Batman Begins is a Heroes Quest,” a journey that leads to necessary self-discovery and to a climax in which the protagonists make a choice between two worlds in which they may live” (Wade Jennings, 1988, p. 250). “Setting is a crucial part of film’s expressive capabilities, and because it is subject to the techniques of other aspects of mise-en-scene it constitutes much more than simply a backdrop for the action of the story” (Speidal, 2007, p. 8) From the skyline and streets of Gotham City, to the Chinese prison and Tibetan monastery, each setting in Batman Begins is recognisable as belonging to our world, or a close facsimile of our world. This conveys the meaning that although Batman Begins is a superhero film, Batman’s world is governed by the same natural laws as ours and we won’t be seeing the kinds of superpowers possessed by the superheroes of other stories. It also infers that the tools we use interpret the world around us can be used to understand Batman Begins.
That Batman Begins takes place in a world similar to our own is reinforced by the lack of stylised lighting often employed in other films in the genre. But the viewer is still reminded that Batman’s story is a heroic story by the use of High-key Lighting (including night scenes). Lighting has formed its own patterns of development through its use in film so that now High-key Lighting is associated with comedies, adventure films and dramas (Bordwell and Thompson, 2008, p. 129). Costume and makeup can likewise have specific function within a film.
While Batman Begins explicitly states that the use of the bat motif (and by association, the bat-like suit) is because it is primal, elemental, and scary, Bruce Wayne’s line in minute 69, “A guy who dresses up as a bat, clearly has issues” also alludes to another meaning, that Bruce Wayne has issues; his fear, his guilt, his drive. Bordwell and Thompson maintain that the Classical Hollywood narrative (2008, p. 137) was built on ideologically stereo-typed roles such as the Irish cop on the beat, the Jewish pawnbroker, the wisecracking waitress or showgirl.
In Batman Begins, the villains Batman must overcome also represent deeper personal issues; Falcone is crime, Flass and Faden are corruption, Ra’s Al Ghul is vengeance. Batman is likewise supported by characters who represent traits he must adopt; Gordon hasn’t been tainted by the corruption surrounding him, Alfred is loyal and Rachel is moral. Mise-en-scene uses the real world settings, lighting and costume to convey to viewers, that even though Batman Begins is a superhero story, viewers can make use of existing tools from the real world to make sense of it.
Meanwhile the use of stereo-typed roles delivered through staging provides tangible representations of the internal journey Batman makes in the film. These aspects combined with other film techniques, provide meaning to Batman Begins. Bibliography Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin (2008). Film Art: An Introduction (8th ed. ). New York: McGraw Hill. Jennings, Wade (1988). “Fantasy” in Handbook of American Genres, Ed. Wes D. Gehring. New York: Greenwood Press. Speidal, Suzanne (2007). “Film form and narrative” in Introduction to Film Studies (4th ed. ), Ed. Jill Nelmes. Oxon: Routledge.