Batman is back to basics.
As the title suggests, Batman Begins takes the self-appointed guardian of Gotham City back to his origins.
Haunted by the senseless murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) uses his inherited fortune to travel the world, searching for a means to restore justice to a corrupt world. His voyage leads to the Himalayas, where he learns physical and mental disciplines.
Having honed his fighting skills, Bruce returns to Gotham, where criminal Carmine Falcone is holding the city to ransom.
The political and justice system are on Falcone's payroll, making it virtually impossible for Bruce's childhood sweetheart, Assistant DA Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), to secure a conviction.
Bruce turns to his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and technical genius Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) to unleash his winged alter-ego. So Batman is born.
With the same sense of menace as the graphic novels, Batman Begins is a masterful re-invention of the comic book superhero and strikes a pleasing balance between eye-popping spectacle and emotional angst.
Thrilling action and hi-tech gadgetry help sustain proceedings until the adrenaline-pumping finale.
The powerhouse cast serves the film well, investing the adventure with a sense of gravity and realism. Bale is strong as the (anti)hero and gels nicely with Holmes's idealistic love interest.
Unlike previous Batman films, the villains don't scene-steal shamelessly, but the last minutes of Batman Begins suggest a sequel would see him in a more formidable light.