Batman Begins is a 2005 American superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Christian Bale as Batman, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, and Rutger Hauer. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the character and begins with Bruce Wayne's initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, and his journey to becoming Batman. It draws inspiration from classic comic book storylines such as Batman: The Man Who Falls, Batman: Year One, and Batman: The Long Halloween.
After a series of unsuccessful projects to resurrect Batman on screen following the 1997 critical and commercial failure of Batman & Robin, Nolan and David S. Goyer began work on the film in early 2003 and aimed for a darker and more realistic tone, with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. The goal was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce. The film, which was primarily shot in England and Chicago, relied on traditional stunts and miniatures — computer-generated imagery was used minimally. A new Batmobile (called the Tumbler) and a more mobile Batsuit were both created specifically for the film.
Batman Begins was critically and commercially successful. The film opened on June 15, 2005 in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed US$48 million in its opening weekend, eventually grossing $370 million worldwide. The film received an 84% overall approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Critics noted that fear was a common theme throughout the film, and remarked that it had a darker tone compared to previous Batman films. A sequel titled The Dark Knight was released in July 2008 and also saw the return of both Nolan and Bale to the franchise. The film has also popularized the notion of reboots in Hollywood.
Years later, Bruce returns to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against mobster Carmine Falcone. Before he can act, a woman posing as a reporter kills Chill for Falcone. Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his plan, and she expresses disgust for his disregard for justice. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that he is ignorant of the nature of crime, so Bruce decides to travel the world to understand the criminal mind. After nearly seven years, he is detained for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he meets Henri Ducard. Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, led by Ra's al Ghul. Bruce is freed and travels to a mountaintop to begin his training with the League. Bruce overcomes his childhood fear of bats in the process. When he is ordered to execute a criminal and learns of Ra's intention to destroy Gotham, he refuses and escapes by lighting the League's temple on fire, killing Ra's in the process. Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage and leaves him at a village.
Bruce returns to a Gotham City ruled by Falcone, and plots his war against the city's corrupt system. He seeks the help of Rachel, now an assistant district attorney, and police sergeant Jim Gordon, who consoled him after his parents' murder. After reestablishing his connections to Wayne Enterprises (now run by William Earle) Bruce acquires, with the help of former board member Lucius Fox, a prototype armored car and an experimental armored suit. In his first night, he disrupts a drug shipment, and leaves Falcone tied to a searchlight, forming a makeshift Bat-Signal. He also disrupts an assassination attempt on Rachel, leaving her with evidence against a judge on Falcone's payroll. While investigating the drugs in the shipment, Batman is stunned by psychopharmacologist Dr. Jonathan Crane, who sprays him with a powerful hallucinogen. Bruce's butler Alfred Pennyworth rescues him, using an anti-toxin developed by Fox to save him. Crane later poisons Rachel after showing her that the toxin, which is harmful in vapor form, is being piped into the city water supply. Batman saves her and attacks Crane with his own poison. When the police arrive at Arkham to arrest Crane, Batman escapes with Rachel in the Batmobile. After administering the antidote to her in the Batcave, he gives her two vials of it for Gordon – one for inoculating himself and the other for mass-production.
Later, in Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted at his birthday celebration by a group of League of Shadows ninjas led by Ducard, who reveals himself to be the real Ra's al Ghul, and that the man killed earlier was a decoy. Ra's, who had been conspiring with Crane the entire time, plans to destroy Gotham by distributing the toxin via the city's water supply, and vaporizing it with a microwave-emitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Bruce dismisses his guests by insulting them while pretending to be drunk, and fights briefly with Ra's while the League set fire to the Manor. At the last minute, Bruce escapes the inferno with Alfred's help. Batman arrives at the Narrows section of Gotham to aid the police in battling psychotic criminals, including Crane, now calling himself "Scarecrow", whom the League set free. Rachel is briefly confronted by Crane, but quickly wards him off with a taser before being chased by more inmates. After saving her, Batman reveals his identity to her, and leaves Gordon in control of the Batmobile to stop the elevated train used to transport the weapon to the city's central water-hub. Batman battles Ra's aboard the train, then escapes just as Gordon topples the elevated line using the Batmobile's missiles, leaving Ra's to crash to the ground and perish in the explosion.
Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as the new CEO, firing Earle. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce with his dual life as Batman. Newly Lieutenant Gordon unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman. Gordon mentions that they will have their hands full finding all of the psychopaths released from Arkham by Ra's, and in particular notes a criminal who also has "a taste for the theatrical" and leaves Joker playing cards at all of his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate it and leaves.
Director Nolan said of Bale, "He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for. Goyer stated that while some actors could play a great Bruce Wayne or a great Batman, Bale could portray both radically different personalities. Bale described the part as playing four characters: the raging Batman persona; the idiotic playboy façade Bruce uses to ward off suspicion; the vengeful young man; and the older, angrier Bruce who is discovering his purpose in life. Bale's dislike of his costume, which heated up regularly, helped him get into a necessarily foul mood. He said, "Batman's meant to be fierce, and you become a beast in that suit, as Batman should be – not a man in a suit, but a different creature."
Since he had lost a great deal of weight in preparation for his role in The Machinist, Bale hired a personal trainer to help him gain in the span of only a couple of months to help him physically prepare for the role. He first went well over the weight required and created concern over whether he'd look right for the part. Bale recognized that his large physique was not appropriate for Batman, who relies on speed and strategy. He managed to lose the excess muscle by the time filming began. The role of Bruce Wayne at age eight was portrayed by Gus Lewis.
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth: The trusted butler to Bruce Wayne's parents, who continues his loyal service to their son after their deaths. He is Bruce Wayne's closest confidante. Nolan felt Caine would effectively portray the foster father element of the character. Although Alfred's family is depicted in the film as having served the Wayne family for generations, Caine created his own backstory, in that before becoming Wayne's butler, Alfred served in the Special Air Service. After being wounded, he was invited to the position of the Wayne family butler by Thomas Wayne because, "He wanted a butler, but someone a bit tougher than that, you know?
Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard: In reality the true Ra's al Ghul in disguise, Ducard trains Bruce in ninjutsu, a form of martial arts. Writer David Goyer said he felt Ra's was the most complex of all the Batman villains, comparing him to Osama bin Laden as, "He's not crazy in the way that all the other Batman villains are. He's not bent on revenge; he's actually trying to heal the world. He's just doing it by very draconian means. Neeson is commonly cast as a mentor, so the revelation that his character was the main villain was intended to shock viewers.
Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes: A childhood friend of Bruce who serves as Gotham City's assistant district attorney, fighting against the corruption in the city. Nolan found a "tremendous warmth and great emotional appeal" in Holmes, and also felt "she has a maturity beyond her years that comes across in the film and is essential to the idea that Rachel is something of a moral conscience for Bruce".
Gary Oldman as Sgt. James Gordon: One of the few uncorrupted Gotham City police officers. He was the officer on duty the night of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. In this way, he shares a special bond with the adult Bruce and thus with Batman. Nolan originally wanted to cast Oldman as one of the film's villains, but when Chris Cooper turned down the role of Gordon to spend time with his family he decided that it would be refreshing for Oldman to play the role instead. "I embody the themes of the movie which are the values of family, courage and compassion and a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and justice," Oldman said of his character. Oldman filmed most of his scenes in Britain. Goyer said Oldman heavily resembled Gordon as drawn by David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One.
Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / The Scarecrow: A psychopharmacologist who works at Arkham Asylum and has developed fear-inducing toxins. He takes on the persona of the Scarecrow to intimidate others and further his study of fears and phobias. Nolan decided against Murphy for Batman, before casting him as Scarecrow. Murphy read numerous comics featuring the Scarecrow, and discussed making the character look less theatrical with Nolan. Murphy explained, "I wanted to avoid the Worzel Gummidge look. Because he's not a very physically imposing man he's more interested in the manipulation of the mind and what that can do.
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox: A high-ranking Wayne Enterprises employee who was demoted to working in the company's Applied Science Division, where he conducts advanced studies in biochemistry and mechanical engineering. Fox supplies Bruce with much of the gear necessary to carry out Batman's mission and is promoted to CEO when Bruce repossesses the company by the end of the film. Freeman was Goyer's first and only choice for the role.
Other cast members include Tom Wilkinson as crime boss Carmine Falcone, ruler of the Gotham underworld; Rutger Hauer as William Earle, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises who takes the company public in the long-term absence of Bruce Wayne; Ken Watanabe as Ra's al Ghul's decoy; Mark Boone Junior as Gordon's corrupt partner Detective Arnold Flass; Colin McFarlane as Police commissioner Gillian B. Loeb; Linus Roache and Sara Stewart as Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce's parents; Richard Brake as Joe Chill, the Waynes' killer; and Rade Šerbedžija as a homeless man, who is last person to meet Bruce when he leaves Gotham, and the first civilian to see Batman.
In January 2003, Warner Bros. hired Memento director Christopher Nolan to direct an untitled Batman film, and David S. Goyer signed on to write the script two months later. Nolan stated his intention to reinvent the film franchise of Batman by "doing the origins story of the character, which is a story that's never been told before". Nolan said that humanity and realism would be the basis of the origin film, and that "the world of Batman is that of grounded reality. [It] will be a recognizable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises." Goyer said that the goal of the film was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Nolan felt the previous films were exercises in style rather than drama, and described his inspiration as being Richard Donner's 1978 Superman, in its focus on depicting the character's growth. Also similar to Superman, Nolan wanted an all-star supporting cast for Batman Begins to lend a more epic feel and credibility to the story.
Nolan's personal "jumping off point" of inspiration was Batman: The Man Who Falls, a short story about Bruce's travels throughout the world. The early scene in Batman Begins of young Bruce Wayne falling into a well was adapted from The Man Who Falls. Batman: The Long Halloween, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, influenced Goyer in writing the screenplay, with the villain Carmine Falcone as one of many elements which were drawn from Halloween's "sober, serious approach". The writers considered having Harvey Dent in the film, but replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized, "we couldn’t do him justice". The sequel to Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, also served as an influence. The character was later portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight. Goyer used the vacancy of Bruce Wayne's multi-year absence presented in Batman: Year One to help set up some of the film's events in the transpiring years. In addition, the film's Sergeant James Gordon was based on his comic book incarnation as seen in Year One. The writers of Batman Begins also used Frank Miller's Year One plot device, which was about a corrupt police force that led to Gordon and Gotham City's need for Batman.
In seeking inspiration from Superman and other blockbuster films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nolan based most of the production in England, specifically Shepperton Studios. A Batcave set was built there and measured long, wide, and high. Production designer Nathan Crowley installed twelve pumps to create a waterfall with , and built rocks using molds of real caves. In January 2004, an airship hangar at Cardington, Bedfordshire was rented by Warner Bros. for filming in April 2004. There, the Narrows and the feet of the monorails filled the long stage.
Mentmore Towers was chosen from twenty different locations for Wayne Manor, as Nolan and Crowley liked its white floors, which gave the impression of the manor as a memorial to Wayne's parents. The building chosen to represent Arkham Asylum was the National Institute for Medical Research building in Mill Hill, north west London, England. The St. Pancras railway station and the Abbey Mills Pumping Stations were used for Arkham's interiors. The University College London was used for courtrooms. Some scenes, including the Batmobile pursuit, were filmed in Chicago at locations such as Lower Wacker Drive and 35 East Wacker. Authorities agreed to raise Franklin Street Bridge for a scene where access to the Narrows is closed.
Despite the film's darkness, Nolan wanted to make the film appeal to a wide age range. "Not the youngest kids obviously, I think what we’ve done is probably a bit intense for them but I certainly didn’t want to exclude the sort of ten to 12-year olds, because as a kid I would have loved to have seen a movie like this." Because of this, nothing gory or bloody was filmed.
Nolan worked with production designer Nathan Crowley to create the look of Gotham City. Crowley built a model of the city that filled Nolan's garage. Crowley and Nolan designed it as a large, modern metropolitan area that would reflect the various periods of architecture that the city had gone through. Elements were drawn from New York City, Chicago, and Tokyo; the latter for its elevated freeways and monorails. The Narrows was based on the slummish nature of the (now demolished) walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong.
Crowley started the process of designing the Tumbler for the film by model bashing. Crowley used the nose cone of a P-38 Lightning model to serve as the chassis for the Tumbler's jet engine. Six models of the Tumbler were built to 1:12 scale in the course of four months. Following the scale model creation, a crew of over 30 people, including Crowley and engineers Chris Culvert and Annie Smith, carved a full-size replica of the Tumbler out of a large block of Styrofoam in two months.
The Styrofoam model was used to create a steel "test frame", which had to stand up to several standards: have a speed of over , go from 0 to in 5 seconds, possess a steering system to make sharp turns at city corners, and withstand a self-propelled launch of up to . On the first jump test, the Tumbler's front end collapsed and had to be completely rebuilt. The basic configuration of the newly designed Tumbler included a 5.7-liter Chevy V8 engine, a truck axle for the rear axle, front tires by Hoosier (which are actually dirt racing tires used on the right rear of open wheel sprint cars), rear 4x4 mud tires by Interco., and the suspension system of Baja racing trucks. The design and development process took nine months and cost several million dollars.
With the design process complete, four street-ready race cars were constructed, with each vehicle possessing 65 carbon fiber panels and costing $250,000 to build. Two of the four cars were specialized versions. One version was the flap version, which had hydraulics and flaps to detail the close-up shots where the vehicle propelled itself through the air. The other version was the jet version, in which an actual jet engine was mounted onto the vehicle, fueled by six propane tanks. Due to the poor visibility inside the vehicle by the driver, monitors were connected to cameras on the vehicle body. The professional drivers for the Tumblers practiced driving the vehicles for six months before they drove on the streets of Chicago for the film's scenes.
The interior of the Tumbler was an immobile studio set and not actually the interior of a street-capable Tumbler. The cockpit was over-sized to fit cameras for scenes filmed in the Tumbler interior. In addition, another version of the Tumbler was a miniature model that was 1:5 scale of the actual Tumbler. This miniature model had an electric motor and was used to show the Tumbler flying across ravines and between buildings. However, the actual Tumbler was used for the waterfall sequence.
The filmmakers intended to create a very mobile Batsuit that would allow the wearer to move easily to fight and crouch. Previous film incarnations of the Batsuit had been stiff and especially restricted full head movement. Costume designer Lindy Hemming and her crew worked on the Batsuit at an FX workshop codenamed "Cape Town", a secured compound located at Shepperton Studios in London. The Batsuit's basic design was a neoprene undersuit, which was shaped by attaching molded cream latex sections. Christian Bale was molded and sculpted prior to his physical training so the team could work on a full body cast. To avoid imperfections picked up by sculpting with clay, plastiline was used to smooth the surface. In addition, the team brewed different mixtures of foam to find the mixture that would be the most flexible, light, durable, and black. The latter presented a problem, since the process to make the foam black reduced the foam's durability.
For the cape, director Christopher Nolan wanted to have a "flowing cloak... that blows and flows as in so many great graphic novels". Hemming's team created the cape out of their own version of parachute nylon that had electrostatic flocking, a process shared with the team by the British Ministry of Defence. The process was used by the London police force to minimize night vision detection. The cape was topped by a cowl, which was designed by Nolan, Hemming, and costume effects supervisor Graham Churchyard. The cowl was created to be thin enough to allow motion but thick enough to avoid wrinkling when Bale turned his head in the Batsuit. Churchyard explained the cowl had been designed to show "a man who has angst", so his character would be revealed through the mask.
The bats were entirely digital, as it was decided directing real bats on set would be problematic. Dead bats were scanned to create digital models. Locations and sets were recreated on the computer so the flying bats would not be superfluous once incorporated into the finished film.
The score for Batman Begins was composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Nolan originally invited Zimmer to compose the music, and Zimmer asked Nolan if he could invite Howard to compose as well, as they had always planned a collaboration. The two composers collaborated on separate themes for the "split personality" of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman. Zimmer and Howard began composing in Los Angeles and moved to London where they stayed for twelve weeks to complete most of their writing. Zimmer and Howard sought inspiration for shaping the score by visiting the Batman Begins sets.
Zimmer wanted to avoid writing music that had been done before, so the score became an amalgamation of orchestra and electronic music. The film's ninety-piece orchestra was developed from members of various London orchestras, and Zimmer chose to use more than the normal number of cellos. Zimmer enlisted a boy soprano to help reflect the music in some of film's scenes where Bruce Wayne's parents tragic memories are involved. "He's singing a fairly pretty tune and then he gets stuck, it's like froze, arrested development," said Zimmer. He also attempted to add human dimension to Batman, whose behavior would typically be seen as "psychotic", through the music. Both composers collaborated to create 2 hours and 20 minutes worth of music for the film. Zimmer composed the action sequences, while Howard focused on the film's drama.
Fingeroth also argues that a major theme in the film is fear, which supports the story of Bruce Wayne becoming a hero. Director Christopher Nolan stated that the idea behind the film was "a person who would confront his innermost fear and then attempt to become it". Fingeroth referred to this film's depiction as "the man with fear – but who rises above it". The theme of fear is further personified by the choice of antagonist, the Scarecrow. The film depicts how fear can affect all creatures regardless of might. Allusions to fear are seen throughout, from Bruce's conquering of his demons, to becoming Batman, to the Scarecrow and his deadly fear toxin. The macabre, distorted images presented in the Scarecrow's toxin-induced hallucinations also express the idea of terror to an extreme.
Critic Brian Orndorf considered Batman Begins "fierce" and "demonstrative in brood", giving the film an abundance of gravitas and energy. It strays away from the lighter fare of Joel Schumacher's 1997 Batman film, Batman & Robin, which contained camp and one-liners throughout. The theme of fear is intensified with the help of the musical score by Zimmer and Howard, which also "eschews traditional heroic themes". Also contrary to previous Batman films, a psychological investigation of Bruce Wayne's split personality in the bat suit is only lightly touched upon. Orndorf noted that Bruce is a "character constantly striving to do the right thing, not worn down by incessant reexamination".
James Berardinelli applauded Nolan and Goyer's work creating more understanding into "who [Batman] is and what motivates him", something Berardinelli felt Tim Burton's film lacked; at the same time, Berardinelli felt the romantic aspect between Bale and Holmes did not work because the actors lacked the chemistry Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder (Superman), or Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) shared in their respective roles. According to Total Film, Nolan manages to create such strong characters and story that the third-act action sequences cannot compare to " the frisson of two people talking", and Katie Holmes and Christian Bale's romantic subplot has a spark "refreshingly free of Peter Parker/Mary Jane-style whining".
Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, who felt the film began slowly, stated that the "story, psychology and reality, not special effects", assisted the darkness behind Batman's arsenal; he noted that Neeson and Holmes, unlike Bale's ability to "feel his role in his bones", do not appear to fit their respective characters in "being both comic-book archetypes and real people". The New Yorker's David Denby did not share Berardinelli and Turan's opinion. He was unimpressed with the film, when comparing it to the two Tim Burton films, and that Christian Bale's presence was hindered by the "dull earnestness of the screenplay", the final climax was "cheesy and unexciting", and that Nolan had resorting to imitating the "fakery" used by other filmmakers when filming action sequences.
Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune believed Nolan and Miller managed to "comfortably mix the tormented drama and revenge motifs with light hearted gags and comic book allusions", and that Nolan takes the series out of the "slam-bang Hollywood jokefests" the franchise had drifted into. Comic book scribe and editor Dennis O'Neil stated that he "felt the filmmakers really understood the character they were translating", citing this film as the best of the live-action Batman films. In contrast, J.R. Jones, from the Chicago Reader, criticized the script, and Nolan and David Goyer for not living up to the "hype about exploring Batman's damaged psyche". Roger Ebert, who gave mixed reviews to the previous films, wrote this was "the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for". Giving it four out of four stars, he commended the realistic portrayals of the Batman arsenal—the Batsuit, Batcave, Batmobile, and the Batsignal—as well as the focus on "the story and character" with less stress on "high-tech action".
Like Berardinelli, USA Today's Mike Clark thought Bale performed the role of Batman as well as he did Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but that the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes was "frustratingly underdeveloped". Kyle Smith thought Bale exhibited "both the menace and the wit he showed in his brilliant turn in American Psycho", and that the film works so well because of the realism, stating, "Batman starts stripping away each layer of Gotham crime only to discover a sicker and more monstrous evil beneath, his rancid city simultaneously invokes early ’90s New York, when criminals frolicked to the tune of five murders a day; Serpico New York, when cops were for sale; and today, when psychos seek to kill us all at once rather than one by one. In contrast, Salon.com's Stephanie Zacharek felt Nolan did not deliver the emotional depth expected of "one of the most soulful and tortured superheroes of all"; she thought Bale, unlike Michael Keaton who she compared him to, failed to connect with the audience underneath the mask, but that Gary Oldman succeeds in "emotional complexity" where the rest of the movie fails. However, Tim Burton felt Nolan "captured the real spirit that these kind of movies are supposed to have nowadays. When I did Batman twenty years ago, in 1988 or something, it was a different time in comic book movies. You couldn't go into that dark side of comics yet. The last couple of years that has become acceptable and Nolan certainly got more to the root of what the Batman comics are about.
The film held its top spot for another weekend, accumulating $27,589,389 in a 43 percent drop from its first weekend. Batman Begins went on to gross $371,853,783 worldwide. It is the third-highest grossing Batman film to date, behind Tim Burton's Batman, which grossed $411,348,924 worldwide and The Dark Knight which has currently grossed $988,004,670 worldwide. In comparison to the previous Batman films, Batman Begins averaged $12,634 per theater, the least of all the Batman films. It was released in more theaters, but sold fewer tickets than any of the others, with the exception of Batman & Robin. Batman Begins was the eighth-highest grossing film of 2005 in the US.
Batman Begins was released on HD DVD on October 10, 2006. A Limited Edition Giftset of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 8, 2008, to coincide with The Dark Knight which hit theaters July 18, 2008. Because of the box office performance of The Dark Knight, the Batman Begins DVD has seen an increase in both sales and rentals.