With ”Batman Begins,” which recently began production in Iceland for a summer 2005 release, director Christopher Nolan (”Memento”) will create a grittier, camp-free take on the superhero, with characters faithful to the comic books. Here they are.
CHARACTER Batman/Bruce Wayne
WHO? After witnessing his millionaire parents’ brutal murder as a child, Wayne vows revenge on criminals everywhere — hence the scary outfit. Previously played by Michael Keaton (1989’s ”Batman” and 1992’s ”Batman Returns”), Val Kilmer (1995’s ”Batman Forever”), and George Clooney (1997’s ”Batman & Robin”).
IN THE MOVIE Bale plays a younger, less experienced Wayne, who’s still learning the Bat-ropes of being a superhero. After years of training, he returns to Gotham City, where we’ll see him don his cowl for the first time. Nolan and coscreenwriter David Goyer will likely draw on aspects of the 1986 comic-book arc ”Batman: Year One,” a gritty, revamped version of the character’s origin, in which Wayne becomes Batman in a run-down Gotham City plagued by crime and government corruption.
OUR BAT-WISH A costume made of any material but rubber — it’s hard to fight crime when you can’t turn your head.
CHARACTER Alfred Pennyworth
WHO? Wayne’s ever-handy butler, who serves snacks, dusts the Batmobile, and sews up bullet wounds. The late Michael Gough portrayed Alfred in the four previous ”Batman” films.
IN THE MOVIE Caine has said the film will emphasize Alfred’s paternal role: As in the comic books, the butler was Wayne’s guardian after his parents’ deaths. The actor plans to base his portrayal on his own, real-life butlers — who probably don’t have to tend to a superhero headquarters in the basement.
OUR BAT-WISH That Caine will be in ”Quiet American” mode, not ”Austin Powers” overdrive (and, please, no choruses of ”Alfie”!)
CHARACTER James Gordon
WHO? As Gotham’s police commissioner, Gordon becomes one of Batman’s closest allies; the cop summons Batman by sending the Bat-Signal into the clouds. He was played by Pat Hingle in the four earlier ”Batman” movies.
IN THE MOVIE Still new to law enforcement, Gordon is a mere police lieutenant. In ”Batman: Year One,” he is one of the few honest cops on the force, and initially sees Batman as a dangerous vigilante. He changes his mind after Batman saves the life of his young son. Incidentally, Gordon’s other child — daughter Barbara — is destined, in comics lore, to become Batgirl.
OUR BAT-WISH That Oldman will summon some of the macho swagger of the actor who’d been widely rumored for the role: Dennis Quaid
CHARACTER Ra’s Al Ghul
WHO? An evil genius who’s at least 600 years old
IN THE MOVIE Ra’s Al Ghul — whose name supposedly means ”Demon’s Head” — is Batman’s chief antagonist. He’s gained eternal life by bathing in a mysterious chemical pool known as the Lazarus Pit, and like most immortal, evil geniuses, he wants to rule the world. Watanabe, who has played samurai for years in Japanese films (and in last year’s ”The Last Samurai”), shouldn’t have trouble portraying Ghul’s skills with a sword.
OUR BAT-WISH That the movie skips the comic-book subplot in which Batman falls in love with Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia
CHARACTER Henri Ducard
WHO? A French investigator who teaches Wayne crime-fighting skills
IN THE MOVIE Neeson, who mentored Jedi Ewan McGregor in ”The Phantom Menace,” will play a similar role here, with scenes in which he trains Wayne. But Internet reports from spies who claim to have seen the script suggest that the film’s Ducard may turn out to be in league with baddie Ra’s Al Ghul.
OUR BAT-WISH Any chance for a Darth Maul cameo?
CHARACTER Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow
WHO? A masked villain who uses ”fear gas” to instill paralyzing terror in his victims. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Murphy, who learned the terror of running from scary zombies in 2003’s ”28 Days Later.”
IN THE MOVIE Crane, a professor at Gotham University, may not use the Scarecrow name or even wear the mask, according to Warner Bros. But he’ll no doubt develop his fear gas, and try to put it to use against Batman — even though Crane is apparently a mere secondary villain in the film.
OUR BAT-WISH Put on that mask, Cillian. We want Scarecrow!
CHARACTER Lucius Fox
WHO? The savvy executive who runs Bruce’s company, Wayne Enterprises
IN THE MOVIE Fox’s climb to power is just beginning — he lost his spot on the company’s board after the death of Wayne’s parents and found himself marginalized. We’ll likely see him win Bruce’s friendship and take the corporate reins.
OUR BAT-WISH That Freeman can make a marginal comic-book character interesting
WHO? Bruce Wayne’s love interest — apparently not drawn from the comic books.
IN THE MOVIE Rachel’s character is a childhood friend of Wayne’s who reportedly grows up to become a Gotham assistant district attorney. Apparently she finds flying rodents kinda sexy.
OUR BAT-WISH That the movie won’t end up feeling like ”Batman’s Creek” (fellow ”Dawson’s Creek” alum Joshua Jackson actually did audition — unsuccessfully — for the part of Wayne)