Well this movie is an item on the list, and although I was resistant to call it a ‘martial arts’ movie at first, after watching it again I can see a little merit.
The movie tells the story of Bruce Wayne (later played as an adult by Christian Bale). As a child, living in the depression that has made Gotham city a poor and crime infested place to live, he is the son of a Billionaire who owns Wayne Enterprises.
After falling down a well and being frightened half to death by bats, his father tells him not to be afraid in one those ‘life lessons’ kind of moments. Later on the Wayne family go out to the opera and are mugged on their way out. The mugger, in desperation, shoots and kills both Bruce’s mother and father, leaving Bruce to grow up under the family butler Alfred.
When he grows up, Bruce surrounds himself with criminals, even staying in a prison to intentionally ‘mix’ with the likes of thugs and other criminals. But when he is approached by a man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), he joins the ‘League of Shadows’ and learns to face his fear (just like is father said!) and use it against his enemies.
Bruce is taken aside to the League of Shadows club house and is trained in Ninjitsu. But when he is told that he is to lead some men into Gotham City to destroy it, as it is ‘beyond saving’ and ‘should be allowed to die’, he rebels and escapes.
After returning to Gotham, Bruce creates an alter ego, an icon he can use to fight crime called ‘Batman’ – with the intent of taking his fear of bats and instilling it on his enemies. Naturally he takes down some of the most powerful criminals in Gotham, but more rise in resistance and eventually Henri and the League of Shadows show up to finish off Gotham.
So Batman must face off against is old mentor and teacher as well as the rest of Gotham and help turn the city back into the safe place his father had intended to develop before his death.
Creating the Ultimate Fighter
Ok, so Batman has a lot of technology behind him and money to burn – but that alone isn’t enough to make Bruce Wayne ‘Batman’.
From the perspective of a martial artist I find the personal journey that Bruce Wayne goes on to be extremely important and something untouched by previous Batman movies.
Obviously no child Billionaire is going to have any idea of the criminal culture and mentality after the cushy lifestyle of abundance – but Bruce Wayne decisively changes this.
After spending years of his life deliberately separate from his wealthy home, Bruce struggles to eat and finds himself understanding the desperation that drives a lot crime, before mixing it with the real scumbags in prison. The experience of surrounding himself with this world of crime develops first his understanding of his enemy.
Understanding his enemy, he then trains at the league of shadows in martial arts like Ninjitsu – a perfect base for a guy who wants to be invisible and stealthy like Batman. Facing his fears is the first step toward working while they’re present, to avoid the paralyzing or cowardly effect fear has on many people – so he can learn to fight through it. This becomes a major theme in the film as a toxin is used to insight a chemically induced state of fear and panic on anyone it is used on.
Blending in, outsmarting his enemy and learning all of the mechanical and technical aspects of combat, the league of shadows training capitalizes on Bruce Wayne’s existing experience and motivation by giving him the tools and thought process to make his attack on an enemy he has come to understand quite well.
“Understand your enemy and understand yourself”, thrown in with a bit of martial arts training and you’ve got a mentally and physically prepared warrior in any culture of martial arts. Mixed with with military technology invented by your own company and you’ve got a real edge. This really sells Batman’s ability to fight and become the ‘Detective’ the Dark knight is supposed to be portrayed as.
The Action and Martial Arts
Obviously this film’s action isn’t entirely driven by hand to hand combat, but it makes up a decent portion of the action.
Although it isn’t presented in an Eastern style, we do see some entertaining fights using some decent hand to hand techniques, mixed with the use of Batman’s tools and gadgets. The training at the league of shadows is probably the most entertaining for the Martial Arts fan – with sword fighting and martial arts themes being discussed primarily.
Once Bruce Wayne becomes Batman you can expect some use of other types of weaponry and technology, mixed with foot and car chases – using the impressive Batmobile – a chunky and tough looking military vehicle as opposed to sports car with decorative bat wings of the past.
To add a little merit / trivia, it’s handy to note that Liam Neeson was a Golden Gloves boxer in his younger years while Christian Bale studies Wing Chun regularly! So these guys aren’t complete strangers to martial arts or fighting, making them a decent choice as actors for this movie.
Overall more of a ‘general’ action movie with some martial arts themes present toward the beginning. Entertaining for most people and especially Batman or DC comic fans.
Do I Recommend it?
It’s a quality and big budget action film that brings a new level of realism to Batman. I enjoyed it and hope you do too, it has my recommendation.
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Batman Begins [Blu-ray]
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe etc)
Batman Begins [Blu-ray]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Batman Begins [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Batman Begins on DVD