What could the first in the Dark Knight trilogy do differently than other Batman trilogies? A lot, it seems.
Unlike other Batman movies, this one fills out the back story behind Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. The movie goes beyond the standard explanation of little Bruce seeing his parents murdered. A good 30 minutes or so of the movie is spent showing what happened to the young adult Bruce—the space of time between his parents’ murders and him assuming an adult role in society.
Finally, logistical and psychological explanations for his transformation into Batman! The Batcave? Initially stumbled upon from the well Bruce fell into as a kid. The Batcave turns out to be composed of chambers with a lift built under the foundations of the Wayne mansion that was built by an ancestor who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
The gadgets? Prototypes from Wayne Enterprises that were developed and forgotten in the bowels of the company.
Bruce’s physical prowess? Skills learned when training to be a brother in a secret society of vigilantes—a society that provides his first real nemesis.
Psychological themes run throughout the movie—fear, guilt, anger—starting with Bruce’s first encounter with bats as a child. This same fear resurfaces during an evening at the opera, which prompts the family to leave the opera early and sets the stage for his parents being murdered. Young Bruce blames himself for their deaths.
Bruce spends subsequent years with the guilt and anger. Thwarted from killing his parents’ killer upon the killer’s early release from jail, Bruce disappears into the shadows of the criminal world. Plucked from a prison in Asia, he trains with a secret society until they attempt to initiate him by forcing him to commit an act that goes against his principles. Rather than kill a criminal without trial, Bruce splits, resurfacing in polite society as Bruce Wayne and taking back Wayne Enterprises from an evil head of the board.
Batman Begins is dark but not as dark as some previous Batman movies. The script contains a few corny lines but not many and not too corny as with previous movies. The acting is decent though I admit at first I had trouble seeing Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. (I say that about every new Batman.)
This version of Batman has a love interest, Rachel Dawes, who was a childhood friend of Bruce’s. He fights criminals his way and she does her way, as a district attorney.
Commissioner Gordon appears, not as commissioner yet. For now he is the only honest cop in Gotham. He and Batman team up to fight crime.
At the end of the movie, Gordon tries out a newly developed bat signal—yes, that bat signal—to catch Batman’s attention…and hands him a card—the joker—left by a criminal, foreshadowing the villain in the next installment of this Batman series.