Batman Begins DVD: Review By Dodd

I am pretty partial to this DVD. The film is a knockout, and the selection of featurettes is worth hours of entertainment. At least they are piling on the special features now instead of making us go out and buy an upgrade version next year. Of course, I can’t guarantee that.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
I am pretty partial to this DVD. The film is a knockout, and the selection of featurettes is worth hours of entertainment. At least they are piling on the special features now instead of making us go out and buy an upgrade version next year. Of course, I can't guarantee that.

THE BAD
There are a lot of featurettes, but what about the other household extras? Commentary tracks by the cast and director? Deleted scenes? A blooper reel? Plus, I did mention previously that this two-disc edition costs extra. There is a barebones version of the film out there for a few bucks less. Remember when all DVD's came with free extras the same way a box of Fruit Loops came with a free toy? Tsk, tsk.
THE FEATURE
What can one say after the Batman anthology of recent years? How about "ouch"? I remember seeing Tim Burton's gothic image of Batman when I was a boy in 1989. Then I remember Burton throwing in the towel and passing the torch to a man many love to hate: Joel Schumacher. Schumacher took a dark comic legend and turned his story into a world of color, glitz, and glee. With way too many characters and goofiness in each frame, the Batman series was a goner.

For years I sat and waited. Every night I asked the stars, "When will a filmmaker come along that finally understands Batman?" That answer came this year in the form of Christopher Nolan. Nolan, the man behind Memento, is a director clearly familiar with psychological thrills and human emotion. He brings with him a dark touch and a keen eye for character in the most recent installment of the franchise, Batman Begins. Although I think many would agree with me that Batman Begins is not merely an addition to the Batman franchise. It is, instead, the beginning of an amazing franchise by itself.

Batman Begins answers the question we've all been dying to know: who exactly is Batman? Sure, we always knew he was a millionaire named Bruce Wayne that was assisted by his crusty butler Alfred. However, there was something a little shallow about Michael Keaton saying the words, "I am Batman" without us really knowing the true story behind Bruce Wayne. Begins is a prequel and starts at square one. We open on Bruce Wayne (Christain Bale). Bruce was a happy son to a wholesome businessman looking to clean up Gotham City by implementing a mass transit system. His life came falling down after witnessing his parents being murdered by a Gotham street thug.

After going through rigorous training in the Himalayas under master Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and his agile protégé Henri Ducard (a righteously kick ass Liam Neeson), Bruce returns to his home of Gotham. The city is now shattered by the corruption of crime boss Carmine Falco (Tom Wilkinson). To make matters worse, there is a whack-job psychologist named Dr. Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) with his own demented agenda for the city. It is time for Bruce Wayne to become the mysterious dark knight that despises the sc*m of Gotham. Batman begins here.

I do not want to know what a different director would have done if he or she added a spin on Batman. I say this because Chris Nolan rebirths Batman and does it flawlessly. For once, Batman is not just a good guy with a cape that fires off snappy one-liners and saves the city. Instead we acknowledge Batman as Bruce Wayne, and we recognize the demons and torment inside him.

Not only do we understand the complex past of Batman, but also we get a better understanding of the important figures in his life: Alfred (Michael Caine) and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). The two veteran actors give life to these token characters. Alfred, who was once a quiet and frail old man that helped Batman with his cape, is an assertive father figure. Jim Gordon, who later becomes the city's Commissioner, is a hard-working cop and is one of the only honest people on the Gotham force. It was always clear that Batman invested a large trust in these men, and for the first time on film, we finally see why.

Oh yes, and let's not forget the action. That's right, action! Of course I mean scenes that do not rely (or at least appear to rely) on the magic of CGI animation. Combining the authentic action, storyline, and selection of old and new actors that demonstrate Oscar-caliber talent (that is except for Katie "All Of a Sudden I Am a Scientologist Sleeping With Tom Cruise" Holmes), Batman Begins stays on top by keeping things more realistic. Forget hollow action vehicles when films such as this show backbone and heart.
THE EXTRAS
I am not exactly sure where to begin with the special features. After a string of lackluster DVD's that call a few deleted scenes "special features", I was not prepared for a second disc LOADED with featurettes. It reminds me of the old days of DVD. Of course, the two-disc edition with special features costs more money to obtain. Now that is something that does NOT remind me of the golden years of DVD.

The menus are an interactive comic book and are enigmatic in nature. It takes some patience and analysis to access the special features. Chris Nolan's former film, Memento, received the same puzzling treatment when it was re-released on DVD. The menu art is extravagant with stylish art and slick animation.

The Path to Discovery is a lengthy piece that focuses on the storyline and shooting in the Himalaya region. The title reflects the segment of the film that focuses on Bruce Wayne's journey to discovering his inner bat. Shaping Mind and Body examines the transformation of Christian Bale into Batman. A good chunk of this explores fighting and physical training. At one point I forgot the segment was even about Bale as trained fighters demonstrate different martial art moves. The title is a bit misleading, but this featurette still rocks!

The film stays true to the darker pages of the comic world, which is why I dig Genesis of the Bat. This featurette indicates that a lot of smart minds actually gave a damn about staying true to the heroic figure. Chris Nolan and writer David Goyer talk take us into the process of comic book adaptation and express the importance of making the film a true extension of the comic. The Tumbler is a look at the new Batmobile. When I first saw pictures of this massive vehicle during pre-production, I had doubts that this vehicle would make a credible super-vehicle. However, watching the detailed designing stages of this car here changed my mind. The film creators offer up some very cool car concepts.

Saving Gotham City is an amazing look at designing miniatures for the city and creating CGI effects. Considering my comment in the review about how everything looks so real, it is a surprise to look behind the curtain and discover the true craftsmanship that make the film look so sweet.

The Journey Begins serves as a good intro piece to the featurettes. This is all about basic concept, design, and casting. Once watching some of the featurettes that I previously mentioned after watching this one, the audience will be satisfactorily provided with extra details.

Cape and Cowl is pretty self-explanatory. Costume designers go through the creation of the new bat suit and its utilities. Gotham City Rises is all about set design. With its vast locations, this featurette takes a look at the creation of the city, the bat cave, and other grandiose locales.

Throughout the DVD menus there are various Easter eggs that I am sure I managed to miss. These eggs are shorts that can be a confidential bio file on one of the characters. It could also be a short reel of insight into the creation of weaponry. You just never know what you will find on this disc!

The first disc has a couple of little bits. There is a somewhat amusing MTV spoof of Batman and a theatrical trailer. However, the second disc is the place to go for the real goods.
THE VIDEO
The picture is in anamorphic widescreen and looks just as great on disc as it did on the big screen. Well, at least as good as it can look on my 20 inch set. The film is dark and the sets are magnificent. This is a truly great looking flick.
THE AUDIO
The sound is in English and French on Dolby 5.1 Surround tracks. As one might expect with a Batman movie, there are plenty of great sounds in this action hit. The music by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer is creative magic on the ears.
THE PACKAGE
The two DVD's come in a standard keep case, which is packed inside of a sleeve. Sometimes I do not understand the purpose of sleeves, but this time I discovered a reason. The DVD comes with a nice little booklet with comic excerpts that served as inspiration for the film. This is a great extra treat with the whole package.
THE FINAL WORD
I will come clean on this one. Batman Begins is not only the best film in the Batman series, but probably one of the best films I have seen this year. The performances are top notch, Nolan's direction is on the money, and the storytelling is true to its original comic form.

My Recommendation: Frustrated by bad Batman films? Then buy this DVD! Loaded with features and a terrific film, this could be one of the best discs this year.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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