Fans of co-writer/director Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies have waited four long years since “The Dark Knight” in 2008 to see the finale of the ultra-successful series, “The Dark Knight Rises.” There has been a lot of talk about how great these last two installments in the franchise have been. Very rarely do people mention the first entry, “Batman Begins.” People who are new to the series and haven’t seen “Batman Begins” are probably wondering if they should bother seeing the first film. The answer is a resounding “yes!”
Nolan has said in interviews leading up to the release of the third film that he knew how the series would end before he began filming “Batman Begins.” This implies that all three films are meant to be seen in order. Upon viewing “The Dark Knight Rises,” it will be obvious to fans that “Batman Begins” plays a huge part in the story of the finale.
In “Batman Begins,” the audience is introduced to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who would later become Batman. His parents were tragically killed when he was just a young boy, leaving him with a large inheritance and a broken heart. He nurses that broken heart with the help of sweetheart Rachel (Katie Holmes) and a thirst for revenge. Though he eventually becomes a hero trying to save the citizens of Gotham City, he first becomes Batman because he wants revenge on his parents’ murderers.
Unbeknownst to him, he met the shadowy group that was responsible for his parents’ demise when he joined the League of Shadows. The leader of the League, Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), helps a troubled Bruce escape from a Chinese prison at the beginning of “Batman Begins.” Once Bruce realizes that the League is really a terrorist group, he leaves them after destroying their base. Years later, Henri comes to Gotham City to confront Bruce, only this time he reveals himself as Ra’s al Ghul, a violent terrorist from the League of Shadows, who was partially responsible for the death of Bruce’s parents.
The setup in “Batman Begins” pays off in a big way with “The Dark Knight Rises.” Anyone who has seen the trailers for the movie knows that the main villain this time is a character named Bane. What isn’t revealed in the trailers is how much help Bane has in order to pull off his plan to destroy Gotham City.
Bruce’s company, Wayne Enterprises, has a Board of Directors to whom he must answer. One of the Board members is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who may have some secrets that rival those of Batman. Miranda Tate is just an alias. Her real name is Talia al Ghul. As you can probably guess, she is a relation of Ra’s al Ghul and is secretly partnering with Bane to pull off his insane takeover of the city.
Without seeing “Batman Begins,” much of what the villains do in “The Dark Knight Rises” may not make sense. It helps to know the history of Bruce Wayne and the League of Shadows, particularly the al Ghul family. Although someone who has not seen the first movie may be able to catch on to what is happening, having to do so will likely really affect their enjoyment of the movie.
In fact, the events and background provided in “Batman Begins” are so important to the final movie that it is advisable not only to watch the first, but to do so right before seeing “The Dark Knights Rises.” Even those who have already seen “Batman Begins” should re-watch it just before seeing the finale. A refresher is never a bad thing and it will keep you from having to recall details from a movie you may have seen several years earlier.
Most critics agree that “The Dark Knight” is the best movie out of all three. Ironically, it is the least important to the story of the finale. That is not to say that people new to the series shouldn’t see it. They should see it for Heath Ledger’s stellar performance alone. However, skipping it won’t affect their understanding of “The Dark Knight Rises” the way skipping “Batman Begins” will.
“Batman Begins” is arguably the least loved out of all three movies. However, to skip it would mean not understanding the entire trilogy. These three movies are meant to be seen in order, so make sure you watch them all. To not do so would be to potentially ruin your enjoyment of what has been referred to by some critics as the greatest superhero film of all time.