We all know how swift and smooth the shift can be from vapid Bruce Wayne to the fiercely vindictive figure who wears a mask and truly super support hose as he conducts his mission to punish meanies. Here’s the story that tells us how--and why--Bruce became such an incorrigible quick-change artist.

CAST: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache, Rade Serbedzija

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

SCREENWRITERS: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer


This tense, effective iteration of Bob Kane's original comic book owes its power and pleasures to a director who takes his material seriously and to a star who shoulders that seriousness with ease...As sleek as a panther, with cheekbones that look sharp enough to give even an ardent lover pause, Mr. Bale makes a superbly menacing avenger...what Mr. Bale conveys effortlessly is Bruce Wayne's air of casual entitlement, the aristocratic hauteur that is the necessary complement of Batman's obsessive megalomania...It's amazing what an excellent cast, a solid screenplay and a regard for the source material can do for a comic book movie...what makes this ‘Batman’ so enjoyable is how Mr. Nolan balances the story's dark elements with its light, and arranges the familiar genre elements in new, unforeseen ways.” -- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“Even with an excess of special effects, kung fu, martial arts, car crashes, runaway trains, enough violence to make you retch and enough noise to burst your eardrums, it’s still silly and boring...Trust me when I tell you that the first 45 minutes of this movie are devoted to a ludicrous, nonstop philosophical debate about the theory of anger and the principles of justice ...‘Batman Begins’ is for morons. There isn’t one sincere or convincing moment in it...The movie seems to be running the same footage over and over again. The plotting is careless and lacks coherence. Mr. Bale’s unremarkable performance as the masked creature of the night is a lot of empty swaggering...With any luck, ‘Batman Begins’ is also ‘Batman Ends.’” --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

“Writer-director Christopher Nolan's prequel is not only the most muscular, most electric, scariest comic book movie since (at least) 1989's ‘Batman,’ it's also a great movie, period. It's great because it's so real...Gotham's horrors are more terrifying because they're not supernatural; it isn't hard to imagine an actual New York freak doing the things that a hooded figure called the Scarecrow does...Nolan serves up the Scarecrow's mania with the same slashing intensity and desperate confusion he brought to "Memento," one of the best films of the decade. Bale deploys both the menace and the wit he showed in his brilliant turn in ‘American Psycho.’ He will be a worldwide superstar.” --Kyle Smith, The New York Post

“This is an overly methodical and heavy-spirited movie—pop without rapture...Christian Bale is a serious fellow, but the most interesting thing about him—a glinting sense of superiority—gets erased by the dull earnestness of the screenplay, and the filmmakers haven’t developed an adequate villain for him to go up against...the action climax, in which the water supply threatens to combine with a vicious white powder floating around the city (the mixture will drive everyone crazy, or at least make them sneeze), is cheesy and unexciting.” --David Denby, The New Yorker

“For a while, ‘Batman Begins’ is fitfully entertaining...Eventually, however, Nolan, who directed the tricky, widely admired ‘Memento,’ must oblige the conventions of the big-budget action movie: darkly improbable weaponry, pyrotechnics, car chases, editing that edges toward incomprehensibility... Basically, Nolan's job is to revive a troubled studio franchise, and you can feel him struggling to reanimate the neurotic dislocations of Tim Burton's 1989 ‘Batman.’ His effort is not dishonorable, but what it needs, and doesn't have, is a Joker in the deck—some antic human antimatter to give it the giddy lift of perversity that a bunch of impersonal explosions, no matter how well managed, can't supply.” --Richard Schickel, Time Magazine

“‘Batman Begins’ is a triumph — a confidently original, engrossing interpretation, with a seriously thought-through (but never self-serious) aesthetic point of view that announces, from the get-go, someone who knows what he's doing is running the show, and he's modestly unafraid to do something new.” --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for....Bale is just right for this emerging version of Batman...he suggests an inward quality that suits the character...the Batman franchise has finally found its way...I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed.” --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“This ‘Batman’ is a carefully thought out and consummately well-made piece of work, a serious comic-book adaptation that is driven by story, psychology and reality, not special effects...Christian Bale turns out to be an excellent fit for Nolan's conception of the Dark Knight...not all of ‘Batman's’ actors have equal facility with the admittedly difficult assignment of being both comic-book archetypes and real people...both Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes never seem to be sure which side of the coin to favor...Cillian Murphy is terrifically chilling as the evil Dr. Jonathan Crane and his alter ego, the Scarecrow.” --Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“Christopher Nolan, the 35-year-old British director best known for his 2000 brain-twister, ‘Memento,’ has come to the plate of big-budget filmmaking and cleared the fence with a dark, dazzling and engagingly original ‘Batman Begins’...Bale runs away with the role of the young Caped Crusader. His aura of troubled, focused intensity is just right, and he ends up being by far the most interesting, believable and oddly charismatic of all movie Batmen.” --William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“... a ponderous, deeply unironic psychological portrait with such a pervasive sense of gravitas that it borders on self-importance...Bale is terrific both as the conflicted Bruce Wayne and the be-caped Batman (He also manages to convey periodic flashes of deadpan humor, which are sadly engulfed by a near-constant barrage of noise, frenetic action and overdesigned spectacle) good as the performances are, there's something joyless about the enterprise...After nearly 2 1/2 hours of psychologizing, punching and brooding, it's clear that ‘Batman Begins’ all right; the question is whether it will ever end.” --Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

“How did Bruce Wayne become Batman? That question is answered, in meticulous detail, in Christopher (‘Memento’) Nolan's moody, broody ‘Batman Begins,’ a mostly successful attempt to resuscitate a series soiled by silliness, sloppiness and Joel Schumacher. This prequel has a smattering of funny quips, but they seem out of place in this dark, rage-driven drama. This masked avenger, played by Christian Bale, makes no attempt to ingratiate...unlike so many superheroic summer spectacles, this one actually has a soul behind the special effects.” --David Ansen, Newsweek

“If Tim Burton lifted the DC Comics franchise to gothic splendor and Joel Schumacher buried it in campy overkill (a Batsuit with nipples), then Christopher Nolan -- the mind-teasing whiz behind ‘Memento’ and ‘Insomnia’ -- gets credit for resurrecting Batman as Bruce Wayne, a screwed-up rich kid with no clue about how to avenge the murders of his parents...Nolan keeps the emphasis on character, not gadgets. Gotham looks lived in, not art-directed. And Bale creates a vulnerable hero of flesh, blood and haunted fire...Beginner's luck evaporates when Nolan ends with a tricked-out car chase and a doomsday plot about a poisoned water supply.” --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“At a solemn 140 minutes, it tests your tailbone more often than it tickles your funny bone...From the moment Bruce Wayne as a child falls into a dry well filled with bats, Nolan betrays a heavy foot as he lays down each step in the creation of this self-made superhero...‘Batman Begins’ is obvious from the get-go -- and almost no fun...Nolan fails to bring grace or sweep to the action; he stages and edits it too tightly. It's punchy, all right, but not pleasurable.” --Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun

“How does a good man stop bad people without doing bad things himself? It's a psychological tightrope act that Bale's Batman easily manages...What you get out of ‘Batman Begins’ depends on what you bring to it. It is the most faithful to the origins of the comic strip and it sets up a series very different from the four made by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher between 1989 and 1997. Those were about the Caped Crusader. This one is about the Dark Knight.” --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

“‘Batman Begins’ is at its weakest when tending to standard summer-action-movie business: the fight scenes and chase sequences are blurry, over-edited tangles of murk in which it's difficult to tell who is smacking whom with what large object. But everything concerned with how a billionaire orphan with a bat complex might go about setting up shop is genuinely inspired... In the final act, Nolan is forced to knuckle under to the demands of plot, and the hollowness of the opening scenes returns.” --
Ty Burr, Boston Globe

“‘Batman Begins,’ at two-hours-plus, is a nonstarter...As the latest jaw-beneath-the-cowl, Bale makes his voice raspy for a menace that does not convince. Only Michael Caine, as trusty but crusty butler Alfred, turns in anything like a ‘real’ performance.” --Ken Tucker, New York Magazine

“The movie is satisfying—at least by the standards of that depressing phenomenon, the superhero ‘franchise,’ with its attendant books, action figures, lunchboxes, Burger King tie-ins, and rectal thermometers...The best thing about ‘Batman Begins’ is that Bruce Wayne is like an actor, his great role still a work in progress. He's still wrestling with the idea of what a superhero should be—still figuring out the franchise.” --David Edelstein, Slate