Batman Begins (Blu-ray) (2005)

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Released 3-Dec-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Reflections On Writing Batman Begins
Featurette-Digital Batman
Featurette-Batman Begins Stunts
Featurette-Tankman Begins
Featurette-The Journey Begins
Featurette-Shaping Mind And Body
Featurette-Gotham City Rises
Featurette-Cape And Cowl
Featurette-Batman - The Tumbler
Featurette-Path To Discovery
Featurette-Saving Gotham City
Featurette-Genesis Of The Bat
Gallery-Photo
Trivia-Confidential Files
Featurette-The Dark Knight IMAX Prologue
Booklet
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 140:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christopher Nolan
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christian Bale
Michael Caine
Liam Neeson
Katie Holmes
Gary Oldman
Cillian Murphy
Tom Wilkinson
Rutger Hauer
Ken Watanabe
Morgan Freeman
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Hans Zimmer
James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Chinese
Korean
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Ever since mortal man got the idea into his head to create heroes with abilities or origins (or both) above and beyond the expected norm, certain elements have been on a mission to make the great adaptation of these characters into a live-action medium. Deceptively simple in its sound, this quest to make Bruce Wayne, Charles Xavier, Clark Kent, or whomever the hell Flaming Carrot actually is seem as real and alive as the people watching has attracted many attempts. Although 1978 saw the first real success with an epic, Greek tragedy-atmosphere adaptation of Superman, it really has not been until such recent adaptations as X-Men (the real X-Men, that is) or Hellboy that the ability of comic book characters to challenge our social conventions and our way of looking at others in terms of their place in our world has been exploited in the cinematic medium.

††† If I had to rate comic books on a scale for how they challenge some of our views of our world, with Archie, or Garfield, or the like being a one and Flaming Carrot being a ten, Batman really is about a five or a six. That is not to say it is tame or even conventional. But in contrast to the X-Men or Hellboy, Batman's biggest challenge to societal conventions is more an accidental outgrowth of the character than by design. Although Batman had been designed as a dark, haunted figure from the get-go, a god-awful television show and telemovie had long supplanted Bob Kane's actual creation with what struck me as an escapee from the Play School set. And when filmmakers convened to bring the actual Bob Kane character to the big screen, the whining from the Happy-Munchy-Land crowd was quite a puzzling sight to behold. No Robin? No POW! SPLAT! WHAM! graphics? No spandex that you would pay to not see most people in? Blasphemy!, they cried. Even TV series actor Adam West got in on the act, insisting to a press that was still listening to him at the time that Batman was "a fun character". Then the box office registers rang up the kind of totals Hollywood executives have wet dreams about, the merchandising agreements brought in the kind of totals that Donald Trump would respect, and home video sales are still strong, even near to twenty years after the initial release. The word was swift in its journey from executive to creative branches: camp is out, seriousness is in.

††† However, in spite of the involvement of untold millions and a media circus that would make most rock stars run for cover, the lesson was a bit slow in reaching some elements of the creative branch. A scant few years later, the Adam West set was bringing back what they thought the people wanted in Batman, only to learn the very hard way that the world had moved on from them. Culminating in the Batman & Robin disaster of 1997 (which prompted its lead actor, George Clooney, to pledge to refund the money of anyone who saw it in theatres), audiences had the same thoughts about Batman as many did regarding James Bond after Die Another Day: it is over. It is done. Stick a fork in it.

††† Fast forward eight years, and director Christopher Nolan brings us another Batman, this time entitled Batman Begins as an indicator that almost everything from previous cinematic incarnations of the character, even the good ones, is being set aside. Batman Begins is therefore what writers call an "origin story". In it, we are shown how Bruce Wayne is motivated and driven to become Batman, a superhero who, at the time of his creation, set quite a contrast from Superman or the X-Men by simply being a regular (albeit filthy rich) man who decides to use his intellect and physical strength to fight the prevalent crime in his home city. And I must give credit where it is due. Batman Begins does a much better job of explaining who and what Batman is than was the case in the 1989 Batman. In 1989, one flashback scene notwithstanding, we were given no exploration of who Bruce Wayne was or why he was doing these incredibly risky things.

††† The story begins with a young Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) falling into a disused well on his family's manor. Buzzed by numerous bats, Bruce is rescued and told by his father Thomas (Linus Roache) that we fall for a reason - so we can learn to pick ourselves back up. This is the basic theme of Batman Begins, how one picks themselves up after a catastrophic change. Attending a performance of what appears to be Faust with his parents, Bruce experiences a sudden anxiety attack and insists on leaving the theatre. As he does so with Thomas, and mother Martha (Sara Stewart), they are accosted by an impoverished thug who goes by the name of Joe Chill (Richard Brake). Things go bad in a flash, and Bruce is left sitting in the alley with his dead parents. The police, represented by a Sergeant going by the name of Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), quickly arrest Chill and put him behind bars. Fast forward an unspecified number of years, and Bruce is now an adult played by Christian Bale.

††† The casting of Bruce Wayne is somewhat like the Presidential race, only even more idiotic. No matter whom one casts in the role and why, someone is going to moan that the casting choice was not hippie, hardcore, or physical (delete as applicable) enough. Bale is both a very safe and very effective choice to play Bruce Wayne, and carries the role nicely. In contrast to Michael Keaton, Bale is also physically a fairly obvious choice for the role, and the result is a Batman who relies more on his skills as a martial artist than the array of gadgets at his disposal. Indeed, the early stages of the film where we learn how Bruce acquired the close combat skills necessary to survive in his hobby are among the most compelling. Equally effective are Michael Caine as Alfred, and Rutger Hauer as Earle, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises. The latter represents an area where this film is due credit over its predecessors: touching upon the internal politics of the corporation that is the source of Bruce Wayne's considerable wealth.

††† Two problems exist with Batman Begins. One is moderate. Namely, there are too many villains in the piece. In the first act, we are very briefly introduced to mafioso Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), who is frequently cited as the big crime boss of all Gotham. The perfunctory manner in which Batman disposes of him later in the piece leads one to conclude that if this is the big boss of Gotham, then Gotham's problems cannot be that bad. We also have Scarecrow (Cilian Murphy), who looks like he merely needs Batman to wring his rotten neck. But we also have a problem in the form of Ra's Al Ghul, who was originally conceived in the 1970s to be something of a Blofeld-esque Ultimate Villain. In this film, his background (which spans over six hundred years according to the canon) does not even receive a surface scratch. But the major, major problem is Christopher Nolan's photography. Much like this strange idea that people could possibly want superheroes who are being targeted for genocide (as the strongest example) to be played in a pantomime style, Nolan shot much of Batman Begins under the impression that when our hero fights various villains, the audience might not be so put out by being unable to see what the hell is going on.

††† And that, more than anything, has me going back to the Burton film time and again whilst this one sits in the Watch Once And Forget pile.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Batman Begins is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. In contrast with my suspicions regarding some Warner releases I could mention, this is a true progressive transfer. This transfer was compressed using the VC-1 codec.

††† Batman Begins is among the sharpest transfers I have seen to date on the format, with all sorts of rich details that DVD can only dream of. Beard strands, eye discolourations, the threads of Scarecrow's mask, all these things leap out with stunning clarity. The shadow detail is excellent, and there is no low-level noise.

††† While it is natural to expect that a Batman film would be several different shades of black, the added sharpness also makes other parts of the colour scheme more visible. Flesh tones, skylines, and the neon of the city are all richly represented with no bleeding or misregistration in evidence.

††† Batman Begins features a lot of sequences with blurred, even distorted motion that is zoomed in far too close for the viewer to make anything out. Fortunately, or unfortunately for the filmmakers, the compression on this BD is so transparent that it becomes easier to see a lot of these shots are simply Christian Bale waving an arm or leg in front of the camera. Backgrounds are also dramatically more detailed in comparison to the DVD. Even the black parts of the picture, which are legion, are smooth and clear, so compression artefacts are certainly never an issue. Film-to-video artefacts were not present. Film artefacts were occasionally noted, usually in the form of a small black or white mark near the middle of the image. Bruce's conversation with Rachel in his kitchen or Batman's fight with Ra's Al Ghul on the train are the only times†I can say I saw any film artefacts I would call bothersome.

††† Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. These are mostly accurate to the spoken dialogue, with semi-occasional truncations.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† A total of five soundtracks are present on this BD.

††† The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, which I immediately skipped over in favour of the second soundtrack. The second soundtrack is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 version of the original English dialogue. Naturally, that all-important space between the dialogue, sound effects, and music makes the TrueHD soundtrack the obvious winner. Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs are also offered in French, Spanish, and Portugeuse. Regrettably, no audio commentaries or isolated scores are offered in spite of this quite obviously being a premium release.

†† The dialogue is a very important element of this film, and I am pleased to report that the transfer treats it with the respect it deserves. Both English soundtracks are very clear and easy to understand, but the TrueHD rendition takes the prize simply because the voices of the actors do not sound blended into the near-omnipresent strings. This is especially important when Bale's voice is heavily modulated as per Batman's vocal disguise.

††† No real problems were noted with audio sync.

††† The music consists of a score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. By turns both dramatic and subtle, the score enhances the mood and atmosphere of the film considerably, and it is impossible to imagine the film without it.

††† The surround channels are used to provide directionality and separation to the music, cityscape sounds, and other such effects. Their usage is generally quite subtle, enveloping the viewer in a field that is not obvious but never biased in any one particular direction.

††† The subwoofer is used frequently to add a thump to fight sequences, doors opening, the Batmobile, and other bass-heavy effects. It is more obvious due to the long periods that go by without the need for its use, but very well integrated into the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† More scrapings from the bottom of the Warner budgie cage... Unless otherwise noted, all extras are 1.78:1, standard definition, not 16x9 Enhanced.

Menu

††† ††† Look, Warners, let's get this straight. Top Menus are mandatory. When you do not provide them, you are effectively giving those of us who chose to support the new format a kick in the groin. The fact that the Pop-Up Menu has a fast response time and can be used whilst the film is paused mitigates this a little, but not a lot. Especially since navigating some of the menu-based extras is a confusing chore.

Featurette - Reflections On Writing Batman Begins

††† This is a brief tale about the experience of working on the script, delivered by writer David S. Goyer.

Featurette - Digital Batman

††† A brief explanation of a test effects shot the special effects team used to demonstrate to the powers that be that they could make the spectacular stunts entailed by the script look "real".

Featurette - Batman Begins Stunts

††† This is pretty much a couple of minutes of stuntmen at work. Nothing particularly riveting.

Featurette - Tankman Begins

††† This is meant to be a satire. Apparently, it was made for the MTV channel. It is about as funny in practice as being diagnosed with cancer.

Featurette - The Journey Begins

††† Your standard making-of featurette.

Featurette - Shaping Mind And Body

Featurette -†Gotham City Rises

Featurette - Cape And Cowl

Featurette - Batman - The Tumbler

Featurette -†Path To Discovery

Featurette -†Saving Gotham City

Featurette - Genesis Of The Bat

Photo Gallery

Trivia - Confidential Files

††† A series of text files, somewhat similar in design to the UFOPedia of the X-Com computer game series, that in contrast to most of the rest of these "special" features is actually somewhat interesting. Especially appreciated is the file on Ra's Al Ghul, which fills in a little background that helps certain statements made by the character in the film make a good deal more sense. They are also designed so that one can read them first without ruining any surprises in the feature.

Featurette - The Dark Knight IMAX Prologue

††† I saved the one most worth a d*** for last. Presented in High Definition, in the aspect ratio of (about) 1.70:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, this six minute and thirty-seven second trailer is basically the first scene in this equally over-praised sequel. Do not get me wrong, it is a good film, but my reaction was the same as that which many people reported having to Batman in 1989 or 1990: "what was the big deal all about?". The main difference being the reaction is better justified by the content here. Heath Ledger is on fire as The Joker in this scene.

Booklet

††† Included with the Limited Edition Gift Set is a booklet of DVD case size that is essentially a repeat of the story told in the IMAX Prologue featurette. Worth a read, but it can be done without, too.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† Precise descriptions of the content of the Region A disc have proven difficult to come by. What few details Region A reviews offer seem to imply that, like most Warner products, the two discs are pretty much equivalent.

Summary

††† Batman Begins is a good comic book adaptation, but far from the second coming it has been hyped up as. In point of fact, after such films as X2 and Hellboy, it even seems a tad blasť to me. That said, you could do far worse than this for an origin story, as films like Elektra or Daredevil prove. Christian Bale makes an excellent Batman, and if the story about his brief meeting with Michael Keaton is true, he is really the best due to the humility and grounding that certain others I will not glorify by mentioning here (again) lack. If I had to pick a problem with this Batman as the one in greatest need of correction, it would be the dilution of focus that results from having not one, not two, but three enemies all competing for screentime.

††† The video transfer is excellent.

††† The audio transfer is excellent.

††† The extras are numerous, but the vast majority of them are uninteresting and in Standard Definition, either of which effectively makes them a waste of disc space.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, November 10, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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