The Alcott Analysis: Batman Begins

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WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Bruce Wayne, orphaned at eight, wants to overcome his fears and honor his father. This turns out to be rather more complicated than he suspects it will be.

Batman Begins presents a radically new vision (for the movies, anyway — this stuff had been around the comics and the animated series for many years beforehand) of the Batman story, grounds it in a startling new sense of reality, presents not just a caped crusader and a wacky new villain but a whole wealth of good guys and bad guys, all following their stars in increasingly complex and interconnected ways, all of it bound together with the one fantastic conceit of a young billionaire who dresses up like a bat. It strongly reminds me of the Casino Royale re-boot, which brought the James Bond character to a new level of immediacy while retaining enough of the series’ fantastic hallmarks to still qualify as escapism. There is still enough silliness in Batman Begins to make it a recognizable “superhero movie” (grand, outsized villains with colorful personalities and an ambitious scheme to destroy an entire city, spectacular action sequences that teeter at the brink of believability, production design that borders upon science-fiction) but it’s presented with a sober, straightfaced earnestness that’s nothing less than shocking after the garish camp of Batman & Robin. The Dark Knight would successfully develop all of Begins‘s good ideas into an even more complex, startling vision of modern urban justice.