As a die-hard Batman fan it was 2005's Batman Begins that restored my faith in the movie franchise. After things had started out so promising with Tim Burton's edgy, exciting Batman back in 1989, each successive film seemed to get more ridiculous and channel the campy style of the 1966-68 television series.
Co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins marked a fresh start for the Caped Crusader. Nolan essentially wiped the slate clean, and as the title suggests, went back to the beginnings of the Batman legend. The film goes back and explores the troubled and conflicted childhood of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) that ultimately drove him to dress like a bat and become a vigilante seeking justice.
We learn that Bruce was once what many would consider a spoiled child, living happily with his parents at Wayne Manor. Bruce's idyllic existence was shattered when both his parents were killed during a mugging in deprived Gotham metropolis. Wayne is never the same, and seethes with anger. Bruce plans to exact revenge on his parents' killer after the man is released for ratting on a crime boss, but that opportunity is thwarted when someone puts a hit on the killer first.
Wayne disappears for seven years, traveling the world and trying to understand crime and the criminal mind. Eventually he ends up in a prison camp where he is regularly tortured. One day, a mysterious man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) offers him the opportunity to hone his fighting skills, embrace his anger, and find purpose in his life. After accepting the offer, Bruce is schooled in the martial arts of Ra's Al Ghul's shadow hand. Ducard's goal is to enlist him in his amoral League of Shadows. It is here that Bruce has to choose between good and evil.
When Bruce steadfastly refuses to kill someone to become a member of the league, Ducard becomes his arch enemy. Bruce is determined to return to Gotham and fight for justice, seemingly unaware of the load of trouble he's in. While some background information on Bruce Wayne was given in the earlier Batman films, Christopher Nolan's decision to give a more in depth explanation of Bruce Wayne's early life was a wise one. Understanding Bruce's fear of bats (the result of a childhood trauma), and his distaste for criminals because of his parents' murder, makes it easier to understand the Batman persona Bruce would eventually adopt.