Written by Clayton Self
Batman Begins is a brand new and WAY cooler take on the Dark Knight franchise than anything we’ve seen before. Most importantly, this is NOT a prequel to any of the previous four Batman films. This is a fresh start for the franchise, and it gets done the way it should have been done in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, Burton made two very dark and original films, but let’s face it; Batman Returns sent children bawling out of the theatre, and left parents with a sour taste in their mouth. That mo…ie is the reason Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were so, how do I say this without being mean? Campy. Tragically campy. Needless to say, those films drove the nail through the coffin for that particular story line. But thanks to Christopher Nolan (Memento/Insomnia) we have a new Batman film that puts the dark knight on the silver screen in a very dominating way.
When Batman Begins opens, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is locked in a prison in Japan. He has locked himself there voluntarily to understand the mind of criminals. By the time we see him here, he has already traveled many other places. Bruce gets paid a visit by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) who offers him the means to find what he has been looking for. Bruce leaves the prison, and travels a long distance to the top of a mountain to the palace of Ra’s al Guhl (Ken Watanabe). There, he learns all the ways of the ninja, and the distracting benefits of theatrics. Before long though, it becomes apparent that these guys, including Ducard, are all whackos. They think that by destroying Gotham City, they can destroy the evil that consumes it, and then rebuild it anew. Bruce thinks Gotham is not beyond saving, so he destroys the palace, saves Ducard and returns to Gotham. When there, he finds “all those wonderful toys” we are so familiar with in the abandoned applied sciences section of Wayne Enterprises, with the help of Luscious Fox (Morgan Freeman). When he has it all gathered up, he unveils Batman on the city. With people like Jonathan Crane, aka: “scarecrow” (Cillian Murphy) and Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) controlling the city, its amazing that Bruce has time to have a social life. With help from Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), the assistant DA, Batman deduces that Falcone and Crane work for Ra’s al Guhl in a plan to release a hallucinogenic toxin on the city that will cause mass panic, leading to the cities demise. Will Batman stop this dangerous plot? Watch and see.
The appeal of Batman Begins comes from its perfect balance of character study and breathtaking action, and this movie has plenty of both. With three villains to take down in 2 hours and twenty minutes, this movie manages to cover all bases. The actual appearance of Batman in his full glory is delayed until a good forty minutes into the movie, but that doesn’t matter, because the first part of the movie delves deeply into who Bruce Wayne is as a man, so that by the time he unveils Batman, we are right there with him, kicking ass. Many people argued that Michael Keaton’s Batman/Bruce Wayne was too brooding and reclusive. While I don’t agree with this, I will say that it was a much harder character to sympathize with.
With a gifted Director like Nolan at the helm, and a magnificent special effects team that balances the use of CGI and miniatures to create a world that Batman dominates, its no wonder this film was such an improvement over the others. A sequel to Batman Begins is slated for release in 2008. Nolan and Bale are both returning so no doubt it will come packed with a punch like this film. On the roster for Villains in that movie are Joker and a few other rumored villains. Chris Nolan definitely knew what fans had been waiting for when he made this film. It embraces the Dark Knight in the way we’d always hoped he would be. This is absolutely the Batman Movie to end all Batman movies!
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer actually improves upon what was seen in theatres. The colors are spot-on for the DVD, and every scene that was hard to see on theatre screens due to darkness is viewed in perfect clarity here. The edge enhancement is marvelous and flesh tones completely defined. The grittiness and grain is vanished and it looks like the DVD video transfer of the decade.
The Dolby Digital surround is nothing short of room-shattering. Especially worth mention is the score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. It drives several scenes of transformation and rocks scene transitions. The scenes with scarecrow hallucinations are actually deafening, and I found myself turning the volume down. But the rear speaker make good use of environment noise (sirens, police radios and such) and the dialogue is clear as a bell.
This beautifully packaged two-disc deluxe edition comes with a second disc full of neat extras. What is really neat though is the way you access them. Each menu on the second disc is a page to a comic book. You read the story and look for clues as to the key word or picture that will take you to that feature. But if you get too frustrated trying to find everything, just hit the right arrow key all the way to the end, for a basic list that will get you to anything. The documentaries by themselves are pretty basic stuff, but as a whole, the features give pretty good insight into how this movie was put together. Included are:
- Batman-The journey begins: This covers the early concepts behind the film, from what first inspired Nolan to re-invent the franchise to casting the film.
- Shaping mind and body: Chronicles Bale’s training and stunt rehearsals on set.
- Gotham City Rises: Teaches the science and benefits of using miniatures to create the world of Gotham.
- Cape and Cowl: Demonstrates the material used to make the new Bat suit, included here are easter eggs with model tests. (REALLY neat.)
- Batman-The Tumbler: Shows all the different models of the tumbler. (There were scale models, and a real, working full-size version!)
- Path to discovery: An on-set diary of filming in Iceland that goes over natural dangers and weather constraints.
- Saving Gotham City: Breaks down the entire monorail sequence in full detail. Covers miniatures, CGI, stunt work, wires, etc.
- Genesis of the Bat: Story behind the inspiration for the movie story-line and the draw of the Batman character.
- Confidential Files: Basically textual information that covers all the high-tech weaponary and vehicles for the movie. Also included is character information.
- Easter eggs: Well what would be the fun in me telling you how to find them? Go find out yourself!
I can’t even imagine why they bothered releasing a single-disc bare bones version of this film. This very neat two-disc deluxe edition is clearly the better choice. If you don’t own this movie then there is something seriously wrong with you. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Batman franchise, this movie is a great character study and has great action. Go pick it up today! Like right now….go. Stop reading! Go get it!
Special Features List
- MTV’s Tankman Begins: a spoof
- Inner Demons comic: Explore the special features through an exclusive interactive comic book
- The Journey Begins: creative concepts, story development and casting
- Shaping Mind and Body: Christian Bale’s transformation into Batman
- The Tumbler: reinvention of the Batmobile
- Gotham City Rises: production design of Gotham City, the Batcave, Wayne Manor, and more
- Saving Gotham City: the development of miniatures, CGI, and effects for the monorail chase scene
- Genesis of the Bat: A look at the Dark Knight’s incarnation and influences on the film
- Confidential files: Go beyond the movie and discover facts and story points not in the film
- Path to Discovery: filming in Iceland
- Cape and Cowl: the new batsuit
- Character/weaponry gallery