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Batman Begins (2005)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/8/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/7/2008, Updated 12/20/2017
It seems that everywhere you look these days, you'll find movie remakes. (Although, they have slowed down a bit lately.) While the remakes are easy to spot, we don't hear as much about the "reboot", the remakes somewhat different cousin. The reboot occurs when a once popular franchise is updated and changed somewhat for a new audience. This has happened recently with Superman Returns, Casino Royale (James Bond), and the best of the lot, Batman Begins. This film takes the familiar "Caped Crusader" story and shakes things up.
Batman Begins, well, begins in the Far East, where we see Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), housed in a foreign prison. He is visited by a man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who states that he can help Bruce finds what he's looking for. Bruce travels to a huge dwelling perched on a mountaintop, and there he meets Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Ducard and Ra's Al Ghul want to train Bruce to fight injustice. As Bruce trains, we learn his backstory. He once lived in Gotham City, with his wealthy parents -- his father's company was the backbone of Gotham. While leaving the opera one night, Bruce's parents were gunned down before his eyes. From that point on, his life has become a journey to fight for justice and attempt to understand the criminal mind.
When his training with Ra's Al Ghul ends poorly, Bruce returns to Gotham City, where he's greeted by his faithful butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). Using his newfound training, Bruce decides to become a weapon of fear against the criminals of Gotham City and takes on the persona of the Batman (he'd had a frightening experience with bats as a child.) Soon, Batman has drawn the attention of crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Sergeant Gordon of the Gotham Police (Gary Oldman), and Bruce's old flame, Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). Batman must contend with The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), who is driving residents of Gotham insane, and an even more sinister force which is coming to destroy Gotham.
Batman Begins comes from Director Christopher Nolan, who brought us the mesmerizing Memento. And while he may not be the obvious choice to jump-start a franchise as well-known as Batman, Nolan, along with co-writer David S. Goyer, clearly tackled the project with confidence. (And Warner clearly placed their confidence in Nolan.) The film takes its time getting to the "Batman" portion of the story, and it allows us to really see what drives Bruce Wayne. The story draws inspiration from Frank Miller's Batman comics, which delved into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and Batman. By going beyond the idea that he became Batman simply because his parents were killed, we have more of an appreciation for the character.
But, this isn't to imply that Batman Begins is simply a drama. No, once Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City and becomes Batman, the action certainly heats up. The movie dispenses with the superhero film chestnut where the character foils one small crime on his first outing, as Batman's first appearance finds him taking on a band of criminals. From there, the film has several memorable action set-pieces, with the Batmobile chase and the finale standing out here. (And kudos to Nolan and co. for the cool, but realistic looking Batmobile.) This action is well-balanced with the drama from the first half of the film, but more importantly with some much needed levity from Bale and Caine. (I must also give a nod to the impressive hallucinatory scenes, which definitely give the film a mature edge.)
With Batman and Robin, the Batman franchise had grown quite silly, and Batman Begins was the perfect anecdote to not only put Batman back on the map, but to return the character to his dark roots. The first half may drag somewhat, but the only true weak link here is Katie Holmes. Watching someone whose bad acting stood out on a WB teen-soap go toe-to-toe with the likes of Christian Bale is just sad. Other than that, Batman Begins is exciting, gritty, somber, and most of all, a visual feast. Bring on The Dark Knight!
Batman Begins flies ontoBlu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. This is an excellent transfer, as the image is very sharp and clear. I noted no overt grain here and there are no defects from the source material. Being a Batman movie, this is a dark and muted film, but the image is very well-balanced and is never overly dark. In fact, some of the nighttime shots are amongst the best in the movie. The colors look very good, most notably blues, and the black tones are very rich and realistic. The image isn't always as detailed, as I would have liked, but it's still impressive. The Disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a fairly bold track, as it provides some very nice surround, stereo, and subwoofer effects during the action scenes. The finale and the Batmobile chase sound particularly good. Yet, they don't sound great. The big crash from the ending didn't provide as much bass as I would have liked and the surround sound is intermittent and not always very loud. The party/crowd scenes do offer some nice speaker separation.
The Batman Begins Blu-ray Disc contains a utility belt full of extras. We start with "The Dark Knight IMAX Prologue" (6 minutes), which offers the first six minutes of the new movie, which were filmed using the IMAX process. This looks great! The "In-Movie Experience" offers the viewer the chance to have picture-in-picture information, such as behind-the-scenes footage and interviews pop up throughout the film. Writer David S. Goyer talks about working on the script, and the difficulty of keeping it secret, in "Reflections on Writing" (2 minutes). "Digital Batman" (1 minute) has Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Franklin demonstrating how the virtual Batman looks in scenes. "Batman Begins Stunts" (2 minutes) offers behind-the-scenes footage of the crew working on the Batmobile and "flying" Batman, as well as other stunts. "Tankman Begins" (5 minutes) is taken from the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, and shows Jimmy Fallon riding in the Batmobile. "The Journey Begins" (14 minutes) contains comments from Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer who discuss their collaboration on the script and bringing their ideas together. From there, there is a disucssion of the cast and characters. "Shaping Mind and Body" (13 minutes) shows the stuntmen practicing the various fighting styles seen in the film. We then see Bale and Neeson rehearing their fights. "Gotham City Rises" (13 minutes) contains comments from the production designer and the visuals effects artists as they describe the construction of the sets and the look of the movie. We also see how some of Chicago was used to created Gotham City. Wayne Manor and its sets are also explored. "Cape and Cowl" (8 minutes) is a very detail looked at the creation of Batman's costume. The costume designer and the costume FX team show how the suit is made of many different pieces. "Batman -- The Tumbler" (14 minutes) shows the creation, building, and testing of the new Batmobile. (The car was built from scratch!) "Path to Discovery" (14 minutes) explores the creation of the first chapter of the film where Bruce is seeking enlightenment. This shows the crew working in Iceland. "Saving Gotham City" (13 minutes) shows how the film's finale was shot, incorporating physical and visual effects. "Genesis of the Bat" (15 minutes) explores the history of Batman through the comics and movies. The Disc contains three STILLS GALLERIES; U.S., International, and Exlporations. "Confidentail Files" is an interactive features (combinging text and video) which gives detailed information about various props and characters. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
On December 19, 2017, Warner Home Video released Batman Begins on 4K UHD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 60 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is well-balanced and doesn't show the fluctuation from light-to-dark which hamper some 4K UHDs. The image shows a great level of detail, as we can make out textures on objects. The depth looks good as well, making the actors appear separate from the backgrounds. The video is certainly an upgrade from the Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While the bitrate is higher than the audio found on the previous Blu-ray Disc release, one can't help but wonder why this release doesn't have a 7.1 or Dolby Atmos track, as one would find on most 4K UHD releases. As it stands, but the audio is certainly good, but not great. The subwoofer effects are notable, as they punctuate each explosion, gunshot, and roar of the Batmobile. The action sequences deliver detailed surround sound effects, and the stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen. Again, the audio isn't bad, it's just not what we would expect on a 4K UHD.
The Batman Begins 4K UHD contains the same extras as the previous release.
Review Copyright 2008/2017 by Mike Long