'Batman Begins' now on Netflix

Batman, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, has been prowling the streets and rooftops of Gotham City in various forms since he was introduced in comic book form in the 1930s. From the campy Adam West interpretation of the sixties to the darker version played by various actors in a series of films starting with “Batman,” directed by Tim Burton in the late eighties, the masked vigilante billionaire has been delighting audiences for decades.

“Batman Begins,” which starred Christian Bale in the title role, first hit the big screen in 2005. The movie was meant to reboot the franchise after the disaster that was “Batman and Robin” in 1997. “Batman Begins” succeeded brilliantly and spawned two sequels starring Bale.

“Batman Begins” also stars Michael Caine as Alfred, the butler who is such a great help to both Batman in his costumed version and his public identity as Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy.  As a child, Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents by a street mugger, setting him on a lifelong quest to right injustice by any means necessary. Caine’s Alfred is a former SAS operative.  While he has become too old for running, jumping and mayhem, his experience is a great asset.

Morgan Freeman appears as Lucius Fox, Batman’s tech expert.  Gary Oldman plays James Gordon, an incorruptible police officer before he became Commissioner. Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, and Rutger Hauer round out the cast.

Being an origin story, there is a lot of the hero’s journey background to get through while young Bruce Wayne learns what he needs to learn to become Batman. However, the main plot involves a conspiracy to destroy Gotham City using a drug developed by a super-villain called the Scarecrow, which causes its victims to experience overwhelming and excruciating terror. Batman/Bruce Wayne foils the plot, but in the process loses his first love, an assistant district attorney played by Holmes.

“Batman Begins” was directed by Christopher Nolan, then an up and comer. The movie proved to be Nolan’s breakthrough. He would subsequently direct the two other movies in the trilogy, “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” the science fiction epics “Inception” and “Interstellar,” and the historical film “Dunkirk.”

“Batman Begins” was a box office smash, with a world-wide total gross of $372 million. Critics were generally appreciative as well, noting the dark but smart execution and the theme of fear and how it is overcome. The movie is now available for livestreaming on Netflix.