Category Archives: Superhero

“Venom” is a fun mess

Everyone wants a cinematic universe. You got a franchise collecting dust in your cupboard? Brush off that property, separate even the most inconsequential characters and give all of them a movie. Ghostbusters, Men in Black, DC comics, Transformers, Marvel comics, Star Wars, frickin’ Baywatch? Yeah, you could make ten movies out of all of them. Count that money.

Sony’s been trying to turn Spider-Man into a cinematic universe for years. The problem? Well, Spider-Man is lonesome. He has no compadres like the X-Men or the Avengers. Give a movie to Aunt May or Mary Jane? Nah. But you know what? Spider-Man has an awesome rogues gallery. Let’s give a movie to each of his villains!

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, “Venom” tells the story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a reporter who gets canned for spewing off questions with unsubstantiated sources and who betrays the trust of his girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams). When a crazed businessman, Riz Ahmed (Carlton Drake), brings strange alien symbiotes to Earth and attempts to fuse them with unwilling participants, Eddie tries to redeem himself by breaking the story. But one of the symbiotes syncs with him, creating Venom, a monster that Eddie must harness and control to stop an alien invasion.

The film is a very predictable by-the-numbers venture. Introduce hero, introduce antagonist, love interest, save the world, blah blah. It’s very bland for something that could have been different. There are so many superhero movies that the idea of doing a movie about a supervillain holds some promise. You could bend the formula a little bit and adding a dual personality would have given the story some depth. For example, imagine a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde portrayal, with Eddie’s good nature contrasting with Venom’s evil. The interplay between Eddie and Venom in the film is the best part of the story, funny and horrifying at the same time. Eddie tries to be a hero with his newfound gifts. Venom shows him the value of power and justice at all costs. As both characters try to control each other, Eddie must confront the darkness within himself as well, Venom helping him understand the violence of the news stories he has covered in the past and putting it into perspective. The world is a vile place without rules and the only way to extract justice is to take it. Eddie suffers a personal loss that drives home Venom’s hardcore beliefs. By the end of the story, Venom and Eddie are one, for better or worse.

Do we get that? Nope. We get symbiotes throwing motorcycles in the air during a high-speed chase, a makeout threesome between Venom, Eddie and Anne and Eddie eating a lot of tater tots. A lot of tater tots.

It very nearly teeters into the realm of so bad it’s good territory. A few more gross-out moments, some more nonsenical plot moments and a better beginning to the story (it takes forever for Eddie and Venom to meet) would have put it into classic bad film territory. As it is, it’ll just have to settle for pretty bad, kinda fun.

When Eddie rushes through a nice restaurant, jumps in a fish tank and eats a live lobster, the film solidifies itself as a piece of crap that earns your endearment. Who knows if that was what intended or not, but it doesn’t matter. Glorious nonsense.

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“Deadpool 2” a lot of fun

The first “Deadpool” film broke the mold on what a successful superhero movie could be. You didn’t need a stand-up, morally righteous caped crusader who fought for the right thing. You could have a trash-talking, fourth wall-breaking, crude protagonist in an R-rated, violent film. And it can make money. Lots of money.

So for a sequel, it’s important to make something the audience is familiar with while trying to keep its originality. “Deadpool 2” is mostly successful at this venture, still delivering a fun movie that falls into some common traps of the superhero genre.

Directed by David Leitch, “Deadpool 2” continues the story of Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). After a traumatic event in the film’s opening sequence, Wade goes on a mission to find his purpose, discovering a teenager named Firefist (Julian Dennison) who is being hunted by a time-traveling mutant badass, Cable (Josh Brolin). Determined to save the youngster, Deadpool creates a team including the super-lucky Domino (Zazie Beetz) to hilarious effect.

The character of Deadpool remains as crude and as funny as ever, with quips, dirty gags and violent killings galore. It’s not as ingenious as its predecessor because we’re not shocked by the vulgarity and blood as we were the first time. It gives the film a general sense of been-there, done-that to an extent, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

The plots for Deadpool films are generally secondary and that is the case here again. The viewer doesn’t much care if Deadpool succeeds in his mission to save Firefist. We’re here to see gags and action and laugh. It’s almost a shame that the plot is not totally outlandish as this might serve the character better. Perhaps a recently-formed X-Force team that goes on a killing mission against the gangs of New York leading to mass slaughter or Deadpool being cloned and going to battle against himself. There are plenty of off-the-wall premises that could really push the envelope into weirdness and absurdity.

As such, “Deadpool 2” suffers somewhat because he is now one of the big franchises he so successfully parodied. There’s a disconnect between trying to make fun of the Avengers, the X-Men and the DC Universe while at the same time also being on the same tier as them. New characters are introduced such as Cable and Juggernaut, Universe-building with X-Force comes to fruition and there will inevitably be more merchandise, more spinoffs, more movies. The original “Deadpool” worked so well because it bucked trends. “Deadpool 2” wades back into them somewhat.

“Deadpool 2” is still a fun time for fans of the character however, and it has an engaging story that feels bigger than the first film. Seeing Cable and Deadpool together onscreen at last is a treat, and there are plenty of funny moments and engaging action sequences. For those with a taste for the genre, it satisfies the craving.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is the ultimate showdown the MCU deserves

With near 40 characters, dozens of sideplots and a ten-year buildup spanning over a 15 films, it seemed as though Marvel’s “Infinity War” would be a colossal mess. It’s amazing therefore that not only is “Infinity War” not a disaster, it tells a great story that deftly weaves together everything special about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sets up a killer finale.

The film focuses on Thanos (Josh Brolin), a warlord who seeks to wipe out half the universe with the use of the Infinity gauntlet which he can wield when he discovers all 6 Infinity stones which have appeared sporadically throughout the Marvel Universe up to now. As each Marvel character from Iron Man to Dr. Strange to the Guardians of the Galaxy to Thor to Black Panther comes to grips with his plan, various scenarios emerge to try and stop him before he harnesses the ultimate weapon in pursuit of a psychotic quest. Even that may not be enough.

Thanos serves as the protagonist. He becomes one of Marvel’s best villains to date, joining Loki and Killmonger as fully realized characters with sympathetic agendas and interesting personalities. The fact that he is not a simple evil monster bent on world domination, but has an interesting take on how to save the universe, gives him an interesting ethical quest. He’s empathetic and terrifying.

Anthony and Joe Russo deserve a great deal of credit for finding a way to balance all of the characters while making sure that no one feels thrown in. Each storyline builds in progression to the climax, creating a tapestry of plots around the theme of sacrifice. What will it take to save the world? Your life? Your lover’s life? Your soul? It’s a dark, emotional story, something far deeper than anything the MCU has ever done before. We’re now passed the simple good guy vs. bad guy plot. We’re delving into deep human nature.

In a way, it’s similar to a “Lord of the Rings” film or “Game of Thrones” as Marvel has pushed each of their characters to the final breaking point. It feels like an ending of sorts and that gives the film added heft. This feels like the send off we deserve.

*SPOILERS BELOW* DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM

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Many will state that this is only half a film, but it is not. The protagonist is Thanos, and he goes from having a goal to achieving a goal, end of story. We all know another film is coming, but the Avengers finally have their “Empire Strikes Back” down ending necessary to really test their mettle. The next film should be connected but feel distinct as it’s own entry.

There are a few storylines that need to conclude, specifically the Tony Stark and Steve Rogers plot. These two have been at it over different ideologies since the first “Avengers” film. “Civil War” officially broke them apart and now the need to destroy Thanos will bring them together. Tony has been trying to avert cataclysm since the beginning, always looking for a way out. Might that mean he and Steve need to recognize the need for self-sacrifice together? Tony and Pepper Potts as well are nearing the end of their drama. Will they get to have a happy ending with a family or will Tony sacrifice himself for Pepper’s future?

Also needing a conclusion are Bruce Banner and Black Widow. Their romance has lost steam over the years, but now they must determine whether or not they can make it work.

Thor seems to have most of his character arc wrapped up after “Ragnarok” by inheriting the responsibility of becoming king, but perhaps he will explore the nature of revenge in the final film. Rocket surviving hints that he will continue to be a foil for the god of thunder.

And of course, the next film will be a continuation of Thanos’ story. After proclaiming he has lost everything, he has still achieved his goal. Whether he is happy or not with the result will determine his future actions. Logic dictates that he will safeguard the Infinity gauntlet at all costs, meaning that the Avengers will be dictating the action. But with reality itself malleable, perhaps madness may overcome the titan, testing his will. Things could, and should, get mighty trippy.

One thing that was lacking from “Infinity War” was a direct ideological confrontation against Thanos. The next film should firmly introduce what the Avengers stand for and how that vision is different than Thanos’ genocidal fanaticism. This will ultimately show what the Avengers stand for and serve as the overall moral of the entire saga. In tying with the previous films, it will likely involve the need to stand together as a team and the value of every person.

One can not help but think back to Vision and Ultron’s conversation at the end of “Age of Ultron.” Vision mused about mankind’s shortcomings and Ultron reminded him that they’re doomed. Vision agreed, but that there was grace in their shortcomings. That speaks to the ending of “Infinity War.” Now comes the need for Earth’s mightiest heroes to show that though they may be defeatable, their ideals aren’t.

At the end of the film, it is hinted that Captain Marvel may be part of the solution against Thanos, but this plot has some inherent danger attached to it. The Avengers can not win with a deus ex machina where a magical being comes in and saves them. The victory must come from them.

And we all know that death is not a certainty in superhero films. Spider-Man, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy are not really gone. They have further films still to do. We know they’ll be back. It’s just important that when they do come back, the effect of death is not minimized. Characters can not come and go without consequence or else the films will become a muddled mess without stakes. All future deaths will simply be viewed as empty because we’ll just wait for their return. It’ll be tricky for the Russos to navigate that return without cheapening the film’s power.

As the penultimate film of the first MCU iteration, “Infinity War” does a great job of setting up the final film. The saving of the universe is at stake as well as deep themes of personal loss, sacrifice and revenge. It’ll be a long wait till next year to see how it all turns out.

 

 

 

“Black Panther” a cultural milestone for cinema

Director: Ryan Coogler

Producers: Victoria Alonso, Jeffrey Chernov, Louis D’Esposito, Kevin Feige, Stan Lee, David J. Grant, Nate Moore

Writers: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison

Editor: Debbie Berman, Michael P. Shawver

Actors: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N’yongo, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, John Kani, Andy Serkis, Letita Wright

 

Synopsis:

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his home of Wakanda after the death of his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani). Wakanda is a technological marvel hidden in the heart of Africa, powered by a precious metal called vibranium. After going through the ritual ceremony to become the next king, T’Challa dons the persona of the Black Panther, a superhero figure of legend and myth. He sets out to find Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), one of the few outsiders to know of vibranium and a killer of the Wakandan people and bring him to justice, along with his bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira), his ex-girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita N’yongo) and with the help of his sister, Shuri (Letita Wright). Little does he know though that a new enemy, the dangerous commando, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), lurks in the background and seeks to usurp the throne.

Background Info:

The Black Panther character was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1966. The first mainstream black superhero, the character was moderately successful during his initial run and bounced around with general comic’s popularity over the coming decades. In this age of superhero film mania, it’s surprising (disappointing) that a film starring a black lead has taken so long to get to the big screen (18 years since the first X-Men film though it’s important not to forget the “Blade” trilogy even though they never quite had the superhero budget treatment). With Ryan Coogler, after his success with “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”, and the Marvel movie machine behind the production, the hype for releasing the film was tremendous as it has become the highest grossing superhero film yet and the third-highest grossing film ever in the United States.

General Review:

The film feels different than the other Marvel films in its single focus and intimacy. You don’t have Iron Man or Thor showing up for a comical cameo or a whole lot of universe building that sets up future films. T’Challa himself is a very serious character with no quipping, no clever lines and no camera winking. It’s a relatively simple story of a son atoning for the sins of his father and learning about the responsibilities of being a king. It’s a path Marvel should take more often.

The look and feel of the film is impressive, bringing a new culture to life that is both new and familiar. When the film lags or stutters from time to time, it is still never boring or uninteresting as the viewer is immersed in this new world, part sci-fi, part African tribe, part dream.

Many point to the film as Shakespearean, which is indeed the case with the relationship between T’Challa and Killmonger. The familial line and feuding brothers and a fight over the throne all add different dimensions to a film that tries desperately to break the Marvel mold. It elevates the story beyond just another fun time at the movies.

There are points when the film feels a bit aimless and trying to find its way as in a car chase sequence in South Korea or a bank robbery in London, almost as if such sequences were pushed on by the studio to make the film more action and adventure when it doesn’t really need it, but the dynamics of incorporating some James Bond-esque scenes are nevertheless intriguing. You can still ride the ride of the film and feel the power of the story. Taking root in mythology and family gives the movie added emotional weight and featuring the “black experience” in today’s world makes the film timely.

What matters most from a cultural standpoint is what Black Panther represents. Much like “Wonder Woman” last year, seeing a different type of superhero (not a straight, white male) is inspiring. What he represents is in some ways more important than who he is. The film does a good job of balancing that expectation of illustrating the image of a black superhero without playing it up for selfish reasons. Add to that the representation of strong female characters who fight alongside him and serve as his preeminent bodyguards and you have a fully diversified film, still a rarity from Hollywood.

SPOILER SECTION

Plot Breakdown:

  • Inciting Incident: T’Challa returns home to be crowned king.
  • Act One Climax: T’Challa decides to find Ulysses and bring him back to Wakanda for justice, his first act as king.
  • Midpoint: KIllmonger defeats Black Panther and throws him over the waterfall’s edge.
  • Act Two Climax: After rising from the dead, Black Panther concocts a plan to take down Killmonger using the help of his sister and loyal subjects.
  • Act Three Climax: T’Challa retakes the throne and decides to share Wakanda’s technology with the world.

Analysis:

An argument can be made that Killmonger is a more interesting character than T’Challa. His position that the world has turned its back on those of African heritage and they must seek to overthrow the world is interesting. The betrayal of T’Chaka against Killmonger’s father adds further fuel to his anger and gives him empathy. His role could have been expanded more and truly represented the repressed African spirit. Perhaps we see glimpses of his youth and the hardships he endured. Perhaps he comes to Wakanda and presents them pictures of the slums of LA and Washington, DC, showing how the colonizers are still abusing Africans and how the Wakandans have turned their backs on their own people. This would have really elevated the film more as an ethical examination. The film nearly breaks free of the superhero genre in the way that “The Dark Knight” and “Logan” have before, but doesn’t quite get there.

T’Challa is a strong character, but a little too perfect. He has no inner challenges in regards to character. Perhaps if he was fearful of the throne and the burden it will bring to him. Perhaps if he failed in a more dramatic fashion than his inability to capture Ulysses and the tribes grumbled about his lack of leadership. Maybe he considers letting Killmonger have the throne as it has brought him nothing but misery. Such plot points are hinted at in the film, but could have been enhanced even more.

Another thing missing is a representative character of the Wakandan people, someone who witnesses the events of the plot as a spectator. Perhaps T’Challa meets a young child on his first stroll through the city as king and talks to him, encouraging him to be a doctor or engineer like his sister and reminding him not to fight with his siblings as peace is the way. As the battle over the throne commences, we see the conflict among the common people through his eyes as different families take Killmonger or T’Challa’s side and conflict erupts on the street. The boy sees peace as the way and forms a group that refuses to go along with Killmonger’s war plans, bringing the people to T’Challa’s side as the final battle begins.

Wakanda is a dream representation of an African utopia, a place of beauty, innovation and peace, a black Camelot in a way. It represents a world that could have been were it not for colonization, racism and genocide and all the negative forces of the globe. Seeing that representation is a hope for all peoples, not just Africans, but everyone who believes in an ideal world full of culture and peace. The film does an admirable job of creating a world that many dream of and hope to create. For so long, Camelot was a place of Anglo-Saxons, but seeing a new type of El Dorado and Atlantis onscreen is important. That will ultimately be “Black Panther’s” legacy. The final shot of the film, an impressive T’Challa in his regal robes and spaceship next to a young boy playing basketball, is an uplifting image of hope.

 

 

 

“Thor: Ragnarok” goes for straight-up fun and it works

The previous “Thor” films were admirable action adventures, but lacked heart and individuality. It’s hard to make a serious film when your protagonist is a hammer-wielding god and the villains are weird space aliens. So Marvel has wisely decided to ditch the pretense and go straight past logic into pure fun. These films are better for it.

Directed by Taika Waititi, “Thor: Ragnarok” features the titular character (Chris Hemsworth) trying to prevent the foreseen end-of-days. Despite his best efforts, his long-entombed sister and goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), emerges to destroy the nine realms. Trapped on an alien planet with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor must team up with the Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to escape his bondage from the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and save his home before Hela destroys it.

In lieu of trying to capture the serious tone and majesty of “Game of Thrones” or “The Lord of the Rings”, “Thor: Ragnarok” instead throws caution to the wind and tells a fanciful adventure-comedy that ties in to its predecessor’s mythology. Never taking itself too seriously and playing up the dynamics of the visuals, the film is a constantly enjoyable ride. Most answers to the plot seem to be as simple as why not. We want to see Hulk and Thor in a gladiatorial match. Why not. Wouldn’t it be cool for Jeff Goldblum to be in a Marvel movie just playing himself? Why not. No room for Natalie Portman in the story? Cut her. Why not. Let’s have Thor fight a literal Satanic creature. Why not. Let’s put in Dr. Strange for pretty much no reason. Why not. There’s something oddly commendable about such an approach.

For the returning characters of Thor, Loki, Banner, Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), having been with the franchise for so long, they have developed a comforting rhythm. The viewers know what to expect and they deliver their part.

It’s sad to write, but again, it’s the role of the villain that is a tad shallow and forgettable. Even with an actress with the chops of Cate Blanchett, there’s just not a lot you can do with a one-dimensional, evil villainess role. Her desire is to destroy the galaxy because she’s the goddess of death and hated her father. That’s not very interesting. Throwing in that she’s Thor’s sister does little to deepen their connection since they’ve never actually met before. If Thor and Hela remembered each other, if they used to play as children until Odin banished her for being evil or Loki tricked her into becoming goddess of death, that would have added some personal stakes. Thor would be remiss to kill his sister because he cared about her once. Perhaps Hela might have second thoughts about annihilating everything, but chooses to forge ahead regardless. But instead we get just another going-to-destroy-the-world story.

Regardless of that, the even humor and colorful visuals keep the story entertaining. Most other characters, no matter how insignificant they at first seem, are fleshed out, interesting, and given good character arcs such as the Grandmaster, Skurge (Karl Urban), Valkyrie and Korg (voice of director Waititi). It gives the film an intriguing ensemble usually lacking in Marvel films.

The film fully feels like Thor’s story as the stakes for him grow higher and the personal choices he has to make impact his character. Can he take his father’s throne? Can he make the hard decisions he needs to without corrupting himself as his father did? Can he bring Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie to his side? At the film’s conclusion, the weight of responsibility for his people is all that matters and his love for them drives his heroic nature. His story therefore, with actual stakes to the film, is memorable.

Batman Begins Analysis

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

Synopsis: Bruce Wayne, reeling after the murder of his parents, learns the tools necessary to become the Batman.

Protagonist: Bruce Wayne

Desire: Save Gotham and prevent more crimes like the ones that took his parents

  • Inciting Incident: Bruce’s parents are murdered in front of him.
  • Act One Climax: Bruce decides not to become a criminal and journeys to the Far East to learn how to control his fear.
  • Midpoint: Having trained with Ra’s al-Ghul, Bruce becomes the Batman and takes down the crime lord Falcone.
  • Act Two Climax: The League of Shadows burns down Wayne Manor and leaves Bruce for dead. He overcomes this loss to try and save Gotham.
  • Act Three Climax: Bruce defeats Ra’s al-Ghul and creates the image of the Batman.

Other Storylines:

Alfred Pennyworth

Desire: Protect Bruce

  • Inciting Incident: Bruce’s parents are murdered and he must take care of Bruce.
  • Act One Climax: Alfred agrees to Bruce’s plan to become the Batman.
  • Act Two Climax: Alfred saves Bruce from the fire and lets him know he’ll never give up on him.

Ra’s al-Ghul

Desire: Destroy Gotham

  • Inciting Incident: Ducard’s wife is taken from him and he embarks on the journey to rid the world of crime.
  • Act One Climax: Ducard takes in Bruce and works to complete his training.
  • Midpoint: Bruce betrays the League and burns down their headquarters.
  • Act Two Climax: Ducard reveals himself as Ra’s al-Ghul and brings the League together again and works to destroy Gotham with fear gas.
  • Act Three Climax: Bruce as Batman defeats Ra’s.

James Gordon

Desire: Save Gotham

  • Inciting Incident: A cloaked figure approaches Gordon and lets him know his plan to restore order to Gotham.
  • Act One Climax: Gordon teams up with Batman to save Rachel from Crane.
  • Act Two Climax: Gordon teams up with Batman again to save the city from Ra’s.
  • Act Three Climax: Batman and Gordon are allies and Gordon creates the Bat signal.

Rachel Dawes

Desire: Help Gotham and Bruce

  • Inciting Incident: Bruce’s parents are murdered and she sees injustice in the world. She tries to be a friend to Bruce, but he is going through trauma.
  • Act One Climax: Working as an Assistant DA, Rachel works to put criminals in prison. Crane stands in her way.
  • Act Two Climax: Rachel prosecutes crime lord Falcone until he goes insane.
  • Act Three Climax: Rachel helps Gotham during Ra’s attack. Rachel talks with Bruce about his identity as Batman and how the city needs him.

Wayne Enterprises

Desire: Bruce and Lucius look to retake control of the company.

  • Inciting Incident: After the Waynes’ death, Earle takes control of the company.
  • Act One Climax: Earle decides to take the company public and declare Bruce Wayne dead to free up his shares. He moves Lucius Fox, loyal to the Waynes, to a dead end department.
  • Act Two Climax: After Bruce returns and befriends Fox, Earle takes the company public and fires Lucius, looking to take total control over the industry.
  • Act Three Climax: Unbeknownst to Earle, Bruce has bought most of the shares of the company and has installed Lucius as its CEO, pushing Earle out.

Jonathan Crane

Desire: Cause fear

  • Inciting Incident: Unknown- Presumably a traumatic past that leaves him reveling in the fears of others
  • Act One Climax: Crane accepts a business proposition from the League of Shadows to smuggle drugs into the city and contaminate the water supply.
  • Act Two Climax: Crane poisons Falcone.
  • Act Three Climax: Batman poisons Crane with his own fear gas and drives him insane.

Carmine Falcone

Desire: Control crime in Gotham

  • Inciting Incident: Unknown- It drives Falcone to control Gotham through fear and intimidation
  • Act One Climax: Falcone moves to assassinate Rachel Dawes and bring in the last drug shipment.
  • Act Two Climax: Falcone is beaten by Batman and left for the police.
  • Act Three Climax: Falcone is poisoned by Jonathan Crane.

Themes:

Gotham as the Legacy of Thomas Wayne and Bruce Needing to Inherit It

  • Gotham is shown as a thriving metropolis under Thomas Wayne’s tutelage in Bruce’s youth. When Thomas dies, the city dies with him, tying itself in to the Wayne legacy. By accepting Gotham and his father as one cause, Bruce saves both by becoming the Batman.

Fear as a Tool

  • Bruce’s journey is to conquer fear. The fear of the bats in the cave haunts him and comes to represent fear that keeps him beholden in life. Only by conquering fear and learning how it controls him can Bruce hope to flourish after his parent’s death. What Bruce ultimately fears is taking his father’s place and becoming Gotham’s savior. By taking that place and utilizing fear to inflict fear in others to save Gotham, Bruce becomes a master of fear and achieves his destiny.

The Value of Life

  • To Ra’s al-Ghul and the League of Shadows, life has become wasted in Gotham and should end. To Batman and his moral conscience, Rachel Dawes, life need not end but be redeemed. This conundrum between the ultimate purpose of life, to save it or end it, presents an intriguing theme of life’s purpose. Humanity in Gotham is often circumspect. Evil exists and permeates into everyone lives. The desire to save it, exemplified in the film’s heroes, illustrates that mankind at its core is good and worth fighting for.

Scene Breakdown:

  1. Bruce Falls in the Pit
    • A field of bats morphs into a young Bruce Wayne running through the woods after his friend, Rachel. They play finders-keepers with an arrowhead found in the garden. Bruce falls down a well and is attacked by a swarm of bats. Modern-day Bruce awakens after the nightmare of his past. He is in a far-eastern prison.
      • Bruce is presented as the picture of innocence: a kid in a big mansion, rich, playing. This will contrast against the journey he is about to undertake.
      • The arrowhead is a representation of the warrior. By taking it, Bruce symbolically ushers himself into the realm of adolescence and the process of growing up, similar to an Indian initiation. This is further emphasized by his falling down a well, hurling himself into an unknown world, a terrifying world that he initially fears.
    • There’s a slight pause before the rush of bats, this new world leering at Bruce for a moment, the anticipation building in the audience. The bats are terrifying, more a rush of fury than singular beasts. It is not really the bats themselves that terrify Bruce, but what they represent; fear itself and the process of maturation Bruce must undergo as we all must.
  2. Bruce Fights a Horde
    • Bruce is in a Far Eastern jail for an unknown reason. A confidant tells him that a group will attack him and try to kill him. Against six men, Bruce fends them off and is put in solitary confinement.
      • The viewer is kept in mystery about what has happened to Bruce. How has this rich kid ended up in this far away prison with nothing? The mystery keeps us interested as the story is set up.
      • The scene shows Bruce’s strength and his loss. He stands up to an angry horde, beating them off, showing his fighting ability against a seemingly stronger opponent. At the same time, we sense he is rash and fighting without cause. He does not fight for honor or even to survive. He dubs the main fighter “practice.” He is fighting because he can, but even he doesn’t know why.
  3. Bruce Meets Ducard
    • In solitary, Bruce meets a strange man named Ducard. He offers him the chance to join the League of Shadows and find a higher purpose.
      • Ducard sticks out from the mucky surroundings of the prison in his pristine suit and articulate goatee. He represents the apex of fulfillment while Bruce huddles in the mud, dirty and low. Ducard standing over Bruce further shows how much Bruce has fallen morally.
      • Ducard articulates what the audience suspects: Bruce is lost. He fights anything, he has no purpose and he is hiding from the world. Why we still don’t know. The question further keeps us engaged as we wonder how a rich, young, naive boy has ended up in this hell hole.
      • Ducard first articulates what Bruce will become: a legend. He offers him an opportunity to climb out of his wandering and fill his life with purpose. In mythological terms, he is the herald, inviting a young protege towards the fulfillment of an adventure. He will also serve as the mentor and the shadow in Bruce’s journey.
  4. Bruce Climbs the Mountain
    • Bruce climbs the mountain to Ra’s al-Ghul’s fortress, delivering the blue flower Ducard told him to. Ducard tells Bruce that to manipulate the fears of others he must first master his own. He challenges Bruce to combat and Ducard wins easily. Ducard asks Bruce what he actually fears.
      • Bruce passes huge mountains and icebergs as he climbs up to the fortress. The expanse shows the remoteness of Bruce’s location. Symbolically, he is delving deeper into his own subconscious, climbing into his very soul to discover his fear.
      • The temple Bruce enters is a foreign world. He does not belong in it yet.
      • Ducard’s challenge illustrates how far Bruce has to go to become the symbol he wants to become. Bruce has not purged his fear and therefore can not fight against others. This scene is a mirror to the finale of the film. While Bruce fails here, he will succeed in the end.
      • Ducard Act One Climax: Ducard takes in Bruce to purge him of his fear. (Ducard’s Inciting Incident will be revealed later).
  5. Young Bruce Recovers
    • Thomas Wayne rescues his son from the pit he fell into. Bruce has nightmares of bats, but his dad helps him recover. They take the family’s shiny new monorail into the city.
      • Young Bruce has been traumatized by the bat experience. He has felt true fear for the first time, and it is this fear that will drive the rest of his journey. His father becomes his support system, someone he can confide in and who helps him deal with his fear.
      • We see the power of the Wayne family. They are rich, they live in a mansion, they have a butler. We also see their generosity and love. Thomas buys his wife a necklace. He is a doctor. The family invests in public transportation. It serves as an inspiration to Bruce. This generosity and power will intimidate Bruce later on and drive his fear that he is unworthy to take his father’s place.
      • The wealth and power of the Waynes is strong, represented in the family manor, the bright Wayne tower and the new metro train. Once Bruce’s journey changes, these symbols change as well. As Bruce’s soul turns dark, these structures change with him.
  6. The Opera and the Shooting
    • The opera the family goes to features bats, scaring Bruce. He asks if they can go and Thomas acquiesces. Outside, Thomas and Martha are shot and killed by a mugger.
      • Bruce’s inherent fear still drives his actions. Despite the coddling of his father, he is still a scared little boy. His fear leads him to leave the opera and in so doing causes him tremendous guilt when his decision ultimately results in a chain of events that leave his parents dead.
      • The mystique of the opera and the Wayne life are counterbalanced by the decrepit street the Waynes walk out to. This is the world Bruce must overcome, one of muck and vile. The mugger is disheveled and unkempt, a symbol of that vile percolating around Bruce’s life. The location is a further extension of the bats that Bruce has encountered. The alley is even framed as the first bat encounter in the cave, with the two alley streets matching the walls of the cave and the mugger coming out where the bats had been.
      • Bruce Inciting Incident: Bruce’s parents are murdered, leaving him an orphan and in search of a path. He must learn how to conquer the fear inflicted upon him.
  7. Young Bruce Meets Gordon
    • At the police station, Officer Gordon offers Bruce comfort and puts his father’s coat on his shoulders. The police commissioner comes in to tell Bruce that the mugger was arrested.
      • This is the first time we meet James Gordon. He is kind to young Bruce in a way that reveals he understands what he’s going through. His journey will begin later.
      • The act of putting his father’s coat on Bruce’s shoulder symbolizes how young Bruce must become a man now, a man like his father. He is so small in an adult’s coat, showing how much he has to grow to become someone like his father.
  8. The Wayne Funeral
    • Bruce attends his parent’s funeral. Earle, a businessman, tells Bruce that he will be watching over his financial empire. Bruce cries with Alfred.
      • The funeral, fittingly, takes place in the rain. It is obvious what that represents.
      • There’s a shot of Bruce waving good-bye to Rachel from his bedroom window. He appears very small against the huge backdrop of Wayne Manor, again symbolizing how much he has to grow to fill his family’s legacy. His distance from Rachel, his moral compass, also shows how much he has to grow still.
      • Alfred at this moment also becomes Bruce’s surrogate parent. The divide between master and servant melts as Bruce rushes forward to hug Alfred in his despair and Alfred comforts him as a parent would.
      • We are also introduced to Earle. He seeks to use Wayne Enterprises to make a lot of money, disregarding the humanitarian vision of Thomas Wayne. The death of the Waynes set him on his desire.
      • Rachel Inciting Incident: Spurred by the crime of the Wayne’s death, Rachel decides to fight crime through the law.
      • Wayne Enterprises Inciting Incident (Off-Screen): Earle decides to change Wayne Enterprises to make money.
      • Alfred Inciting Incident: Alfred must now care for young Bruce.
  9. Bruce’s Training
    • Ducard trains Bruce in the ninja arts. He also reveals a bit of the League of Shadows philosophy: crime can not be tolerated, theatricality is a valuable tool, pushing yourself to the brink is necessary. Ducard tells Bruce that it is his father’s fault for the shooting and that supreme will is the most important thing. Ducard still beats Bruce in combat.
      • The trials of Bruce test his determination. The philosophy of the will to act is drilled into him; only through choosing to act and never wavering from that commitment can Bruce achieve anything. This lesson is his key to becoming the Batman.
      • Ducard laying the blame at Thomas Waynes’ feet is more of a driver of Bruce than the truth. Ducard is testing Bruce again and again, through holding his balance over logs, to swordfighting, always pushing him and testing the will he preaches. Bruce is still behind, unable to catch up to Ducard’s mastery, a child on the ice, slipping and sliding, unable to keep his balance and walk upright.
  10. Ducard Talks about the Past
    • Ducard talks to Bruce about his past. He once had a wife who was taken from him. Vengeance was able to quell his anger.
      • We see more of the nurturing side of Ducard. He cares for Bruce as he tells him how to recover from falling through the ice. He is presented as another father figure to him, someone Bruce looks to for guidance.
      • Ducard’s Inciting Incident is explained here. Off screen, the story of his wife’s death is what drives him. Learning how to deal with his anger and gaining vengeance and teaching others in the same way is his motivation.
      • Ducard Inciting Incident (Off-Screen): Ducard’s wife is murdered. He kills her killer, achieving vengeance and now teaches others how to deal with their pains.
  11. Lost Bruce
    • We flash back to young Bruce, returning home from Princeton to attend the mugger’s parole hearing. He espouses his anger to Alfred, telling him he wishes he could burn the whole mansion down. Alfred refuses to give up on him.
      • We see Bruce lost. Princeton doesn’t want him back. He’s angry, his parent’s death leaving him rudderless. Not the physical specimen at film’s opening, he is more of a whiner, a coward unable to see past his own demons. When Alfred offers to prepare the master bedroom, Bruce refuses. He still can not take his father’s place in the world.
      • The mansion is a mausoleum, the furniture cover in drapes. This shows that Bruce his turned his back on the Wayne name. It rots away.
      • Alfred’s devotion to Bruce exemplifies his character. Even though he is not physically a member of the Wayne family, he serves as the caretaker of the estate and a symbol of the Wayne’s legacy. His devotion to the Waynes sets his path to protect and look after Bruce.
  12. Rachel and Bruce
    • Rachel looks over his parent’s things, including a picture of them and his father’s stethoscope. He packs a gun into his pocket. He talks with Rachel about the past and how her boss has instituted a deal for the mugger, Joe Chill’s, release in exchange for information about a crime boss, Carmine Falcone. He is against the decision.
      • Bruce remarks himself how his parent’s belongings are relics. They serve as reminders of a past he is trying to hide. A small flashback to the past shows a young Bruce using his father’s stethoscope to listen to his heart. In a way, Thomas’ heart, his soul, still echoes to Bruce, showing that Bruce can still live up to his father’s legacy. It lives in him.
      • Rachel and Bruce are older now, farther apart. Rachel has her head on her shoulders, working in the District Attorney’s office, trying to do good in the world. Bruce is lost and petulant, planning murder. Her moral compass will become Bruce’s guide as the story progresses.
  13. The Trial and the Aftermath
    • Bruce watches Joe Chill’s court appearance and sees him set free. He waits in the hallway, a gun in his hand, ready to kill his parent’s killer. A woman hired by Falcone instead shoots and kills Chill before Bruce can. Rachel escorts him away.
      • Bruce’s anger is directed right at Chill. His eyes never leave him in the courtroom. Chill himself can not bring himself to look at Bruce, his murder obviously haunting him.
      • There’s a steady buildup to Chill’s murder. Bruce is obviously struggling with the decision to take a life, but his anger drives him. Just as Ducard will later warn him about, if Bruce had murdered Chill, his anger would have destroyed him.
  14. Rachel and Bruce in the Car
    • Bruce tells Rachel that he believes vengeance is justice, but Rachel reminds him that justice is about balance. She tells him that the crime lord, Falcone, is destroying everything his parents held dear and is creating the exact conditions that created muggers like Joe Chill. She drops him off at Falcone’s house, telling him that if he wants to thank him for killing Chill, he can. Bruce reveals that he was going to kill Chill and is not one of Rachel’s good people. Rachel slaps him and tells him his father would be ashamed of him. Bruce hurls his gun into the river.
      • Rachel here also serves as the herald in mythical fashion. She points out the poverty and the crime permeating in the city that his father tried to save and in so doing, pleads for his help. Bruce’s eyes are therefore awoken to the desire to do good, but he is so wrapped in anger and disillusionment that he can’t see his part to play yet. Only after conquering fear can he succeed.
      • Rachel presents Bruce with a choice: to be a good man like his father or to let life bring him down. Bruce, thinking about how the gun he holds would lead him down a similar path to Joe Chill, throws it away and decides to change. His hatred changes from hating one man to an entire system of crime and corruption.
  15. Bruce Meets Falcone
    • Bruce threatens Falcone, who taunts him. He says that he uses the power of fear to have control. He tells him that he’ll never understand the criminal underworld because he is rich and has never tasted desperation.
      • Bruce’s transformed anger directs him to Gotham’s underworld. He realizes that this is a world he doesn’t understand and if he can’t understand what made Joe Chill, how could he beat it?
      • Falcone is a shadow. He uses fear in much the same way that Batman will need to. Bruce is powerless against Falcone’s hitmen and thugs, dragged away and punched. For him to succeed in changing Gotham and becoming something his father would be proud of, he must embark on a spiritual journey.
      • Falcone Inciting Incident (Off-Screen): Unknown, but it sets him on the desire to control Gotham.
      • Bruce Act One Climax: Bruce casts off the identity of Bruce Wayne and embarks on the journey to end crime in Gotham.
  16. Bruce’s Test
    • Ducard tells Bruce that what he actually fears is himself and his power to do great or terrible things. He tests him by having Bruce breathe in the smoke of his exotic flower, causing his fears to come to life. Ducard challenges Bruce to catch him in a moving array of ninjas, his fears washing over him.
      • Ducard teaches Bruce the power of fear, using it against him and teaching him how to harness it. This is the same tool that Falcone uses to instill power of Gotham. Bruce learns its value through his trial with Ducard. Through ingenuity and courage, he is able to overcome.
  17. Bruce Reject the League of Shadows
    • Ra’s al-Ghul tells Bruce that to complete his training, he must prove his commitment to justice by executing a fugitive. Bruce refuses. He learns the League intends to destroy Gotham to preserve the dignity of mankind. Bruce breaks out, burning the League headquarters down. He saves his friend, Ducard.
      • Bruce being handed a sword to execute a man is akin to him loading a gun to execute his parent’s murderer. The same cowardly act of injustice stirs in him Rachel’s condemnation. He realizes that he has adopted her worldview and must adapt it to his training rather than let the League’s principles change him.
      • Upon learning of the League’s plans, Bruce chooses to act. He has chosen to save Gotham, utilizing his training with the League and his moral cleansing. His first action: to stop the League from destroying Gotham.
      • Ducard Midpoint: Ducard’s prime student, Bruce, turns against him and destroys the League’s base of operations. Ducard must regroup to complete his mission.
  18. Bruce and Alfred Talk
    • Bruce meets Alfred for the first time after 7 years. He relays his plan to help Gotham, to create a symbol that transcends flesh and blood. Alfred acquiesces to his plan and lets him know that Earle is working to transform the Wayne company for himself.
      • Bruce continues to implement the lessons he has learned in his fight to save Gotham. Both Ducard and his discussion with Falcone taught him the vulnerability of human life and the need to create something elemental to enact change. Bruce has taken this lesson to heart.
      • The relationship between Bruce and Alfred remains strong. Alfred’s desire to keep Bruce safe has permeated throughout the years and gives him the motivation to help Bruce with his plan.
      • The storyline around Wayne Enterprises continues as Earle moves to take full control of the company by declaring Bruce dead and taking the company public, something Thomas Wayne would not have done and something that will taint the Wayne legacy. We will also learn later that Earle has removed his prime competition, Lucius Fox, from the board to expedite the process.
      • Alfred Act One Climax: Alfred agrees to help Bruce enact his plan to save Gotham.
      • Earle Act One Climax: Earle forces Lucius out, declares Bruce dead and moves to make the company public.
  19. Crane Introduction
    • Dr. Crane testifies to get another of Falcone’s thugs put in his asylum. Rachel tries to call him on his apparent attachment to Falcone’s men, but he threatens her. Rachel’s boss, Mr. Finch, tells her to lay off because Falcone is too strong. Bruce listens in.
      • Rachel is still fighting the good fight against Falcone through the courts, but Falcone seems only to have grown in power since Bruce left. He apparently has a new ally in Dr. Crane. Something seems a bit off about him, but the viewer can’t quite figure out what. He is shown in strict headshots pretty much, isolating him, showing how distant he is from the world around him.
      • This scene catches the viewer up to the situation in Gotham. Falcone is in charge, he is using this Dr. Crane to keep his thugs in an asylum instead of prison and Rachel is still fighting him against tough odds. We see the situation through Bruce’s eyes. We learn as he learns.
      • Crane Inciting Incident (Off-Screen): Crane is attracted to torture and madness and fascinated with creating fear. We don’t know why, but something has set him off on his desire to torture others for his own amusement.
      • Rachel Act One Climax: Rachel commits to saving Gotham by fighting the mob.
  20. Bruce Rediscovers the Bat
    • Bruce finds a bat in his house. He returns to the cave of his youth that frightened him so much. Bats swarm him, but he is no longer afraid.
      • Bruce returns to the same fears of his youth, but he has changed. Under the guidance to control his fears from Ducard, when the bats swarm around him, he embraces them, showing the conquering of his fear. He will harness the bats to achieve the liberation of Gotham, turning his fear into strength.
  21. Crane and Falcone
    • Crane and Falcone discuss business. Falcone is bringing drug shipments into the city. Crane’s boss is coming to Gotham. Crane asks Falcone to take care of Rachel.
      • This scene illuminates several important plot points. Crane and Falcone are working together, but Crane works for someone, someone even Falcone fears, and he’s coming to the city. And Crane wants Rachel dead because she is interfering too much. We also get a hint at Crane’s character. He pretends to be a straight-shooter, but Falcone can see that he gets off on being evil.
      • Crane Act One Climax: Crane enlists Falcone to take Rachel out to keep his operation running.
      • Falcone Act One Climax: Falcone moves to keep control of the city.
  22. Bruce and the Family Business
    • Mr. Earle talks about taking the company public. Bruce crashes the meeting and talks with him about his shares. Earle introduces him to Fox.
      • We begin to see Bruce take on his new persona: dumb, obnoxious, womanizing billionaire. This is the shield he will use to deflect any suspicions that he is Batman.
      • Earle moves to change Wayne Enterprises. He is condescending to Bruce and doesn’t view him as much of a threat. Bruce is already manipulating him.
      • Wayne Enterprises Act One Climax: Earle moves to take control of the company once and for all.
  23. Bruce Meets Lucius
    • Lucius Fox introduces Bruce to technology that he could use to turn into the Batman. Lucius agrees not to tell anyone.
      • The viewer can begin to see how the pieces of Batman are put together. Lucius and Bruce’s partnership will bear fruit as the story continues.
  24. Bruce Builds the Cave
    • Bruce sets up lights and navigates the tunnels of the cave under the mansion. He puts together parts of his suits and orders new pieces.
      • The viewer can see how the Batman mythos they are aware of begins to form. They recognize pieces of the character and how Bruce finds them and their importance to his overall scheme.
  25. Gordon and Flass
    • Gordon works with his partner, Flass. He doesn’t take the mob’s money. Bruce disguises himself and talks to Gordon. He learns what he needs to take down Falcone. Gordon tries to catch Bruce, but he runs away.
      • Gordon is an honest cop. He doesn’t take the mob’s money and looks down on those who do. He continues to fight against crime and corruption in Gotham, but is disheartened.
      • Bruce recruits Gordon in his fight against crime. Gordon doesn’t trust this masked vigilante, but seems nevertheless intrigued.
      • Gordon Inciting Incident: Gordon’s meeting with this strange cloaked man alerts him that something is coming to Gotham that could change things.
  26. Bruce and Lucius Continue
    • Lucius introduces Bruce to memory cloth and the Tumbler, further building his arsenal.
      • This scene doesn’t change much about Lucius and Bruce’s relationship, but it shows the continued trust between them.
  27. Flass and Falcone
    • Falcone gives instructions to Flass about the last drug shipment and the ordered murder of Rachel.
      • The viewer now knows that Flass is working directly with Falcone. This takes the level of corruption in the city to a new level.
  28. Bruce Finishes the Final Touches on Becoming the Batman
    • Bruce finishes creating his mask and his wings and various other parts of his costume.
      • Bruce finishes creating his “symbol” for Gotham. His explanation to Alfred underlies how this is a journey long in the making.
  29. Batman Attacks the Drug Point
    • Bruce takes the mantle of Batman and attacks the drug point, beating the criminals and Falcone, leaving him to the police.
      • We can see everything Bruce has built up to this point come to fruition. All the tools of Fox, the training of Ducard and the inner moral compass of Rachel combine to create this new symbol of Batman.
      • Batman is seen less as a man and more as a force of nature. The camera highlights his ferocity and mysteriousness, and we see the Batman from the perspective of the criminals rather than Bruce. This enables us to see what Bruce has created to others.
      • Falcone Act Two Climax: Falcone is beaten and left for the police by Batman.
  30. Batman Saves Rachel
    • Two “muggers” try to kill Rachel. Batman stops them and gives her the evidence to convict Falcone. Gordon arrives at the docks and finds Falcone delivered to him.
      • Bruce’s plan for taking back Gotham begins. He has announced himself as the Batman, delivering a significant blow against organized crime in the city.
      • Bruce Midpoint: Bruce creates the Batman and delivers Falcone to the police.
  31. Fall-Out
    • Police commissioner Loeb condemns the actions of the Batman. Rachel and her boss work to prosecute Falcone.
      • The effects of Bruce’s actions reverberate across the city, testing the loyalties of characters. Gordon and Rachel must figure out how they deal with a vigilante working outside the law.
      • Rachel Act Two Climax: Rachel works with the DA to prosecute Falcone.
  32. Bruce and Alfred Come Up with Alibis
    • Alfred remarks that Bruce needs to come up with a persona to hide the possibility that he is Batman. Bruce agrees, as long as he doesn’t have to learn polo.
      • Bruce being covered in bruises shows that there is a cost to his crime-fighting. As much as he appeared as a force of nature during the night, he is still very much a man.
  33. Wayne Enterprises Loses the Microwave Emitter
    • An employee to Earle announces that a prototype microwave emitter weapon has been stolen.
      • This is purely an informational scene. All we know is that a weapon has been stolen that will pay off later.
  34. Bruce’s Persona
    • Bruce acts like a pompous billionaire playboy in front of the Wayne higher-ups to deter from his true self. He dallies with beautiful women and buys things that don’t belong to him, all part of Alfred’s suggestion. He meets Rachel and tells her that there is more to him, but Rachel tells him that it’s not who you are underneath but what you do that defines you.
      • Rachel again presents herself as Bruce’s moral compass. His last connection to his childhood, she sees his inner soul in a way no one else seems able to. In a way, she is reminding him not to lose his sense of rightness.
  35. Crane Poisons Falcone
    • Falcone, trying to get put into Crane’s asylum, feigns insanity. To keep him quiet, Crane poisons him with a form of fear serum. Falcone goes insane.
      • The viewer gets a closer look into Crane’s psychology. He is calculating and vicious. He seems to enjoy torturing Falcone and driving him mad, dressing up in theatrics, setting up the situation. For Falcone, his journey is over. Crane has destroyed his mind and therefore his journey.
      • Crane Act Two Climax: Crane poisons Falcone and secures his boss’ wishes.
      • Falcone Act Three Climax: Falcone is driven insane by Crane’s poison.
  36. Batman and Gordon
    • Batman talks with Gordon about the drug shipments. Gordon tells Batman that Flass may know where the other half of the drug shipment went. Gordon lets on that he is trusting Batman more, but has reservations.
      • Gordon starts to trust Batman more now that he knows he is trying to help. With all the corruption around Gordon, he is willing to give a man dressed as a bat a chance to change things.
  37. Batman Interrogates Flass
    • Batman scares Flass into revealing the location of the drugs.
      • The viewer sees again how Bruce uses fear and intimidation to get into the heads of others. Flass rolls over without much push.
  38. The DA is Killed
    • Rachel’s boss is shot dead when he discovers the missing Wayne Enterprises weapon in Gotham.
  39. Batman is Poisoned by the Fear Gas
    • Batman discovers the location of the drugs. Crane is there and poisons Batman with the fear gas. Batman collapses and must be rescued by Alfred.
      • There’s an interesting interaction between Batman and a little boy who sees him on the side of the drug building. In a way, Batman is still young Bruce, fighting to keep his fears away. This appeals to the young boy who sees the same struggle in him.
      • All of Bruce’s fears come rushing back to him when Crane’s toxin hits him: bats, responsibility, the death of his parents. This is a reminder to Bruce that his fears still ultimately drive him. In a way, he is afraid of fear itself and is fighting to keep fear from finding him.
  40. Alfred Tends to Bruce
    • Bruce wakes up from the effects of the toxin. Lucius explains to him what happened and that he has devised an antidote.
      • Bruce appears weak and frail from the effects of the drug, again showing that Batman underneath is still just a man. The viewer can begin to connect the dots into what is happening: who does Crane work for? What is the purpose of the weapon from Wayne Enterprises doing in Gotham? What is this fear toxin?
  41. Bruce and Rachel Reconnect
    • Rachel drops off a birthday present to Bruce: the old arrowhead from their youth. She tells him that her boss is probably dead and that Crane has put Falcone on suicide watch. She rushes to Arkham. Bruce, as Batman, chases after her.
      • The arrowhead represents lost youth for both characters. They remember their past as friends, but are kept apart by their respective duties to the present. Each is fighting crime in their own way and as long as that occurs, they can not be together.
  42. Earle Fires Lucius
    • Earle fires Lucius after he asks too many questions about the missing microwave emitter.
      • The battle for control over Wayne Enterprises takes another turn. Earle has never liked Lucius, viewing him as a protege of Thomas Wayne, whose company he is trying to twist to his own means. The missing microwave emitter is a matter he is trying to hush to keep the company looking good despite the potential damage it could cause. Eliminating Fox gets him one step closer to securing the financial profit he seeks.
      • Wayne Enterprises Act Two Climax: Earle moves to take over the company by removing Lucius and going public.
  43. Crane Kidnaps Rachel
    • Rachel visits Falcone in the asylum and questions Crane’s methods. She witnesses cronies pouring drugs into the sewer system. Crane poisons her with the fear gas and she collapses. Batman and Gordon team up to save her.
      • The viewer knows what Crane is capable of and senses the danger as he goes after Rachel. This creates tension throughout the scene.
      • Crane Act Two Climax: Crane reveals that he is bringing drugs into the city and poisoning the water supply.
  44. Bruce Saves Rachel
    • Batman storms Arkham Asylum to save Rachel. He poisons Crane with his own fear serum and Crane tells him that he works for Ra’s al-Ghul. The police arrive and Bruce uses the cover of bats and the Tumbler to break out and take Rachel back to the Batcave.
      • We again see Bruce use the image of the Batman to instill fear into Gotham. The use of bats and theatrical deception serves him well against the criminals and the police. We again see the Batman through their eyes to see the full effect of Bruce’s scheme.
      • The tumbler’s power and resourcefulness is displayed. This is a setup to the payoff later on in the movie where Gordon must use it to blow up the train.
      • As Bruce rushes past the cells of the inmates at Arkham, one can’t help but wonder that perhaps Bruce himself belongs there. If the crazies think you’re crazy, that should tell you something.
      • Crane Act Three Climax: Crane’s fear gas is turned against him and he goes insane.
      • Gordon Act One Climax: Gordon’s team-up with Batman signals his readiness to take in the Dark Knight’s help.
  45. Batman Talks to Rachel
    • Batman tells Rachel about the drugs in the water supply and how he saved her. He tells her he doesn’t have the luxury of friends.
      • Bruce’s loneliness is illustrated in his distance from Rachel. His Batman cowl keeps them from truly connecting, a barrier between their relationship. When he takes off his cowl when she falls asleep, he appears vulnerable and distant from the camera, showing how he is utterly alone in his new role.
  46. Alfred Chastises Bruce
    • Alfred harshly reminds Bruce that he has to live up to the Wayne family name. Bruce tells him he doesn’t care about his name.
      • Alfred is afraid of losing Bruce to this vigilante he has created. Bruce replies that he doesn’t care about his vestige as a Wayne, echoing the conversation they had in Bruce’s youth. In a way, Bruce is using Batman to escape the mantle of his father. He still feels unworthy about wielding his father’s influence.
  47. The Party
    • Bruce’s birthday party begins. Earle comes to him and tells that with the company going public, the future is secured. Bruce meets Lucius. They figure out that the microwave emitter is going to be used to poison the city. Bruce discovers Ducard, now revealed to be Ra’s al-Ghul, at the party. He threatens him and everyone there. Bruce manages to make his guests leave. Ra’s knocks him and sets the mansion on fire.
      • The mystery is revealed as Ducard presents himself as Ra’s al-Ghul and unveils his plan to destroy Gotham. Bruce must now confront his mentor in order to save the city, but deeper than that, it is also a fight to save his vision of humanity. Is humanity a failed experiement that must be cleansed or is it a race that needs the just rule of law and a moral code to survive? Ra’s vision or Thomas Wayne’s/Rachel’s? Bruce must dig deep within himself to fight for the ideals instilled upon him through family and friends.
      • Ducard Act Two Climax: Ducard reveals his plan to destroy Gotham and sets it in motion.
  48. Alfred Saves Bruce
    • Arkham Asylum’s gates are opened by the League. Alfred rescues Bruce from the fire at the mansion and takes him to the Batcave. Bruce loses hope in himself, but Alfred inspires him to keep going.
      • Alfred takes his role as Bruce’s protector and comes to Bruce’s defense. He will never give up on Bruce.
      • The burning of the Wayne Mansion is hinted at in the beginning of the film. Bruce tells Alfred that he wishes he could burn the mansion down to forget about his past. Now that it is burned down, Bruce worries that he will lose all the remnants of his past. It is this final fear, a fear that Bruce has withheld, that brings Bruce acceptance: his fear of being a Wayne.
      • Alfred Act Two Climax: Alfred saves Bruce and lets him know he’ll never give up on him.
  49. The Final Battle
    • Rachel and Gordon team up in the Narrows as the inmates wreak havoc. Rachel finds the child from earlier and keeps him safe. Batman appears and teams up with Gordon, giving him the tumbler. Batman and Rachel share a moment where he lets her know his identity. Both Batman and Gordon rush and stop Ra’s from finishing his plan.
      • Bruce, reunited in combat with Ra’s, must overcome his failure to defeat him earlier in the story. Ra’s taunts Bruce, repeating that he shouldn’t be afraid, the last words spoken by his father. In a way, Bruce has two fathers, Thomas and Ra’s, one light and one dark, each trying to help him conquer his fear. By defeating Ra’s, Bruce conquers the dark, and by accepting his Wayne name, he embraces the light, becoming one.
      • There is an irony that to save Gotham, Bruce must destroy the monorail. In a way, to rebuild the Wayne legacy, Bruce must physically build back the physical structures that have been demolished: the mansion and the train.
      • Gordon Act Two Climax: Gordon and Batman team up to save the city.
      • Ducard Act Three Climax: Ducard dies as Batman stops him.
      • Bruce Act Three Climax: Bruce saves Gotham and establishes the image of the Batman.
  50. Lucius Reinstated
    • Bruce reveals that he has bought the public shares of Wayne Enterprises and is now once again the owner. Earle has been forced out and Lucius is now the head of the company.
      • With help from Bruce, Lucius retrieves his rightful status. His placement and his connection to Thomas Wayne represent Bruce taking back his family’s name and reputation.
      • Wayne Enterprises Act Three Climax: Bruce takes over the company, reinstates Lucius and forces Earle out.
  51. Bruce Rebuilds the Manor
    • Bruce meets Rachel and promises to rebuild the mansion. She tells him that they can be together once Batman is no longer needed, Bruce Wayne being a facade and Batman being the real person in her eyes. She is proud of him.
      • Bruce’s first act of rebuilding his mansion is sealing up the cave he fell into. This is Bruce healing the hurt that fear inflicted on him.
      • Rachel recognizing that Bruce Wayne is still missing hints that Bruce still has a journey yet to finish. Until Batman’s role in the world is over, they can not be together. As the sequels prove, this is a tragic storyline. However, for the moment, he has regained her trust, trust lost until he cleansed his fear.
      • Bruce finds the stethocope from earlier, remembering his father’s heartbeat. Burned in the wreckage, it may have sent the younger Bruce into a tailspin. But imbued with confidence, Bruce decides to rebuild the house and in essence, his father’s legacy, taking the mantle he had been afraid to embrace for so long.
      • Rachel Act Three Climax: Rachel recognizes Batman and hopes to see Bruce again.
  52. Bruce and Gordon Plan
    • Bruce and Gordon make their plans to bring Gotham back.
      • Gordon now fully trusts Batman, seeing the good he can bring to the city. They are now partners, giving hope not only just to Gordon, but to the whole city.
      • Gordon Act Three Climax: Gordon has hope in making good of the city again as he enlists the Bat signal and accepts Batman.

Overall Analysis:

“Batman Begins” is a terrific film that features a strong connection to the mythic structure of the hero’s journey. The characters are all detailed and necessary, each with interesting arcs that tie into the themes of justice, vengeance and fear. The character examination and journey of Bruce is deep and interesting. The duality of two father figures and their visions really gives the film a rich palette of ideas.

There are a few changes that could have produced a more unified story. Once Bruce completes his training in the League and returns to Gotham, the pace slows as there is not a great internal confrontation to drive Bruce. He has purged his fear and therefore has little left to prove to himself. The process of becoming Batman through the technology and such may be fun to watch, but is not emotionally engaging.

A ticking clock scenario would have proven useful in this instance, something driving Bruce to become the Batman with a deal of pressure. Perhaps the mob has ordered a hit out on the mayor or Bruce sees the young boy of the film abused by his father and needs to save him. In the sequels, this ticking clock scenario is used to great effect with the Joker and Bane’s plans driving the action. Without the League of Shadows storyline in the middle, there is a loss of tension and Bruce is not personally challenged as much. Crane is used somewhat as a challenge to Batman, but he lacks a connection with Bruce and their confrontations never escalate beyond simple hero vs. villain.

In addition, the character of Martha Wayne is given a relatively short stick. She doesn’t really even have a speaking role and her character could have been utilized more to drive Bruce’s anger.

The Earle storyline could have been trimmed somewhat as it is not that important to the overall story or fleshed out a bit more to make it more interesting.

Overall though, the film is a sterling example of what can be accomplished in the superhero genre. Bruce Wayne is a fully dimensional, emotional character that the audience greatly empathizes with, and the film’s themes of personal justice and overcoming fear are heavy and elemental, making the story very memorable and moving.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” a fun adventure

Tom Holland is now the third Spider-Man in the last 11 years, startling evidence of how mismanaged the character has been under Sony’s stewardship. But thankfully, with the webslinger integrated into the MCU, Holland has now established himself as perhaps the best iteration of the character.

Directed by Jon Watts, “Homecoming” features Peter Parker trying to prove himself to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to become worthy of admission into the Avengers. Stark however, just views Peter as a kid who needs a good bit of seasoning before taking that leap. Peter suffers normal high school troubles: bullies, teen angst, girl issues, after school activities and supervillains. When he discovers a group of thugs selling highly-dangerous alien technology weapons on the black market led by the Vulture (Michael Keaton), he tries to track them down and prove he is a worthy superhero.

The film focuses on a very clear storyline and doesn’t waver too much from that. It’s a relief to see such an intimate story in this age of superhero-city destruction. It’s really just about Peter discovering that he shouldn’t try to grow up too fast. That’s it.

The actors are all good, and the characters are charming. As a fan of the comics and the old cartoon TV show, it’s the closest that iteration of Spider-Man has ever made it to the big screen.

It’s almost a shame that the film is bogged down a bit by the need to incorporate it into the MCU with Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau’s characters not really serving the story that well. But if that’s the price to get some creative ingenuity into the Spider-Man films again, then so be it.

Some of the action scenes are not exactly groundbreaking and the character journey is nothing you haven’t seen before, but there are a few twists and turns that keep it interesting. And it’s not another origin story. We don’t have to go through Uncle Ben dying and Peter learning how to use his powers and what great responsibility mean. It’s just a movie about a kid trying to prove himself and realizing he’s not ready. With superheroes.