In Nolan’s exhilarating reboot of the Batman franchise, the Batmobile looks like the love child of an Abrams battle tank and a Ferrari, the Batsuit is a homemade patchwork of disparate mail-ordered parts, and the Batcave is, well, a literal cave inhabited by actual bats. Indeed, so fascinated is Nolan by the practical realities of being Batman that he spends more than half of Batman Begins showing us how the billionaire orphan Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) becomes Gotham City’s caped avenger in the first place, starting with his years as a dissolute college dropout who wanders the earth trying to learn the workings of the criminal mind. Along the way, Bruce falls under the influence of the enigmatic Asian guru Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), who transforms him into a warrior in his League of Shadows, until the student rebels against the master and returns home just in time to save Gotham from the grip of an oily gangster (Tom Wilkinson) and a jihad-minded terrorist. With its hard edges and sharp corners, Nolan’s Gotham City seems to have sprung right from the screen of a 1930s Warner Brothers gangster pictures. Bale (in his first appearance as Wayne/Batman) is superb as a man who wears so many masks he feels his real self slipping away in the scramble.
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