Batman Begins is the prequel to the story you just can't get enough of. Most versions of the Batman story begin with the Caped Crusader already established as millionaire Bruce Wayne's crime-fighting alter ego. You had to wonder, why did a millionaire playboy decide to become a crime fighter? And having made that decision, how did he get all the stuff? - the Batcave. The Batmobile. The Bat Signal. And those moves!
The 2005 release of Batman Begins explains all that and more. This is slam-bang action-adventure movie, and stylishly presented.
High in the Himalayas...
We meet Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in a Chinese prison. The young scion of wealth has been traveling the world, studying criminals. This becomes clear when a hulking brute tries to take on the young man, telling him, "I'm the devil." "You're not the devil," Wayne replies with weary contempt before wiping the floor with him and his goons, "You're practice."
Wayne is visited in prison by the enigmatic Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers him a path. Once released, Wayne follows the path and finds, high in the Himalayas, a monastery-fortress of ninja warrior monks. Here he receives training from Ducard, under the watchful eye of the group's leader Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe).
A warrior must confront and overcome his fears, and in flashbacks we learn about the twin traumas of Wayne's childhood, the accident that gave him his fear of bats, and the deaths of his parents as victims of street crime. The orphaned Wayne was raised from a young age by the family's faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine).
But when time comes to graduate and join the ninja society, Wayne learns that their true plan is not to save his parents' beloved Gotham, but to destroy it. In a blazing (literally) action scene, Wayne takes on all of his former colleagues and escapes.
The Wanderer Returns
Wayne has been gone for seven years, and has even been declared dead. Fortunately, he had left his fortune to the faithful Alfred, who never gave up hope and kept his fortune and his home intact. Wayne Enterprises, the source of his fortune, has been in the sinister hands of Earle (Rutger Hauer) and after the death of Wayne's father became involved in military research.
Down in the bowels of Applied Research, Wayne finds a lot of intriguing prototypes - body armor, climbing and gliding equipment, and one very cool low-slung heavily armored military vehicle. (Just gotta say: Best. Batmobile. Ever.) He also finds an ally in Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), the custodian of all this ware and a man willing to not notice when it goes missing.
Wayne's greatest ally is Alfred - and Caine is a delightful Alfred. This is the man, remember, who raised Bruce Wayne, is almost a second father to him, and is not afraid to tell him off when necessary.
Oh, and the Batcave? That childhood trauma was about falling down a disused well and disturbing a colony of bats. Having now overcome his fear of bats, Wayne rappels down the well to explore and finds... you guessed it, the Batcave.
Can Gotham Be Saved?
The Gotham City that Wayne returns to is a city almost entirely corrupted. Most of the government and the police force has been bought off by mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson).
Wayne does find one honest cop to serve as an ally, Sgt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, for once getting to play a good guy). One assumes that Sgt. Gordon will eventually become the Gotham Police Commissioner so familiar to Batmaniacs.
This version of the Bat-legend gives Wayne an unrequited love interest, former childhood playmate Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), now grown up to be one of the few honest public servants in the DA's office, but in this movie she serves as more of a rescuee than an ally.
But even bringing down Falcone's criminal empire is just the warm-up. Because Ra's Al Ghul's foul minions still intend to destroy Gotham City.
Batman Begins Credits
Batman Begins was directed by Christopher Nolan, and written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane.