When director Tim Burton tackled bringing The Dark Knight to the screen, he perfectly brought to life a comic book world in brilliant visual terms that fleshed of the dual nature of the characters that inhabited this realm. Burtonís two Batman films, while both brilliant, remained constrained at something of a comic book level, something that was exacerbated to a much more campy level by Joel Schumacherís handling of the two sequels that followed Burtonís films- much to the detriment of the franchise. With BATMAN BEGINS, writer/director Christopher Nolan takes a more naturalistic tact in the handling of the material, bringing Bob Kaneís comic book characters into the real world for the very first time. Finally, real world technology has advanced to the point that Batmanís arsenal of gadgets seems entirely plausible, as do as do the weapons and schemes of his nemeses. Grounding the Batman mythos in as much reality as possible reinvigorated the movie franchise and made BATMAN BEGINS the best summer movie of 2005.
As the title implies, BATMAN BEGINS focuses on the origins of The Caped Crusader; looking at the psychology that drove billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to don his cape and cowl, thus creating an alter ego from a feared creature of the night. The film also looks at the how Bruce Wayne utilized his resources as a billionaire industrialist to assemble the devices that made Batmanís legendary crime fighting possible. BATMAN BEGINS follows the internal and external journeys of Bruce Wayne as he goes on a quest to fight injustice after his parents are murdered, as well as fending off the demons that plague his subconscious. After his seven-year journey of discovery, Bruce Wayne returns to a crime ravaged Gotham City where he sets out to bring the metropolis back from the brink- by becoming The Dark Knight. To say anymore about the plot would spoil the movieís surprises.
In addition to Christian Bale, who is excellent as a younger version of Bruce Wayne, the cast of BATMAN BEGINS also features Michael Caine as Bruce Wayneís loyal butler and confidante Alfred Pennyworth, Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, the man who helped set Bruce Wayne on his path towards becoming Batman, Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayneís childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman as police detective Jim Gordon, Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane, who heads Arkham Asylum, Tom Wilkinson as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Morgan Freeman as Wayne Industries R&D wizard Lucius Fox and Rutger Hauer as Earle, the corporate head of Wayne Industries.
Warner Home Video has made BATMAN BEGINS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Right up front, let me say that Warner has delivered an absolutely stunning transfer of BATMAN BEGINS- if you have a big screen display, then you are in for a visual treat. In terms of sharpness and detail, this disc pushes the limits of NTSC resolution, creating an image that can only be bested by HD. Colors are generally fully saturated and rich looking. Flesh tones are always natural and rather appealing. Blacks are dead on, as are the wholly stable whites. Contrast is very smooth and shadow detail is excellent. Film grain is very modest, even in the darker sequences. The elements from which has been transferred appear virtually pristine. Digital compression artifacts are very well concealed throughout.
BATMAN BEGINS comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is every bit as good, if not better than the stunning video. This is a big, highly aggressive and totally beautiful action movie mix. From the opening logos till the very last frame of the closing credits, this sound mix is alive and making the most of all the outlying channels. There are sound effects galore throughout the film, which pan and zip across the soundstage in all directions. Channel separations are excellent, plus the track creates marvelous acoustic spaces. The bass channel is thunderous and certain to give oneís subwoofer a terrific workout. Dialogue is warmly natural and always easy to understand. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features MTV's Tankman Begins , a movie spoof that finds The Caped Crusader chauffeuring Jimmy Fallon to an MTV award ceremony, plus a Theatrical Trailer.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. In the featurettes section one will find the following: Batman: The Journey Begins (fourteen minutes) features members of the production team discussing the inception of the film and bringing it to the screen. Shaping Mind And Body (thirteen minutes) features actor Christian Bale, as well as the fight coordinators, who discus the fighting style created for this incarnation of The Dark Knight. Batman: The Tumbler (fourteen minutes) looks at The Caped Crusaderís new ride. Gotham City Rises (thirteen minutes) focuses on the design and creation of the metropolis that our central character calls home. Cape And Cowl (eight minutes) focuses on wardrobe; i.e. the Batsuit worn in the film. Path To Discovery (fourteen minutes) looks at Bruce Wayneís personal journey that lead him back home to the city where The Batman is greatly needed. Saving Gotham City (thirteen minutes) examines some of the special effects work of the filmís climax. Genesis Of The Bat (thirteen minutes) looks at origins of the character and remaining faithful to the mythos and stylings of the comic books. A series of detailed Confidential Files on allies, enemies & equipment, plus an Art Gallery close out the disc based supplemental features. The Deluxe Edition release of BATMAN BEGINS also includes a mini-sized booklet featuring three of the comic book stories that directly influenced this film.
BATMAN BEGINS is a brilliant re-invention of the movie franchise that had lost its way. Writer/director Christopher Nolan and co-writer David S. Goyer have wiped the slate clean and made way for Batman to begin anew on the silver screen. As for Warnerís DVD, it is another fantastic, first rate release with stunning video & audio quality, plus some terrific supplemental features- letís face it you gotta have this disc! Absolutely recommended.
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