- Christopher Nolan
The film’s story is divided into three time-lines:
-Blue represents the present
-Red represents close flashbacks, which deal with Bruce Wayne 3 years earlier
-Green represents distant flashbacks, which deal with Bruce Wayne aged 8 years old
In the present and close flashbacks, Bruce Wayne is played by Christian Bale and Rachel Dawes is played by Katie Holmes. In distant flashbacks, Bruce Wayne is played by Gus Lewis and Rachel Dawes is played by Emma Lockhart.
A large swarm of bats fly from left to right of shot. Back-lighted by a reddish sky, they make the shape of Batman’s symbol.
Distant flashback: Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes are playing in the Wayne Manor garden. Bruce falls down an sealed up well and fractures his arm. He is then attacked by a swarm of bats emerging from a large gaping crack at the well base.
Present: Bruce wakes up from the nightmare in a Chinese prison. It becomes apparent that Bruce is regularly attacked by other inmates who brawl with him 6 to 1 at breakfast. Having beaten the majority of them, Bruce is punished with solitary confinement by the prison guards. In solitary, Bruce is approached by a man called Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). Ducard displays a great deal of knowledge and authority by getting an audience with Bruce from the prison and by stating that he knows who Bruce is. Ducard then offers Bruce a place in the League of Shadows — a collective of vigilantes and assassins. He deems that the League can offer Bruce a path to true justice instead of ‘locking himself away with criminals to take them on one at a time.’ Ducard arranges for Bruce to be released in the morning, when he will have to decide whether he will accept Ducard’s offer. Should he do so he must pick a rare blue flower from the eastern slopes and carry it to the top of a nearby mountain.
Bruce is released and carries out his task. After carrying the flower to the top of the mountain, Bruce finds himself at the door of the League of Shadows headquarters. Inside he meets Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), the head of the League, and is confronted by Henri Ducard once again. Bruce hands over the blue flower and in doing so completes his test for membership. Ducard then suddenly attacks him, warning the exhausted Bruce that ‘death does not wait for you to be ready.’ Although Bruce fights back he is easily beaten and collapses.
Distant flashback: Bruce is still in the well after being attacked by the bats. His father, Dr. Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache), comes down to rescue him and sets Bruce’s fractured arm with the help of the family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). Thomas Wayne comforts Bruce by asking ‘Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up’. Later on Bruce admits to his father that he was scared of the bats and is now suffering nightmares. After being comforted further, Bruce’s father shows his son the pearl necklace he’ll give to his wife as a gift.
That night they go to the opera on the Wayne monorail system where Bruce is introduced to Wayne Enterprises, his father’s multi-billion-dollar business. While watching the opera Mefistofele Bruce is frightened by the bats in the production, which remind him of the bats that attacked him and asks his father if they can leave. Outside, the family is held at gunpoint up by a man called Joe Chill (Richard Brake). After Chill demands the pearl necklace Thomas gave to his wife, a brief struggle ensues resulting in the death of both of Bruce’s parents. Chill runs away, leaving Bruce alone with his dying parents.
Bruce is comforted by officer Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and is informed that the police have caught Chill. Bruce is put into the care of Alfred. After the funeral, Wayne Enterprises CEO William Earle (Rutger Hauer) tells Bruce that the company will be looked after until Bruce grows up. Alfred tries to console Bruce when the boy confesses that his parents’ deaths were his fault because he asked to leave the opera early.
Present: Ducard asks Bruce if he still feels responsible for the death of his parents. Bruce responds that his is far too angry to feel guilty. His training with the League of Shadows begins. He is trained in the arts of ninjutsu, stealth, combat theatricality and deception. Bruce is trained not only to fight 6 men but to ‘engage 600.’
Ducard enforces his belief that all forms of crime must be fought without mercy and pity. Ducard explains that his wife was murdered and that he joined the League when he achieved his vengeance. Bruce reveals that he can’t claim his vengeance.
Close flashback: Bruce arrives at Wayne Manor from Princeton University; he’s come home for Joe Chill’s parole hearing. Alfred still manages the house and expresses his concern over Bruce. Rachel Dawes is now an Assistant District Attorney and takes Bruce to the hearing. Unknown to her, Bruce is concealing a gun with which he plans to shoot Chill down if he is released. Chill expresses remorse for the murder of Bruce’s parents and is given parole should he testify against gang boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). However, before Bruce can act, an assassin working for Falcone shoots Chill. Bruce watches as Chill dies and the assassin is arrested. Rachel lectures Bruce afterward on the difference between justice and revenge and reveals that Gotham City is still suffering because of Falcone’s illegal drug empire. Rachel then slaps him harshly when he reveals that he was planning to shoot Chill. She tells him that his father would be ashamed of him.
Bruce, convinced that he has nothing to lose, makes his way to a bar in the Gotham underworld to confront Falcone. Falcone brags about his control over the city’s police and judges. He then threatens Rachel and Alfred to prove the Bruce does have a lot to lose. His thugs beat up Bruce and he leaves. Left no other choice but to run away, Bruce stows aboard a cargo ship leaving Gotham’s central port.
Bruce is then shown in China stealing food to survive and eventually getting involved in gangster operations in order to infiltrate them. He is then arrested (ironically stealing Wayne Enterprise crates,) and sent to the prison Ducard discovered him in at the film’s opening.
Present: When Bruce reaches a standard in which he is an equal to the majority in the League, he faces Ducard in combat. However, he is exposed beforehand to the vapors of the blue flower he brought up to the mountain earlier. The smoke distorts his senses and makes him hallucinate about bats, his greatest fear. Bruce overcomes his phobia and employs a clever trick to best Ducard in a sword fight, passing the trial.
Ra’s al Ghul sends for him and Ducard. Ra’s puts Bruce to one final task before becoming a full member of the League. The task is to execute a prisoner of the League — a man who has stolen his neighbour’s land and killed them. Bruce refuses. Ra’s reveals to Bruce that he has been trained in order to lead the League to Gotham City which is corrupted by evil that it must be razed. Bruce sets the League’s headquarters on fire and is forced to fight al Ghul while the the rest of the League escapes the wreckage to safety. Ducard is knocked out by Bruce who then manages to fend off Ra’s, who is killed instantly when a roof beam collapses on him. Bruce picks up an unconscious Ducard and rescues him from the building as it explodes. Bruce leaves Ducard in the care of a villager.
Bruce contacts Alfred, who arrives in a private jet to pick him up. Alfred reveals that Bruce, who has been away for seven years, has been declared dead by William Earle so that Earle can take Wayne Enterprises public. Bruce says it’s a good thing he willed everything to Alfred, who jokes that Bruce is welcome to borrow the Rolls. Bruce explains to Alfred a plan he has to fight the Gotham underworld by taking on a new persona, which all criminals will fear.
Back in Gotham, a serial killer known as Victor Zsaz (Tim Booth), who is allegedly insane, is being transferred from a regular prison to the Arkham Asylum on the opinion of Dr Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy). Rachel challenges this as it is yet another one of Falcone’s thugs that Crane has had moved to the Asylum and away from prison but it goes unnoticed due to Falcone’s corrupt influence. Crane meets with Falcone later on that night and demands that Rachel be dealt with. When Falcone refuses, Crane threatens him with the knowledge that his boss is coming to the city.
Held up in Wayne Manor, Bruce begins to work out what has happened since he has been away. While doing so he spots a bat flying around the ceiling. He goes back to the abandoned well and climbs down. Through the crack in which the bats appeared when he was attacked in his childhood, Bruce finds a huge cave filled with bats, which is connected to the lowest foundations of Wayne Manor. Coming to terms with his fear he establishes the cave as his base of operations.
Bruce decides to announce his return and reports to Wayne Enterprises. Earle, clearly shocked, warns him that he cannot prevent the Company from going public at this later stage. Bruce explains that he is not bothered by this and that all he wants is a job, preferably in Applied Sciences. Earle sets this up and Bruce goes to meet his new ‘boss’ Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Fox explains to Bruce that the AS Department is a dead end where Earle can put people to stop them from causing trouble. Fox introduces Bruce to some of the equipment, a Kevlar battle suit and a grapple gun and harness. Bruce casually asks Fox if he can ‘borrow’ the gear for ‘spelunking.’ Fox allows it, considering all the equipment to belong to Bruce anyway.
Bruce continues to explore the cave where he and Alfred find the lower foundations of the south east wing of Wayne Manor and an old elevator shaft leading back up the house. Bruce also begins to modify the battle suit he borrowed adding gauntlets and paint-spraying it black.
One night Bruce, wearing a black ski mask and equipped with his Wayne-Tech grapple gear, breaks into Sergeant Jim Gordon’s office, recognizing him to be one of the city’s few uncorrupted cops. Threatening him with a stapler behind his back, Bruce questions Gordon on what it would take to bring Falcone to justice. Gordon responds that leverage on the corrupt Judge Faden and a D.A. brave enough to prosecute would be needed. Bruce tells him to watch for his sign then escapes by jumping off the roof across to the next building, injuring himself in the process.
Bruce realizes he could use a lightweight fabric to make a glider wing or parachute. He goes back to Fox and asks if there is any technology there that would suit him for ‘BASE-jumping.’ Fox shows him a memory cloth which can be assigned any type of rigid shape when an electric current passes through it. Fox also introduces him to a tank-like transport called the Tumbler, designed as a bridging vehicle for the army, which can accelerate to high speeds, is armed, and can perform a “rampless” jump. An impressed Bruce asks ‘Does it come in black?’
Back in the cave, Bruce adds further modifications to his suit, adding a radio transmitter, a cowl, the memory cloth, and a utility belt. He makes steel shurikens in the shape of a bat. He explains to Alfred that he has chosen the bat as his symbol because bats frighten him and it’s time that his enemies shared his dread.
At the docks, Falcone and a corrupt police officer, Flass (Mark Boone Junior), are watching Falcone’s thugs unload a shipment of drugs from a cargo ship. The drugs are concealed in toys — stuffed bears and rabbits. The bears are to go to the drug dealers and the rabbits to a mystery man in the Narrows — a poverty-stricken area of Gotham overrun by crime. However, three of the thugs mysteriously vanish leaving nothing but screams. As the others investigate, more disappear. The Batman quickly disposes of the remaining thugs and attacks Falcone.
Gordon and the police arrive to find the drugs and thugs at the scene and Falcone tied to a searchlight with his coat cut to produce the shadow of a bat in the night sky.
Meanwhile, Rachel is coming off a train while being shadowed by two thugs. She notices one and threatens him with a taser. He runs in fear when he sees the Batman beating up the second thug. As Rachel turns she screams at the sight of Batman. He produces photographs compromising Judge Faden and then disappears.
The news the next day of a ‘Batman’ has the whole city talking. Rachel and the D.A.’s office decide that there is enough evidence to put Falcone on trial despite it been given to them by a vigilante.
Alfred wakes Bruce up at 3:00pm, despite Bruce’s pleas for more sleep, and then frets over the bruises and injuries that he has taken the previous night. He puts to Bruce that he must live the life he would normally in public in order not to raise suspicion.
Meanwhile Earle is being informed that a Wayne Tech Enterprise weapon, a microwave emitter, has been stolen. The weapon can vaporise a water supply.
Bruce, taking Alfred’s advice, goes out to display his playboy lifestyle. He attends a party at a hotel with two female escorts, who almost get Bruce kicked out by bathing in the decorative fountain. Bruce then buys the hotel and makes his way out with his friends. There he meets Rachel for the first time since returning from China. Although he tries to convince her that the way he is acting isn’t really him, she tells him that ‘it’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.’
Meanwhile, Falcone has cut his wrists in prison to bolster his insanity plea and enable a move to Arkham Asylum. Dr. Crane is brought in to assess his insanity. In a private interview, Falcone demands that Crane move him or he will tell the police to have a closer look at the drugs Falcone has been bringing in for Crane. Crane shows Falcone the burlap-sack mask he wears during his experiments. He releases gas from his suitcase and puts on the mask, which acts as an air filter. Falcone screams with fear at hallucinations caused by the gas. A maskless Crane leaves the room with his suitcase while Falcone’s screams can still be heard. Crane tells the warden that Falcone isn’t faking and should be moved to the Asylum.
The following night Batman visits Gordon and tells him that only half the drugs brought in on Falcone’s ship were to be sent to dealers. He and Gordon conclude that it would help to interrogate Flass, who Batman identified at the docks making his escape. Flass is taking money from a food vendor on the street while being served. As he walks away into a narrow alley, he springs a trap and is carried upside-down to the rooftops, suspended from Batman’s grapple cord. Flass tells him about the bear and rabbit shipments, that the rabbits make their way to the Narrows, and that there is some other substance hidden in the rabbits. Batman returns Flass to the ground and disappears. Meanwhile, Rachel’s boss, the district attorney, has been murdered for looking into one of Falcone’s shipping containers. It contains Wayne Enterprises’ missing microwave emitter.
Batman makes his way to the Narrows and finds an apartment stuffed with cuddly rabbit toys stuffed with the drugs. At that moment Crane and two thugs enter and Batman hides. At Crane’s orders, the thugs pour petrol (gasoline) around the apartment. Batman comes out of hiding and beats the two thugs. Crane, wearing his burlap mask, emerges and gases him with the same gas he used on Falcone. (He has gas cylinders hidden in his shirt cuffs.) Batman falls helplessly to the floor and scrambles around hallucinating bats and his parents’ death. Crane pours petrol over his suit while taunting him. He then lights a cigarette lighter and throws it at Batman’s chest, causing his suit to burst into flame. Batman throws himself out of the window into the rain swept streets of the Narrows and hits the street with a thud. Desperately rolling around he puts out the flames, to the shock of the on-lookers, and then stumbles about trying to get his grapple gun. He fires the gun upwards and is carried to to a nearby rooftop. From there he grabs his communicator