I think that due to the massive popularity of The Dark Knight
a lot of people overlook the gem that was Batman Begins
. Aside from simply popularizing the "origin story" or the "reboot" trend in Hollywood, it was perhaps the most comics-accurate film of its time, so much so that you feel like you're watching the other-half of Batman Year One
that Frank Miller didn't elaborate on. Overall it treated a superhero movie like it was a serious piece of art; it gave us the Batman from a noir world that we were all waiting for and then extended it on a philosophical level with characters like Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul -- far from being a mere adaptation, it took the myth of Batman and its corresponding lore and really turned it into a modern-day legend. Not only did you feel Bruce's pent-up anger, his frustration, and his utter isolation in the world, like that scene when he throws the gun into Gotham harbour, or when he's so desperate in his cause that he's lost all sense of direction in the Bhutanese prison, you connect
Superheroes are larger-than-life beings, and more often than not the stories told of them--even in the comics--tend to be simplistic action-fests that look at depth, theme, and characterisation as though they are chores. Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins
on the other hand explored the concept of heroism: for the first time you had Batman struggling to define what justice really was; instead of simply being a man on a guilt-ridden crusade he becomes someone who embraces his fear and strives to find meaning in a world that had become meaningless to him in the senseless act of corruption and criminality. Far from being simply someone who's out to fight a criminal, Batman attacks the fabric of criminality itself. With Gary Oldman we finally had the best James Gordon we can imagine! Michael Caine's scenes with Christian Bale were so much more personal that you actually saw a depth in the relationship between Alfred and Bruce that was never highlighted before--a maternal side to him. And of course, with Lucius Fox, we finally looked into how Bruce Wayne developed his Bat-arsenal.
Batman's always been a psychological hero, and in close relation with that we had Scarecrow as the perfect doppleganger who used fear as a weapon just like Batman does. We had Ra's Al Ghul and this unique interpretation where Bruce's training around the globe included a final step, as though he'd graduated from college and went into a final Masters degree for crime-fighting in the cold mountains, mimicking the traditional heroic journey, and a conflict between a mentor and a pupil -- with a mentor who was as willing to kill as Batman from the earlier cinematic adaptations. It was a sweeping exploration of Batman comics from the early 40s (Batman vs. mob), the 60s (sci-fi tech), the 70s (The League of Shadows), and finally the Modern era started off from the 80s onwards (Year One). We saw those iconic elements of batman fighting Ra's with a sword, Scarecrow on horseback, Arkham Asylum as a place straight from Silence of the Lambs
-- a very close look at the distinction between a B.F. Skinner-like Jonathan Crane who might as well be Jeremiah Arkham and Mr. Zsaz (two characters who appear here and who appeared with a similar story twist in Zsaz's original appearance). We saw a corrupt GCPD with a young Gordon as the only good cop in a bent town as though its a noir-saga, with Falcone as anAl Capone-esque "untouchable crime-lord" fueling an economic depression similar to the one that gave birth to Batman and superheroes back in the 40s. But most important of all, we had a Bruce Wayne who was utterly human, who faced human challenges, human needs, and in the end grew up to accept his role in the world.
But those are some of the surface-aspects of the film, we already know that, what I love about Batman Begins is the fact that it goes on a deeper, more primitive level that's mythical in nature. Yes it's a realistic interpretation of a comic-book hero, but it's also an exploration of what a symbol really is. And with that in mind, I'm exploring this trilogy with some of its literary, philosophical, and mythical symbols in mind -- the results are quite surprising, I never thought I'd find a parallel to a paleolithic ritual where adolescents were forced into a cave in order to confront their fears, so that they come back up and became hunters for the tribe -- in BATMAN MOVIE. Frank Miller might have connected those Jungian elements but it was under Chris Nolan's films that they were more properly articulated.
I'm writing Heroic Archetypes: Batman Begins
, a 7-part series of articles that looks deeper into some of those implications, and some of those mythical archetypes and symbols that we've seen in the movie. Released on JUSTICE BULLETIN.COM like my previous article on Kenneth Branagh's Thor
, I was finally able to explore some of those ideas to their fullest extent. I'd love to hear your thoughts on them -- I've included the links below.
I promised the great people on the site that I'd follow this up withan exploration of The Dark Knight
and then with The Dark Knight Rises
, but I'm still working on those at the moment. As both Bat-fans who love to discus some of the more profound ideas in these movies, I think you will enjoy reading these, and I certainly will appreciate any feedback you guys throw my way. Thanks again.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Initiation Rites of the Palaeolithic Cave
Part 3: The Divine Child and the Orphan
Part 4: The Journey and the Totem
Part 5: Life, Death, and Rebirth
Part 6: Redefining Justice and the Past
Part 7: The Conclusion