Christopher Nolan speaks about how the Caped Crusader’s origin was never really explored in any previous film adaptation before Batman Begins.
While speaking about the innovations that he brought to the Batman franchise with The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan also mentioned how the Caped Crusader’s origin was never really covered in film before Batman Begins. Nolan took up Batman Begins when the eponymous hero was going through a rough period when it came to his cinematic outings. Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, while technically not the first live-action adaptation of the Dark Knight, is generally considered to be the first that took the character seriously. However, after his second go with the franchise (1992’s Batman Returns), Burton dropped out of directing a potential third film. Joel Schumacher replaced him and made two films: Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Forever was met with a mixed response, and some consider Batman & Robin to be one of the worst superhero films ever made. As a consequence, any future Batman films were put on hold.
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When Nolan was brought onto Begins in 2003, he wanted to tell Batman’s origin story. While the 1989 Batman and Batman Forever had moments that briefly showed the character’s beginnings, no film had dedicated it’s story to how Bruce Wayne came to don the cape and cowl (although there were talks about it). After the over-the-top slapstick nature of Batman & Robin, Nolan also wanted to ground Batman in reality. A big part of that came from drawing the lines between Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma and his decision to dress up like a giant bat. Nolan’s instincts paid off – as Batman Begins is primarily considered the definitive “superhero origin” story and would influence many films that came after.
During a promotional tour for Tom Shore’s book The Nolan Variations (via Indiewire), the director spoke about how Batman’s origin had never been told before Begins. Nolan argued that the decision to have the film serve as an origin story gave the team a lot of creative freedom. Outside of a handful of constants (like having his parents killed in front of him as a child), there was no set template in how a Batman origin story needed to be told. Check out Nolan’s full quote below:
It was the right moment in time for the telling of the story I wanted to do. The origin story for Batman had never been addressed in film or fully in the comics. There wasn’t a particular or exact thing we had to follow. There was a gap in movie history. Superman had a very definitive telling with Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner. The version of that with Batman had never been told. We were looking at this telling of an extraordinary figure in an ordinary world.
The choice to focus not only on Batman’s origins but Bruce Wayne, as a character, was also a pretty novel thing for the time. The four previous live-action Batman films were very preoccupied with each movie’s respective villain(s). On top of being the first Batman origin story, Begins is also the first live-action film about Bruce Wayne. Neither of Burton’s or Schumacher’s films ever seemed particularly interested in exploring Wayne as a person (in Batman Returns, he’s a borderline side character), which added to the feeling that Begins was breaking entirely new ground.
That creative freedom Nolan and his team had for Batman Begins produced a product that no one had ever really seen before. While its sequel, The Dark Knight, often overshadows it, there are many valid arguments for Begins being the superior film. The choice to set the movie in a period that had never been explored in live-action before allowed the creative team to set a new standard for superhero films. While there will definitely be future films about the Dark Knight’s origins, it’s hard to imagine one doing it better than Batman Begins.
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