Great essay by David Sims on the tenth anniversary of Batman Begins over at the Atlantic (which has become a surprisingly reliable source of interesting think pieces on popular culture). I’ve never been a huge fan of the movie or the Bat-Nolan franchise, but Sims really captures what makes them special, and how hugely important they were to the evolution of both the Batman franchise and superhero movies in general.
Ten years ago, the idea of Batman actually scaring people was far-fetched. So when Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was released in 2005, one of its biggest achievements was revitalizing the Caped Crusader as a dark icon of intimidation: snarling at Gotham’s underbelly while using fear (a major theme in the movie) to fight crime. Gone was the cartoonish, nipple-suited hero of the 90s; here, instead, was a tortured, flawed champion whose emotional depth grounded his exploits in a more realistic and recognizable universe. It was a revolution.
He also explains why the shared-universe approach that works so well with the Marvel heroes might not agree with a Nolan-esque approach to the Batman mythos: “Warner Bros.’s intention wasn’t to plan out a series of sequels and spinoffs, but to re-invest audiences in a brand that had gone awry, giving Nolan the chance to re-create the character from the ground up.” It may be that as studios become more focused on establishing universes over individual characters, such detail-obsessed, idiosyncratic reinventions of established heroes may be harder to do — witness Batman V Superman’s all-star lineup. “[A]midst Nolan’s success, the simplicity of his original pitch has been forgotten.”