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Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson)

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Ra's al Ghul
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General Information
Real name: Unknown
Aliases: Henri Ducard
Alignment: Bad
Affiliation: League of Shadows
Warlord's Daughter
Talia al Ghul
Bruce Wayne
Characteristics: Gender - Male
Eyes - Brown
Hair - Brown with a white streak on both sides
Portrayed by: Liam Neeson
Josh Pence (young)
Appearances: Batman Begins
The Dark Knight Rises
"When I found you in that jail, you were lost. But I believed in you. I took away your fear, and I showed you a path. You were my greatest student. It should be you standing by my side, saving the world."
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

Ra's al Ghul was a mentor and trainer to Bruce Wayne under the name Henri Ducard and recruited him into the League of Shadows to destroy Gotham City. Bruce defied the organization and dismantled his allies in the Gotham underworld and put a stop to Ra's al Ghul himself. Ra's was the father of Bruce's later romantic interest and foe Talia al Ghul. He was portrayed by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises as an older man and by Josh Pence as a younger man in The Dark Knight Rises.


Origin and Early Life

Young Ra's

Ra's as a young mercenary

In his youthful days, Ra's al Ghul was a skilled mercenary working for a powerful warlord. He fell in love with the warlord's daughter. She conceived a child with him and they secretly became married. Out of a sense of dishonor, the warlord had the mercenary condemned to the Pit prison but exiled him instead. The warlord had his daughter take her husband's place in the prison. The mercenary then joined the League of Shadows and rose through the ranks relatively quickly. In the Pit, Ra's' wife gave birth to a daughter that she named Talia, who spent the early years of her life locked up with her mother. One day the prison doctor forgot to lock the door to their cell and the other inmates eventually attacked and murdered Ra's' wife.

With the assistance of a prisoner known as Bane, Talia later escaped from the prison, although Bane was beaten within an inch of his life while defending her. Talia found her father and brought him back to the Pit to enact vengeance. There he rescued Bane, who had become mutilated. The League of Shadows trained Ra's' daughter and Bane, but due to the constant reminder of the fate his wife suffered, Ra's exiled Bane. It was for this reason that caused Talia to have resentment towards her father until his death.

Batman Begins

Mentoring Bruce Wayne

"If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend."
―Ra's Al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

Ra's al Ghul found Bruce Wayne in a Bhutanese prison, where he presented himself simply as Henri Ducard, an associate of Ra's al Ghul, and offered him a "path." After Bruce is freed, he climbed to the monastery home of the League of Shadows, where Ducard was waiting with Ra's al Ghul and a band of mercenaries. When asked if he was ready to begin, Bruce replied that he could barely stand. As a test, Ducard attacked Bruce and explained that death would not wait for him to be ready. After he defeated Bruce, Ducard asked him what he feared.

"To manipulate the fears of others, you must first master your own. Are you ready to begin?"
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

After Bruce recovered, Ducard began training him in every aspect of ninjutsu. Ducard was a very skilled warrior and a stern teacher. Throughout his training, Bruce was unable to best Ducard, but came extremely close during a sword battle, fought upon a frozen glacial lake. However, Bruce forgot to take full notice of his surroundings and Ducard broke the ice beneath him for the victory. While Bruce recovered from the cold water while sitting with Ducard around a fire, Ducard explained that his wife's death taught him that there are those in the world that must be mercilessly fought and vengeance was his release. Ducard was unable to understand why Bruce couldn't avenge the deaths of his parents.

At the end of his training, Ducard forced Bruce to face him while slightly drugged. Ducard hid among several of the men while Bruce attempted to locate him. He lept out at Bruce from his hiding place and managed to wound Bruce slightly on his arm. Bruce, however, gave an identical injury to two of the other ninja, and tricked Ducard into capturing the wrong person. Bruce revealed the trick and defeated his mentor.

"Ra's al Ghul rescued us from the darkest corners of our own hearts. What he asks in return is the courage to do what is necessary."
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

As a final test, Ducard handed Bruce a sword and ordered him to kill a man accused of murder, but Bruce refused. Bruce believed that he could not fight evil with evil methods."Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share," Ducard told Bruce. Bruce told him that it was necessary to separate him from his enemies. Ra's al Ghul explained that Bruce must do what is necessary to fight evil and revealed that they had trained Bruce with the intention of him leading the League on a mission to destroy Gotham City, which they believed had become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. Bruce subsequently knocked Ducard unconscious and he set the League's fortress aflame. He engaged Ra's al Ghul in a sword fight and left the man he believed to be Ra's al Ghul for dead as part of the floor above fell upon him. Ducard was then rescued by his pupil as the fortress collapsed and Ducard was then left unconscious in the mountain village by Bruce.

Attack on Gotham

"No one can save Gotham. When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Tomorrow, the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time."
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]
B 23

Ra's al Ghul and Bruce's confrontation at Wayne Manor

Months later, Ducard unexpectedly reappeared at Wayne Manor, and revealed that he was Ra's al Ghul, and not the man who Bruce left for dead at their headquarters. Bruce told him that he saved Ra's' life and Ra's said, "I warned you about compassion, Bruce." In the ensuing confrontation, Ra's elaborated on the League of Shadows' exploits throughout history. Ra's explained the League's plans to use a fear toxin invented by their partner Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) to infect the city with a fear toxin, and watch it destroy itself in a state of panic. He said that the League had attempted to use economics as a means of destruction in their previous attack on Gotham, which created the Gotham Depression which led the murder of Bruce's parents when Joe Chill attempted to mug them after the loss of his job. Their deaths subsequently prompted the industries to band together and save the city. He explained that the destruction of Gotham City is merely another mission by the League to correct humanity's recurring fits of decadence. Ra's then had his henchmen burn down the manor as a falling log knocked Bruce unconscious. Ra's stated that, "Justice is balance. You burned my house and left me for dead. Consider us even." Ra's left the manor and boarded a waiting SWAT vehicle that contained the Wayne Enterprises stolen microwave emitter weapon.

"If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them, and stab them in the heart."
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

With the aid of Alfred, Bruce survived the fire, and confronted Ra's al Ghul as Batman. Ra's commented that Batman took his advice of using "theatricality" too literally before he escaped and continued with his plans. Batman caught up with him again, and the teacher and student had one final battle on a runaway train that contained the microwave emitter. Ra's dominated Batman in physical combat, kicking him off his feet and attempting to strangle him, but his arrogance was ultimately his downfall after Batman revealed that he had no intention of stopping the train and pushed Ra's over, pinning him down. Jim Gordon assisted Batman in taking out the steel support system that held up the train track using Batman's Tumbler vehicle; Batman told Ra's that Ra's had failed to be mindful of his own surroundings. Mirroring Ra's' own philosophy of compassion being a weakness, Batman refused to kill Ra's but also refused to save him, leaving him to die in the following crash. Ra's meditated before he died as the train ran out of track and fell moments later into a parking garage and the microwave emitter the train contained exploded.


Following his demise, the League of Shadows, though greatly diminished and defeated, pressed on. As heir apparent, Talia learned of the events that transpired surrounding her father's fate and swore to honor him by continuing his mission of ridding the world of Gotham City. Bane's exile was rescinded and he became the strategist and field commander of the League's ground forces, while Talia began operating behind the scenes under the guise of businesswoman Miranda Tate.

The Dark Knight Rises

"You yourself fought the decadence of Gotham for years, with all your strength, all your resources, all your moral authority. And the only victory you could achieve was a lie. Now you understand. Gotham is beyond saving. And must be allowed to die."
―Ra's al Ghul to Bruce Wayne[src]

While Bruce was recovering in the Pit, he hallucinated his old mentor and foe Ra's al Ghul as he tried to make sense of what he had been told and what brought him to this point in his life. Ra's expressed his disappointment that Bruce doubted that Ra's would return, and he claimed to be immortal through another method–one that produced an heir. Bruce deduced that Ra's was the mercenary whose wife was taken from him and who fathered the only child to escape from the Pit.

In other media

The Shadow of Ra's al Ghul

Ra's al Ghul's final fight from Batman Begins appears in the motion comic The Shadow of Ra's al Ghul, written by Dennis O'Neil. Following the events of the film, Batman encounters agents of Ra's al Ghul that are targeting and undermining the Wayne Foundation charity and Batman investigates whether or not Ra's al Ghul survived the train crash.

The Dark Knight novelization

Ra's al Ghul is mentioned in Dennis O'Neil's novelization of The Dark Knight.

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

Ra's "Legend" quote is satirized in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. "If you make yourself more than just a man, you become...a, that's not right...a legend! Yes, a legend."

Behind the scenes

  • Guy Pearce was in consideration along with Liam Neeson for the role of Ra's al Ghul, but director Christopher Nolan ultimately decided that an older character was more appropriate for the role. Co-writer David Goyer explained the casting direction in a Batman Begins: The Screenplay interview as coming down to the character having a paternal relationship rather than a fraternal one with Bruce Wayne. Viggo Mortensen was also a consideration for the villain role (believed to be Ra's al Ghul) according to Michael Caine during pre-production.
  • Christopher Nolan explained that it was David Goyer who suggested the villains for Batman Begins. Nolan said he wasn't familiar with Ra's al Ghul but after doing his research said he that liked Ra's as a style of villain similar to a villain in the James Bond fictional film universe in a Batman Begins: The Screenplay interview. Goyer said that it was Nolan's idea that Ducard should exist in the film, that the mentor and villain be the same person.
  • Christopher Nolan said that it was "very important" for the Scarecrow to seem like a central threat or main villain before the third act reveal of Bruce Wayne's first act mentor figure as the supervillain threat in a Batman Begins: The Screenplay interview.
  • In trailers and promotional material for Batman Begins, Liam Neeson was always credited as Henri Ducard and Ken Watanabe as Ra's al Ghul, leading viewers to believe that Ducard, as in the comics, was to serve as a mentor figure to Bruce Wayne in the film's early scenes. According to Nolan, since Neeson is commonly cast as a mentor figure, the realization that Neeson was the film's main villain was intended to shock viewers.
  • Liam Neeson said of his Batman Begins character incarnation, "Well I think he's quite a mysterious sort of guy. I think he's a citizen of many cultures. I think, even though it doesn't come out in the film, I think he's as rich as Bruce Wayne, and has access to enormous, enormous funds of money. And he's like Bruce Wayne. He wants to defeat evil and corruption in the world. And has developed a way of doing that, without revealing too much."
  • Neeson said that he was only on set for "maybe an hour and a half" when he shot his cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, and that Christopher Nolan did not tell him any plot details.
  • The Hollywood Reporter stated that scenes with Young Ra's al Ghul were to take place 30 years before the present story in The Dark Knight Rises. His scenes in the film encapsulated a significantly long period of time spanning many years.
  • Liam Neeson stated he would be willing to reprise the role upon the television show Arrow "In a heartbeat" before Australian actor Matt Nable was cast.


  • Ra's al Ghul had a major impact on the plot of the Nolan film trilogy, both as Bruce Wayne's mentor and as a villain. He taught Bruce the means he would use to fight injustice as Batman, means Ra's intended to use him to destroy Gotham City. The emergence of Batman in Gotham then led to the emergence of The Joker. Bruce Wayne's final test as Batman was to stop Ra's' daughter Talia and Bane from finishing Ra's work of destroying Gotham City.
  • Liam Neeson was not credited as Ra's al Ghul in the ending credits of Batman Begins. Instead, he is referred to by his alias Ducard and the part of Ra's al Ghul is attributed to Ken Watanabe, who portrayed the decoy. Neeson was credited as Ra's al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Though Ra's is not seen or mentioned in The Dark Knight, Bruce quotes him by saying that criminals are not complicated.
  • Liam Neeson and Josh Pence previously appeared together in the film Battleship.


See Also

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