and break the seal on his charmed existence. It led him to become the Batman. For so long this story was at odds with nearly all of the other main superhero titles because of its gloom. The character lives on a thin line between hero and vigilante, he comes by his abilities honestly with physical superiority and sheer force of will, and perhaps most importantly, he does his best work in the dark of night.
The Batman mythos is as expansive as any superhero’s, and certainly as unique. This is both the draw and the deterrent for filmmakers, as there is endless resource material but also an endless stream of Batmaniacs who assuredly will rip you to pieces for playing around with, for example, the Ra’s al Ghul storyline. It’s a tightrope of a story to tell. Still, Christopher Nolan has been able to do what so many others have attempted. Making a comic book movie not just good, or entertaining, but perhaps most importantly, not just a comic book movie. There’s been a massive surge in the last few years of comic book films, and while many have been great, few can claim to exist outside of the genre. Nolan’s Batman films do, and this is not a small accomplishment.
Simply, he achieves a realism that Sam Raimi or Bryan Singer could only hope to rival. Inasmuch as there’s nothing supernatural about Batman, it was left up to Nolan to decide how much this story could live in our world. Burton’s Batman films (and especially the subsequent titles in that series) were too much, with a Joker story almost too hard to buy into and a Batman who’s skill was far outpaced by his gadgetry. What Nolan is able to do is make you believe that his Bruce Wayne is capable of all these things. All the stealth and the strength and particularly the technology, all of it seems perfectly reasonable when presented in this light. With Christian Bale under the cowl, the notion of a billionaire mogul by day and a crime-fighting vigilante by night seems somehow perfectly plausible. Bridging this gap, between realism and fantasy, is precisely what the success and universality of these stories hinges on. If you want us to connect, you have to give us something to connect to. As simple of a notion as this may be, it’s infinitely harder to actually fulfill. Somehow, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have consummated this, and together have born the best onscreen version of Batman we will probably ever see.