Batman Begins
Movie Novelisation

Author: Dennis O'Neil
Titan Books
RRP 5.99
ISBN 1 84576 162 6
Available 24 June 2005

Bruce Wayne is the only child of the rich and powerful Wayne family. Ahead of him stretches a life of ease at the head of the Wayne foundation, dedicated to help the poorer sections of Gotham's society. A secure future that is one day shattered by the murder of his parents. Bruce, still a child, witnesses the horrific killing and something dark begins to grow in his soul. Now a young man he leaves behind the comfort of his fathers wealth and disappears for seven years seeking answers, answers that will change his life, answers that will give birth to the Batman...

Batman Begins, is the novelisation, by Dennis O'Neil of the original screenplay by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer. Realistically, these types of book can be a hit or miss affair, partially dependent on the quality of the original script and partly on what the adapter brings to the story. In the case of Batman Begins I can't think of anyone more qualified to write this book than O'Neil.

While it cannot be denied that Frank Miller made a major contribution in the Dark Knight Returns comic book in rehabilitating Batman, O'Neil's comic book stories played a much greater role in stripping away much of the artifice and detritus that had built up around Batman over the many decades of its success. Out went Robin and all the repetitive monthly battle with an obviously outclassed villain and in came the tortured unsure hero who stalked the dark places of the night, searching out clues and punishing the guilty. O'Neil was also to introduce a new recurring villain in the form of Ra Al Ghul, who plays a pivotal role in the new film.

Prior to reviewing the book I made a conscious choice not to see the film first so that I could judge the books merits on its own, rather than banging on about how it differed from the film.

The first half of the book details Bruce's decent into his own personal hell and subsequent resurrection into the Batman, though Batman as such does not appear until over half way through the book. This is a far more satisfying story of his transformation to that of the previous films, which gave little or no attention to the process that Bruce, undertook to become Batman. The book has many of the regular characters from the Batman universe. The stalwart wrinkled retainer Alfred still looks after the young Wayne after his parent's death and beyond. Gordon is not yet Commissioner and working with a corrupt partner Flass. Gotham City is in the thrall of crime boss Carmine Falcone, who is being pursued by an ineffectual DA's office run by Fisk and Rachel Dodson; assistant district attorney and one time childhood friend of Bruce Wayne.

The plot itself is very engrossing, with many plot twists to keep you guessing as to who is the real villain of the book, though with a city as corrupt as Gotham this very much becomes a matter of degree, with an honest minority trying to fight the institutionalised corruption which seems to have invaded all sectors of this society. The relationship between the various characters is played out beautifully with the character transformations written in a realistic and believable way.

Overall the book has a kind of film noir feel about it, with a little bit of the old pulp detective novels thrown in for good measure. As a long-standing comic book fan there were many recognisable elements in the book, either they took a lot of O'Neil's ideas from the comics and integrated them into the film or he has used the opportunity to flesh out the story with the rich back-story of the comic books, only seeing the film will confirm this. Either way it was a pleasure to read and if the film is half as good, I'll be leaving the cinema with popcorn and a smile on my face.

Charles Packer

Buy this item online
We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal! Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£4.79 (Amazon.co.uk)
£5.99 (Countrybookshop.co.uk)
£4.55 (Studentbookworld.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.