Twelve years ago today (June 15, 2005) Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was released in theaters. At the time, very few people had ever heard of Chris Nolan or knew of his work (cerebral thrillers like Memento and Insomnia), so they definitely were not expecting his bold new vision of The Batman origin story.
Of course, it now feels like the new era of comic book movies ushered in after Batman Begins were always the standard - but to have that's just a trick of memory, as Nolan's film was a true game-changer for both the superhero movie genre and blockbuster movies in general.
Here's How Batman Begins Changed the Superhero Movie Genre in some pretty significant ways.
One of the first things that Batman Begins did to change the comic book movie genre was to offer a much darker and grittier vision of a superhero origin story.
These days, people roll their eyes whenever a comic book movie is described as "dark" and/or "gritty" (the terms have been worn out); however, before Batman Begins, superhero movies were treated as if they had to have a light touch of camp, in order to fit the genre paradigm.
Christopher Nolan refuted the notion that a comic book movie had to be 'kids stuff,' crafting a film that was unapologetically aimed at an adult crowd. It took a little bit of time after Batman Begins' release for the notion to really sink into the zeitgeist - but by the time The Dark Knight came around, adult-themed superhero movies were an idea the masses were ready to buy into (literally).
One thing that Batman Begins doesn't often get credited for, is being the first superhero film to really raise the bar for the kind of acting talent that could be attracted to a comic book movie.
It was a "controversial" matter at the time of the film's release to have so many high-caliber UK thespians (Christian Bale, Michael Cane, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer) starring in a movie based on an American comic book hero. However, once fans saw the result of having such talent even in minor roles of a superhero film, they stopped caring where that talent came from.
On the actor side, having a director like Nolan fitting complex and deep thematic and character arcs around the mold of pulpy comic book stories was a signal to actors all over the world. It was clear indication that the stigma of comic book movies being silly child's play was a thing of the past.
Now, it isn't just big action stars or celebrities doing superhero films - the biggest acting talents in the business have pretty much all lent their talents to the genre.
If there is one thing that superhero movie fans tend to complain about, it's that films in the genre (especially origin stories) tend to be overly formulaic. It's a criticism that tends to hound Marvel films - and it should, as Christopher Nolan found a way to change up the formula twelve years ago!
Batman Begins is unique in the superhero genre (or even within Nolan's Batman trilogy) in that it is a distinctly non-linear origin story, jumping back and forth in time throughout its first act, as we get the sketch of events that shaped young Bruce Wayne into the Caped Crusader known as Batman.
Even though Batman Begins settles into a more linear format in its second and third acts, that opening act backstory is still a novel and interesting approach to depicting a superhero origin. The only other film in the genre to try that approach was Zack Snyder's Man of Steel - though Snyder's film didn't quite have the same resonance and thematic insights as Nolan's film.
In the end, this is one formula change-up we wish more superhero movies would emulate.
While Nolan's Batman movies weren't the first series of films to have an iconic score (Donner's Superman films and Tim Burton's Batman films are still iconic for their musical scores), it's certainly true that composer Hans Zimmer's score for Batman Begins was a much-needed comeback for superhero movie overtures.
Twelve years later, many fans still hear Zimmer's rousing and booming score in their heads whenever they think of The Dark Knight; and Zimmer's work went on to include an iconic new theme for Superman, as well.
After Batman Begins, the musical themes for superheroes have once again become as big a talking point as the films themselves, helping to create fond lasting memories and/or inspire fans all over the world.