Franchises of All Time
The Batman Films
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman (1989) | Batman Returns (1992) | Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) | Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997) | Batman Begins (2005) | The Dark Knight (2008) | The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman (1943) - serial | Batman and Robin (1949) - serial | Batman, The Movie (1966) | Catwoman (2004)
Film Plot Summary
The film opened with 8 year-old childhood friends, Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) and Rachel Dawes (Emma Lockhart) playing a game of Finders Keepers in a Victorian greenhouse outside Wayne Manor, during which the young boy accidentally fell into a well shaft. He screamed as he was swarmed by bats when they darkened the air and flew upward out of the well. This became a recurring nightmare for 28 year-old Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), the young scion of a wealthy philanthropic family.
He found serving a term for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he met an imposing gentleman named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) - mysterious spokesperson for Ra's al Ghul, "a man greatly feared by the criminal underworld. A man who can offer you a path...the path of the League of Shadows."
After being released the next day, Wayne - as instructed - picked a rare blue poppy flower that grew on the eastern slopes of the Himalayan foothills and carried it to the top of the jagged and icy mountain and into a bleak monastery. He was greeted in a great hall by a robed figure on a throne calling himself Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Other ninja warriors surrounded Wayne, who was again accompanied by Henri Ducard himself. Wayne told Ducard: "I'm seeking a means to fight injustice." He was told to master his own fear as Ducard began his training and mentoring of Wayne.
The film returned to Wayne's childhood after the fall into the well - he was suffering from injuries and a newfound fear of bats. The young boy joined his parents, philanthropist Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache) and Martha Wayne (Sara Stewart) for a ride on an elevated monorail into Gotham City to see a production of Mefistofele - an opera which included dark screeching birds on wires resembling bats. Scared by the sight, he urged his family to leave early. In an alleyway outside, a robber named Joe Chill (Richard Brake) emerged from the shadows demanding jewelry and cash, then shot both of his parents in cold blood before fleeing. His father told him before dying: "Don't be afraid." The criminal was soon caught, but young Wayne blamed himself for their deaths, telling trusted family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine): "If I hadn't gotten scared..."
Back in the monastery, the older Wayne told Ducard: "My anger outweighs my guilt." He began his ninja warrior and vigilante training with the quasi-terrorist and sinister League of Shadows group, learning about swordplay, weapons, and methods of deception and theatricality to fight criminality. [The League claimed to be centuries old, dedicated to eliminating decadence and corruption.] Years earlier in another flashback, an embittered 20 year-old college student Bruce Wayne returned to Wayne Manor from his studies at Princeton University to testify in a hearing. His idea, which he almost shared with childhood friend and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), was to avenge his parents' death by killing Chill, who was scheduled to testify against ex-cellmate Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) in exchange for an early parole from his prison sentence (with fourteen years already served). Outside the courtroom before Wayne could shoot Chill, one of Falcone's hitmen (a blonde female reporter) assassinated Chill.
Rachel understood that Falcone had paid off the judge to have a public trial, to get Chill into the open. Bruce told her about his aborted, vengeful plan to kill Chill himself, and she lectured him about the harmfulness of seeking revenge: "Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about you making yourself feel better." She advised him to look beyond his selfish pain and see the crime in Gotham: "This city is rotting...Things are worse than ever down here. Falcone floods our streets with crime and drugs preying on the desperate, creating new Joe Chills every day." According to her, Falcone was destroying everything his parents stood for, and he was no better: "Good people like your parents, who'll stand against injustice, they're gone. What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing." She slapped him and curtly told him: "Your father would be ashamed of you."
Wayne flung his gun into the harbor, and then entered a basement dinner club, where he met the criminal boss Falcone and confronted him: "I came here to show you that not everyone in Gotham's afraid of you." Stating that he ruled by the "power of fear," Falcone replied that the privileged Wayne was ignorant of criminal behavior and the "ugly side of life." To learn about the "simple nature of right and wrong," Bruce decided to travel the world, study criminal behavior and conquer his fears - he "learned the fear before a crime and the thrill of success." He was arrested as a common thief-criminal. Back in the Himalayan monastery, Ducard told him: "What you really fear is inside yourself. You fear your own power. You fear your anger. The drive to do great or terrible things. Now you must journey inwards." In the process, Wayne conquered fear by embracing his worst fear - bats.
After the successful purging, Ducard told Wayne he was now ready to lead the ninja warriors as a member of the League of Shadows - but first was ordered to show his "commitment to justice" by executing a criminal-murderer. When he refused, he also learned that Ra's intent was to send him to Gotham "to strike at the heart of criminality." Gotham would be destroyed by the League of Shadows - the city was "beyond saving and must be allowed to die." Wayne again refused to be an executioner, and ignited the League's temple, as he fought against Ra with his sword. When flaming pieces of the structure collapsed from explosive charges, Ra was crushed and killed, but Bruce was able to pull an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage. After saving him from sliding off an icy slope, Bruce left him to recover in a sherpa hut.
After a total period of seven years, according to Alfred, Bruce returned to Gotham City (in a private jet from Khatmandu) to show the citizens that "their city doesn't belong to the criminals and the corrupt." To be most effective, he decided to be a symbol in order to be "incorruptible" - "something elemental, something terrifying." The city's new Assistant DA (Rachel Dawes) was increasingly frustrated by rulings made by Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) regarding Falcone's thugs - the corrupt doctor was obviously paid off by Falcone to move criminals from jail to the asylum. Meanwhile, Bruce investigated the well where he was attacked by bats, and discovered a vast bat cave - it was a moment of revelation as the bats swirled around him.
In Bruce's absence, the board of Wayne Enterprises was run by Bill Earle (Rutger Hauer), and Wayne was able to reestablish contact with his company by working with knowledgeable Applied Sciences Division ex-board member Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Chief inventor, gadget-guru, and head of R&D, Fox showed Wayne some of the prototypes previously developed, including a grapple gun, and an experimental armored survival bodysuit - future accoutrements for caped hero Batman.
The newly-outfitted Batman (without his graphite cowl) met briefly with Police Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) - whom he first met after his parents' deaths - to find out why Falcone's underworld drug shipments were so frequent, and learned: "He's paid up with the right people." Wayne also learned about more of Fox's inventions, including memory fabric and an armored combat car similar to a camouflaged Humvee called the Tumbler. During one of Falcone's drug shipments in the city's dock area, Batman (in his first official role as the superhero) disrupted the delivery and then confronted Falcone one-on-one, telling him: "I'm Batman." He also foiled an assassination attempt on Rachel's life, providing her with photographic evidence of Judge Faden (Gerard Murphy) on Falcone's payroll. Shortly later that night, Sgt. Gordon found Falcone strapped to a searchlight, forming a bat-shaped signal in the sky from the beam of light. The next day's headlines told about the masked vigilante: "Bat Serves Up Crime Boss." DA Rachel Dawes was able to successfully prosecute against Falcone, although she was surprised by Bruce Wayne's reappearance in town - living a profligate life.
Secondary villain Dr. Jonathan Crane had an alter-ego, known as "The Scarecrow" - he was secretly transporting a toxic substance hidden within the drug shipments. In a prison interview room, The Scarecrow (wearing a small burlap sack mask with a breathing apparatus) stunned a suspicious Falcone, just about to be indicted, with a powerful hallucinogen gas sprayed into his face. [Soon after, psychotic-acting Falcone was moved to Arkham Asylum and placed on suicide watch.] When Batman questioned Gordon's two-timing corrupt partner Flass (Mark Boone Junior) about what was hidden in one of the crated drug shipments, he learned the drop-off point was in the Narrows section of Gotham - it was suspected that a prototype weapon had been stolen (by the Scarecrow) from Wayne Enterprises. It was a micro-wave transmitter designed to lethally vaporize an enemy's water supply. During his investigation at the Narrows, Batman was also hit in the face by the Scarecrow's weaponized aerosol spray, and set on fire. After dousing the flames, Alfred was able to help save his life (he regained consciousness two days later), and an antidote was developed by Fox.
Bruce - as Batman - decided to trail Rachel to Arkham Asylum in the Narrows, postponing attendance at his own birthday party. After Rachel confronted Dr. Crane about moving Falcone to the asylum, she was shown how a toxic powder had been introduced over a period of weeks into the city's water supply. [He would then use the microwave transmitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises to vaporize the water to make the powder lethal.] Rachel was then sprayed in the face with a concentrated dose of the hallucinogen gas. Batman arrived and sprayed Crane with a "taste of (his) own medicine" - a psychotropic hallucinogen (a panic-inducing toxin gas), and learned that Crane was working for Ra's al Ghul, to his astonishment! With assistance from Sgt. Gordon who had arrived with a SWAT team at the Asylum, Batman rescued Rachel in his turbo-powered black Tumbler (with the police valiantly giving chase while he was "flying on rooftops" and using stealth mode to escape), and inoculated her with the antidote back in the Batcave. He also gave her two vials of the antidote - one for Gordon personally, and one for "mass production."
Later upstairs in Wayne Manor, Bruce joined his birthday celebration already in progress. He was confronted by Ducard - who revealed his dual identity as the real Ra's al Ghul. Pretending to be drunk, Bruce dismissed his party-goers with insults (calling them "suck-ups"), and then learned that Crane was conspiring with Ra's al Ghul, who supplied him with the toxin derived from the organic compound in the blue flowers. The plan was to weaponize the toxin, and then hold the city at ransom - however, the real plan was to destroy Gotham and its decadence in order to 'save' it. Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows followers set fire to Wayne Manor, as Bruce fought briefly against Ra's and vowed: "I'm gonna stop you." Alfred saved Master Wayne from death in the inferno.
The League's co-conspirators released all of the insane and psychotic criminals (including Crane) from Arkham Asylum in the Narrows, causing Sgt. Gordon with a strong show of force from the police in riot gear to order the bridges to be raised to contain them on the island. Rachel appeared on the scene at the Narrows to give Gordon the antidote. She watched as Ra's (wearing a gas mask) activated the microwave emitter in the street, producing an explosion of pressurized steam in the area and incapacitating everyone. She briefly saw Crane/Scarecrow on horseback and fired her taser at his head to ward him off. Batman arrived in the Narrows in his Batmobile, and told Gordon that the elevated monorail train was positioned at the Narrows to transport the microwave emitter-weapon to the city's central water-hub beneath Wayne Tower in the center of the city, where it would be used to vaporize the city's water supply and blanket the city. Batman lent the Batmobile to Gordon, saved Rachel from threatening inmates, and then revealed himself to her with familiar words: "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."
In the exciting conclusion, Gordon drove the Batmobile three miles to Wayne Tower, while Batman battled with Ra's aboard the moving train to stop it from reaching Wayne Tower. In the city's center, Gordon fired the vehicle's auto-cannons weapons at the elevated train's supports, causing the monorail to crash to the ground into an underground parking lot and kill Ra's in the massive explosion. The city was saved.
In the film's epilogue, Fox replaced Earle as the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises (Wayne had bought most of the shares when the company went public a week earlier). And Rachel was unable to be fully reconciled with Bruce ("He never came back at all") now that he led a dual life as the masked Batman. Plans were to rebuild the burned-down Wayne Manor. Gordon was promoted to Lieutenant, and on a Gotham rooftop he unveiled a Batsignal for Batman, while describing how they still had work to do - rounding up Crane and the Arkham inmates, and facing an "escalation" of crime with a new criminal who had "a taste for the theatrical" and always left a calling card at his crime scenes - a Joker playing card. Batman promised: "I'll look into it" and flew off into the night.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
This film concentrated on the origins of the Batman saga/legend, and rebooted (or started afresh) in order to create a break from the previous Burton/Schumacher films. Director Christopher Nolan waited eight years before this reintroduction (reboot) of the character.
With only one Academy Award nomination (and no win): Best Cinematography.
With a domestic box-office gross of $205.3 million, and $372 million (worldwide), and a production budget of $150 million.
The film was both a critical and commercial success.
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