In what is sure to be one in a long line of video essays about a Christopher Nolan film ahead of the release of Dunkirk this weekend, a YouTube screenwriting analysis video has pitted the storytelling strengths of 2005’s Batman Begins against the weaknesses of last year’s Batman V Superman.
Nolan gained mainstream prominence with Batman Begins, considered by many to be one of the greatest origins stories for a superhero and reboot films of all-time. While his directorial style got more ambitious as the years went on and his stories got more complex, Begins remains a prime example of the strong and ambitious writing that him and his brother Jonathan Nolan are capable of at their best.
In a video essay by YouTuber Just Write, Batman Begins is analyzed in terms of plot structure and integrated themes, frequently comparing it to Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film in the DC Extended Universe. The video praises Nolan and his ability to define his acts from one major consequential action to another, throwing the myth that films need to have three acts out the window and defining the film in four distinct parts. Act one is the origin story of Christian Bale’s hero plus his training with Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, act two is his preparation and actual transformation into Batman, act three is his investigation into the water toxin crisis that will devastate Gotham City, and act four reaches the climax.
In Batman Begins, the character arc of Bruce Wayne is pulled at by three primary sources of conflict in Ra’s Al Ghul, Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow, and Tom Wilkinson’s Carmine Falcone. The film’s main theme being fear, the video notes how Begins integrates this theme flawlessly into the text and subtext of the screenplay, challenging Bruce Wayne in each of these different directions. Each of the antagonists use fear for their own devious means, with Wayne using fear as Batman to try and combat the forces of evil. The video points out how the film builds upon its story and escalates these ideas in a way that’s clear and thrilling in one movement.
On the other hand, Just Write criticizes the lack of distinct structure in Batman V Superman coupled with the lack of thematic opposition within the characters. In that film, Ben Affleck’s Batman, Henry Cavill’s Superman and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor all represent similar concepts about power, so the film really only has Holly Hunter’s Senator June Finch as a differing point of opposition on the theme. Also, the video believes that Batman V Superman’s scripting is all buildup in an extended two-hour act one, only for act two to encompass the ten minute titular battle and act three the eventual team-up. The balance is off because the film is awkwardly structured.
Now to give a bit of credit to Batman V Superman, that film had a lot to juggle in terms of introducing new characters and promising elements in its comic-book adaptation that Begins was never beholden to as a reboot. Still, Nolan’s unique skills as a storyteller makes this kind of balance look effortless, whereas its clear that a lot of other major moviemakers struggle with complexity and thematically driven storytelling.
Source: Just Write
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