Batman Begins
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Roger Nicholl (25th October 2005).
The Film

Batman Begins does two very welcome things. One, it restarts the Batman movie franchise. Two, it proves the claim that you need to switch your brain off when seeing a blockbuster was just a refuge for the talentless hacks churning out moronic explode-a-thons. The bar has been raised. Letís hope future blockbusters rise to the new challenge.
Batman Begins literally restarts the franchise, going back to the start of the story and ignoring the films that came before it. The opening act wisely goes straight to the dark depths of Bruce Wayneís (Christian Bale) motivations, the area that the best Batman comics of the last 20 years have focused on. Probably everyone knows that Bruce Wayneís parents were killed by a mugger, in this film after watching an opera (as opposed to the Zorro film in the comic). Bruce is determined to fight injustice and reclaim the Gotham City that has degenerated into a human cesspit. But he must first overcome his fears.
He travels to the Himalayas to learn from the League of Shadows headed by Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). But he finds that their ideals differ in the hope they have for humanity. The League believes in wiping out all human evil and starting anew, Bruce believes people and places can be saved and reformed. A falling out ensues, which means a massive battle.
Bruce returns to Gotham and reassumes his role as head of Wayne Enterprise (heíd been on his journey for so long heís been declared legally dead). With the help of his trusty butler Alfred (Michael Caine) he assumes the Batman persona, and begins his fight against evil. He first takes on the old school gangster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), but soon learns that there are far greater powers working behind the scenes.
One great thing about having a lot of money to work with is that you can hire a dream cast, and cast of Batman Begins could just as easily be attached to an art house film. With so many great actors, scenes that may have been dull exposition are as, if not more, entertaining than some of the action scenes. Michael Caine as Alfred makes every scene good, Likewise Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
There were only a few bum notes in the film (this paragraph may contain spoilers). Bruce Wayneís initial meeting with Carmine Falcone seemed to jump to the point too quickly, as if a few lines of dialogue had been cut out. When the people of Gotham are supposed to be tearing the city apart through paranoia they seem to just turn into George A. Romero zombies with an interest in Katie Holmes. And when Batman glides with his cape it looks kind of silly.
The film is funny when it can be, but never at the expense of suspense. The script gets the themes across without laying it on too thick (well it may be a little thick at the start for some). And things link up in a way that doesnít feel contrived. Batman Begins is, for people who have long believed that blockbuster films need not be a mental wasteland, a cause for celebration.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1, this anamorphic transfer is stunning. The image is sharp and crystal clear, the colours are rendered beautifully, especially the blue ice of the Himalayas in the filmís first part. Since a lot of this film is based in darkness the blacks are deep and bold, shadow detail is pitch perfect. You can really see dynamic shapes in the dark scenes that add to the look of the film. I didnít notice any major flaws, the print is pristine. It appears that Warner Brothers has taken considerable care in authoring this disc, this is certainly one of the best looking DVDs Iíve seen this year.

Audio

We have the option of listening to this film in two languages, we get an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, plus a German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I have chosen to view the film with its original English soundtrack. Just like the stunning image we get a power, active and completely immersive audio track. The dialogue is crisp and clear, but thatís not what weíre really here for is it? The directional effect are mind-blowing, the action surrounds kick in during the tense battle scenes, the Tumbler chase scene stands out as one of the most impressive sonically. The bass gets a huge workout here, additionally the music is mixed in throughout the 5.1 channels effortlessly. This track takes hold of you from the start and doesnít let go until the very end. This is easily one of the most dynamic and impressive Dolby 5.1 mixes thatís been put on DVD to date. I just hope that one day weíll see a DTS release like the other Batman release have received recently.
The film also includes optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired, German, German for the fearing impaired, Arabic, Hebrew, and Icelandic.

Extras

DISC ONE:
Aside from the film itself the only extra on the first disc is the filmís original theatrical trailer, it is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. The trailer runs for 59 seconds.

DISC TWO:
Before we take a look at the extras on this second disc, it should be noted that the menu layout is presented much like an interactive comic, by clicking around youíll highlight segments that will take you to the extras. Certain words within the speech bubbles are in bold to give you an idea where to click to. Aside from this feature being rather annoying the disc doesnít give you the option to go directly to a list of the extras, but rather you have to cycle through the interactive menu and once you reach the end you will see a menu of all the extras listed. It would be nice to have the option instead of having to find things within the comic book menu format. Now letís take a look at the supplements on this second disc.

There are a series of eight featurettes ladened throughout this disc, the first of which is entitled "Batman - The Journey Begins" this featurette runs for 14 minutes 15 seconds and covers Nolanís involvement in this property, the choice to bring on David S. Goyer to co-write with him. We also get a look at production issues that deal with the creation of the film, the look of it as well as looking for the right person to play Bruce Wayne.

Next up we have the "Shaping Body and Mind" featurette that runs for 12 minutes 48 seconds. Here we get to see Christian BaleĎs uncanny transformation in order to play the caped crusader. Prior to Batman Begins Bale had lost an astonishing amount of weight to play the character Trevor Reznik in The Machinist and he had to put back the weight, plus tone his muscles and train in the many fighting styles in a short amount of time in order to fit the cap and cowl for the start of filming.

Following that we have the "Batman - The Tumbler" featurette that runs for 13 minutes 39 seconds. Here we get to see the development of Batmanís coolest toy in this film, his vehicle The Tumbler, Nolan takes us through what he envisions is Batmanís ultimate Bat mobile.

"Gotham City Rises" is the next featurette and runs for 12 minutes 48 seconds. Here we have the creation of the fictional city in which Batman presides over. From the look of the narrows to Gothamís impressive high rise buildings, built as a massive set in England every detail is carefully scrutinized from city signs to traffic lights. This featurette also takes us through the process of searching for the right house as Wayne manor, as well as the incredible Bat cave set that was built for the production and includes a waterfall and stream system.

"The Cape and Cowl" featurette runs for 8 minutes 18 seconds and as the title suggests takes us into how the famous cape and cowl were created for this film and how each piece was researched, modeled, molded, cut and pieced together.

Next up, we have the "Path to Discovery" featurette that runs for 14 minutes 13 seconds. In the original comic origin stories that have been told about Batman, Bruce Wayne disappears for several years, he later returns to don the persona of Batman and help clean-up Gotham. Those years have never really been touch on before in any of the film or TV versions of Batman. Nolan here takes us through the inclusion of these crucial years and how they are important narrative elements that lead Bruce Wayne to eventually becoming the Dark Knight or Gotham.

The "Saving Gotham City" featurette runs for 13 minutes 1 second and focuses on how Gotham City came to life with the use of miniature sets. Because Gotham City does not exists, extensive miniatures were built to expand the city and give it a real world feel. We also look at the Computer Generated extensions to the city as well as the monorail that runs through the centre of the city all the way towards Wayne Towers.

The final featurette is entitled "Genesis of the Bat" and runs for 14 minutes 53 seconds. This piece takes a look at the process and influences that led to the final film we see today.

Once youíve finished with the video segments there are a series of Confidential Files" these are extensive production notes that are broken down into three sections, Hardware, Enemies and Allies/Mentors below is a breakdown of what is listed under each section:

Hardware includes in-depth notes on the following items:
- The Tumbler
- Memory Fabric Cape
- Prototype Military Suit
- Utility Belt

Enemies includes in-depth notes on the following characters:
- Carmine Falcone
- Ra's Al Ghul
- Scarecrow

Allies/Mentors includes in-depth notes on the following characters:
- Lucius Fox
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Detective Sgt. James Gordon
- Rachel Dawes
- Henri Ducard

Following those notes we have an extensive art gallery that includes many of the filmís posters created to market the film. This is broken down into three sections:
- US includes a series of 9 images of posters, banners and ad material used to market the film.
- International includes a series of 14 images of posters, banners and ad material used to market the film.
- Explorations includes a series of 40 images of abandoned posters, banners and ad material that were never used.

Rounding out the discís extras is some DVD-ROM content that leads you to some online links to the official Batman web page.

There are also a few Easter Eggs that I was able to find, here is how to find them and what they are:
- The first Easter Egg is an interview with co-writer David S. Goyer that runs for 1 minute 57 seconds. To access this Egg, go to 2nd page of the menu, and press "down". Select the crack in the wall and press "Enter".
- The second easter Egg is a comparison between a digital and a real Batman that runs for 1 minute 6 seconds, to access this Egg go to 4th page of the menu and press "down" to select Scarecrows eyes and press "Enter".
- The final Easter Egg is a Bat mobile stunt test that runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds, to access this Egg, go to 7th page of the menu, select the word "Tumbler", then press "left" to select Batman's reflection in the water and press "Enter".

Overall

Batman Begins is by far the best film in the Batman series, Nolan has done an amazing job in brining the dark Knight back how creator Bob Kane originally intended. This Origin tale is emotionally charged, epic in scale and action packed. Batman fans will not disappointed with this one and I personally canít wait to see what Nolan and team have in store for us in the next installment!
The Warner Brothers DVD presents Batman Begins with an amazing transfer and an equally impressive surround sound track, the extras are extensive and informative, itís unfortunate that an audio commentary is not included, perhaps the only gripe I have about this otherwise excellent DVD.

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.