Now, before it seems like I’m ripping into The Dark Knight too much, which is not what I want to do at all, I’ll get back to Batman Begins. I read recently that one of the reasons that Joss Whedon decided to work on The Avengers was because he felt the superhero genre was being re-evaluated by films such as Kick-Ass and The Dark Knight too early. Hollywood hadn’t let the hero factor of the superhero genre linger long enough but had jumped straight into tortured or conflicted characters who aren’t about saving the whole city and the girl.
Batman Begins does have the hero factor. In fact, Batman Begins encapsulates pretty much everything that makes Batman so awesome. At the end of the day, he’s just a bored billionaire with enough money to pull off dressing up like a bat and beating dudes up. We cheer when Batman saves the day in Batman Begins, but rarely feel triumphant when he is successful in The Dark Knight, so hollow do his victories feel. This is not a fault of The Dark Knight. I think the more complex take on the superhero genre is fantastic and kudos to Christopher Nolan for even venturing in that direction. I just don’t want people to forget how awesome it was when Batman got one up on Ra’s Al Ghul three years earlier.
Nolan’s strength lies in his uncanny ability to take a pre-existing character of the Batman universe and give it a sort of depth and focus that was present in the comics but never fully realized. In both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight he demonstrates a knack for choosing an appropriate theme or tone and selecting the villains accordingly. Batman’s whole deal stems from the fact that he’s afraid. He’s afraid of bats and he’s been generally afraid since the oddly named Joe Chill capped his parents in a Gotham back alley. In comes Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow to perfectly compliment Begins’ theme of fear.
But surely he needs some sort of father figure to guide him through and give him the abilities to become Batman, only to eventually betray him and hence give him a much needed life lesson? BOOM. Liam Neeson rocks up as Ra’s Al Ghul. Surely any film in which Liam Neeson isn’t extremely annoying deserves points, although he seems to have focused all his annoyingness into his silly little beard (yes, I know Ra’s Al Ghul has that beard in the comics, but some things do not translate to the silver screen). Father figures are actually crucial in Begins. Think of Alfred, Gordan or Lucias Fox. The Dark Knight is all about testing Batman’s relationship with those father figures.