Batman Begins
Christian Bale as Batman gave a much-needed boost to the superhero franchiseWarner Bros

In our continuing series, IBTimes UK takes a look at the work of British director Christopher Nolan in the lead up to the November release of his ninth film, Interstellar. This week we look at Batman Begins, the film that kick-started one of the century's most popular trilogies so far and which took Nolan to new heights of popularity.


Warner Bros wanted something simple for their Batman reboot, a film not bathed in neon and with a script not comprised of the worst puns known to man. What they got was more than they would have dared dream.

Nolan's amnesiac thriller Memento acted as a clear calling card not only to Hollywood but to the more grounded Batman franchise Warner Bros was seeking to make after Joel Schumacher's critically derided Batman & Robin effectively killed the series in 1997.

Nolan was hired in 2003 to bring the Caped Crusader back to the big screen. "I felt like doing the origins story of the character, which is a story that's never been told before," Nolan told Variety a year later. "The world of Batman is that of grounded reality. Ours will be a recognisable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises."

Batman Begins
Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parentsWarner Bros

Nolan's script, co-written with David S Goyer, used Frank Miller's seminal origin tale Batman: Year One and Dennis O'Neil short story The Man Who Falls as its main influences, with further inspiration coming from the depiction of the Falcone crime family in Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween.

Batman's origins had never been shown on film before so it was a logical step to take, as was grounding it in semi-realism. A more sober approach for the post-9/11 age, which was later reflected in the James Bond reboot Casino Royale, was used to delve into the character's origins.

This was to be a Batman for a new generation and you don't need us to tell you it was a big success.

By successfully grounding an outlandish tale in reality, Nolan was able to able to explore with a degree of maturity what might make a man dress as a bat and fight crime, and in doing so he opened the larger cinema-going public up to a new side of superheroes.

These icons of pop culture had always been much more than cape-wearing mascots. Most superhero film directors knew this long before Nolan's trilogy but what he did was delve deeper into the complexities of his subject, which in turn influenced superhero films for years to come.

Batman Begins
Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow, a character that appears throughout the trilogyWarner Bros

In the case of his Bruce Wayne, this meant looking at a man tormented by witnessing the murder of his parents at a young age, whose struggle to deal with deep-seated rage sees him turn to a life of vigilantism.

The duality between the playboy billionaire prince of Gotham that Wayne shows the world and the real Bruce who fights under the Batman cowl is a classic trope of the director's work. Suits as a façade, as seen in Following and Memento, also appear – in both the suits Wayne wears while maintaining a lavish public appearance and the Batsuit he dons to hide his true identity.

Batman Begins is often heralded as a classic superhero movie, and it is, but it is certainly not without fault. The final act just noticeably veers into cliché, while Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow is let down by the script to make way for Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul.

There are also a couple of lines that fall flat. Take for example when Gary Oldman's James Gordon sees the Batmobile and says: "I've got to get me one of those!" Just a little bit cringeworthy and not on par with the rest of the film's dry sense of humour.

Batman Begins
Liam Neeson as Wayne's mentor-turned-foe Henri Ducard, aka Ra's al GhulWarner Bros

These are small complaints of an otherwise stellar movie but compare and contrast the film with 2008 sequel The Dark Knight and it is clear where Nolan was given more room to express his considerable vision.

Batman Begins didn't start the Hollywood superhero boom but it did begin a story that would provide it with legs. Two series have set the ground work for the future of superheroes on the big screen: Marvel's inter-connected Avengers cinematic universe and Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, which successfully took the subject matter more seriously.

As successful as Begins was, however, it wouldn't be until The Dark Knight that Nolan's Batman would become a monumental success. In between, he made a film that had been lurking in the corner of his mind since 2001, a twisted thriller about two obsessive magicians in Victorian England.

Next week - The Prestige.