After the increasingly annoying Batman films, from the 80s and 90s, we got a bit of a breather for a few years, and then Christopher Nolan came along to reimagine the Dark Knight with Batman Begins. And reimagine it he does.
For this first film, Batman doesn’t even appear for quite some time. Bruce (Christian Bale) is on a globe-spanning walkabout to learn how the criminal mind works after having seen his parents gunned down, and having been robbed of his vengeance. While in prison in Asia, he runs across Ducard (Liam Neeson), a member of the League of Shadows, which at first blush seems right up Bruce’s alley, what with the ninja-style fighting, and the desire to save humanity. But when they reveal themselves to be a cure that might be worse than the disease, he blows up the place and just barely saves Ducard.
Back in Gotham City, Bruce reintegrates himself in his old life, as the heir to Wayne Enterprises, as a charge to Alfred (Michael Caine), as a romantic foil to Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). Also, he creates a subterranean lair, puts on a mask and armor and runs around the city stopping crimes in a cross between a tank and a dune buggy.
It was a good idea, I think, to stay away from any supervillians we had already seen in film. This time they went with Scarecrow, a creepy psychiatrist played by Cillian Murphy who has a compound that can instill maddening fear in anyone. They also made James Gordon a fascinating presence (Gary Oldman) rather than a plot device like he had been in previous films and in the TV show. Adding additional class to the proceedings is Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), the technical genius who actually fits Batman out with all his gadgets.
Not having to worry about being the police or an inventor leaves Bruce the room to be a haunted figure with some real identity problems that he is trying to work out with the cowl and cape. Despite a somewhat ridiculous ending action sequence, this film really fires on all cylinders.
So, Ken Watanabe was in Batman Begins with Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson was in…