- It’s been more than a decade since Batman Begins, the first instalment in Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight Trilogy, hit theatres. And yet, even after all this time, new information about the movie is still finding its way out of the Batcave and into the light of day. For example, screenwriter David S. Goyer has officially debunked theory about a key Batman Begins character: Ra’s al Ghul (played by Liam Neeson).
The attention-grabbing soundbite was buried amidst the jam-packed and thoroughly entertaining chat Goyer had with Backstory Magazine as part of the latter’s Comic-Con@Home panel, “The Art of Adaptation Comics to the Screen: David S. Goyer Q&A.” The topic of Ra’s al Ghul’s death at the end of Batman Begins kicked off when panel moderator, Backstory Magazine’s Jeff Goldsmith, asked Goyer whether there were any challenges while writing Batman Begins. Goyer’s answer is certainly a surprise, not because he cites a specific scene that gave him trouble, but because of the broader challenges, he recalls.
“I think my first conversation with Chris [Nolan] was when he was interested in doing an origin story. He was interested in telling a story that took place before ruce Wayne returned to Gotham, so that was something that really excited me when we spoke. It’s funny. I think the thing that was the biggest opportunity and biggest challenge for Batman Begins was the same thing which was: The only reason Batman Begins happened was because the franchise had been ridden into the ground.”
Goyer continues, “There had been all of these attempts — I think the last Batman had come out eight years prior — and there had been all these attempts in the intervening years to do different versions of other Batman movies. Friends of mine had worked on some of these movies, from an early version of Batman v. Superman and I think an early version of Batman Beyond and there was another that did involve the Scarecrow. All these attempts and they each foundered. I think there was a realization at Warner Bros. at the time that they had to try something new. It was that opportunity that allowed us to do something new, which now doesn’t seem remarkable. But the remarkable thing was, ‘What if we just tell the story as if it were a real story and it didn’t take place with a kind of fictional, comic book world?’”
After Goyer highlights what he and Nolan were up against while trying to bring a fresh set of eyes to the world of Batman, Goldsmith then brings up Ra’s al Ghul’s death scene in Batman Begins in an attempt to suss out whether there was any intention to bring in a kind of surreal, comic book-y feel to the scene. When asked if the moment where Ra’s closes his eyes after fighting Batman on the runaway train was meant to imply he was just as immortality in this world as he is in the comics, Goyer replied, “I think you’re reading far too into it. Certainly, there was never any discussion that Chris or I had about that,” before going on to explain:
“But if you think about it, it was a fairly realistic approach. I think if you introduce something like the Lazarus Pit into that (I’m not saying you couldn’t tell a cool story with the Lazarus Pit; I think you could), I just don’t think that the Lazarus Pit would’ve gelled with that approach.”
Earlier in the Goyer/Backstory Magazine chat, Goldsmith, asks Goyer about the decision to include and explore the time period before Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham, a seven-year time period which hadn’t been seen in movies or TV before that point. Goyer commented,
“Well, I think that when you’re adopting a very well-known property, having a gap or missing years is really exciting. There have been some little attempts in some of the comic books to fill in that, but nothing that was considered canon and certainly nothing that had been done much in film or television. That’s exciting because it’s an opportunity to kind of colour inside the lines — we know [Bruce Wayne’s] parents are going to get shot in Crime Alley and you know there’s a period that’s at least been adapted by Frank Miller when he [Bruce] returned to Gotham — so you know you’ve got your A and your B, and you’ve got all of this free runway in between. That’s exciting because it’s an ability to stretch your wings creatively without running up against having to change canon.
Goyer concluded, “When you’re dealing with a character as well known as Batman, where even the general public had some conceptions of his origin, it’s a really narrow tightrope that you have to walk when you have to adhere to pre-existing canon.”