had flatlined. Even Nolan admits he's not certain enough time has passed for audiences to get excited about a new "Batman" movie.
But I know I am," he says, laughing. So was the studio. When Alan Horn took over Warner Brothers four years ago, "one of his
mandates was to get 'Batman' back out there," says president of production Jeff Robinov. "But it took time to find the right person
to redefine the franchise. Nolan won the job by vowing to strip away the later sequels' bombast and return "Batman" to its roots in
As exhaustively as the "Batman" legend has been told on film and TV, one chapter has never received comprehensive treatment:
the first one. As a boy, Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered before his eyes and dedicates his life to avenging them. But how,
and why, does he become Batman? Where do the suit and cape come from? Or, as Nolan puts it, "How did this guy who has no
superpowers acquire all of these capabilities? He lives in the real world—it's sort of New York on steroids, but it's our world."
Nolan pored over 65 years of comics and came up with this story: after a long exile, Wayne, now a 25-year-old scion, returns to
Gotham City intent on kicking criminal butt. His family's military subcontracting business, Wayne Enterprises, has been seized by
shareholders, who've relegated the company's most ambitious designs—and their inventor, Lucius Fox to the scrapheap. Wayne
befriends Fox, using his designs to create an alter ego. And not a moment too soon because, naturally, there's a villain on the
loose named the Scarecrow, who's
hell-bent on poisoning all of Gotham.
It's a comic-book tale, but Nolan promises that "Batman Begins," which also stars Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman, won't look anything
like a comic-book movie. In contrast to the gothic fantasia of Burton's creation, Nolan has opted for gritty urban realism. At a
converted airplane hangar an hour north of London, his crew has built a full city block of Gotham, much of it based on the towering
slums of Kowloon in Hong Kong, which were razed in 1994. But the starting point for his vision, the director says, was the new
Batmobile. Last year Nolan holed up in his garage in Los Angeles with production designer Nathan Crowley and hammered out a design
that would make sense for the story. What they came up with is a drastic