Batman Begins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though most of the movie looked good, a few issues kept it from greatness.
Sharpness seemed pretty positive. The image usually came across as nicely distinct and detailed. However, a few shots looked a smidgen soft; these appeared infrequently, but a handful of images came across as a wee bit blurry. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and the movie appeared nearly free of any form of defects. A couple of small specks existed but no other distractions occurred.
No one expects a light and lively palette from a Batman movie – well, except for Joel Schumacher – and the tones of Begins match those thoughts. Did any bright colors pop up here? Perhaps, but I find it tough to recall them outside of maybe some tops worn by Holmes. In any case, the movie replicated the hues accurately, and the colors delivered the dark production design well. Black levels came across as deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Ultimately, Batman Begins was a little too soft to be a top-notch transfer, but it satisfied most of the time.
I encountered almost no reason to complain about the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Batman Begins. From start to finish, the movie featured a dynamic auditory experience. The soundfield was wonderfully broad and immersive. It created a smooth environment in which all the action occurred. In addition to the expected solid stereo presence of the score, the effects formed a terrific feeling of realism. They were always appropriately placed in the spectrum and they blended together well. Panning was smooth and tight, and localization seemed great.
All five speakers blasted audio much of the time. Given all the action sequences, those offered the most attention, and they lived up to expectations. The surrounds both bolstered the front environment and also presented more than a little unique information. They helped give us a good 360-degree setting in which to experience the action. Check out the Batmobile chase and the climax on the train for the movie’s best segments.
Audio quality delivered the goods as well. Although some of the lines in the early training scenes seemed a little metallic, they were anomalies. Otherwise speech was consistently clear and natural, and I never noticed any signs of edginess. Music was bright and bold, and effects delivered a strong punch. Those elements were always tight and crisp. Bass response was particularly good. I noticed no overwhelming low-end that disrupted the proceedings. Instead, the bass complimented the mix and enlivened the action. This was a vivid and dynamic track the embellished the movie.
The Blu-ray offers the same extras as the 2005 DVD along with some Blu-ray exclusives. I’ll mark the latter with special blue type.
First we get a six-minute and 37-second Dark Knight IMAX Prologue. This simply presents the first few minutes of Dark Knight, which includes footage shot on IMAX cameras. If you have the Dark Knight Blu-ray, this becomes superfluous. And if you don’t have that Blu-ray, what’s wrong with you? Get it!
For the disc’s most dynamic supplement, we go to an In-Movie Experience. This is one of those pop-up pieces that come with many Blu-ray Discs. It combines various forms of art, footage from the set, and interviews with participants. We hear from director/co-writer Christopher Nolan, co-writer David S. Goyer, art director Su Whitaker, producer Emma Thomas, director of photography Wally Pfister, costume designer Lindy Hemming, fight arranger David Forman, DC Comics president/publisher Paul Levitz, production designer Nathan Crowley, writer/former Batman editor Denny O’Neil, makeup/hair designer Peter Robb-King, stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, special effects workshop supervisor Andrew Smith, stunt performer George Cottle, DC Comics VP/executive editor Dan Didio, composers James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, and actors Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine, Rutger Hauer, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Cillian Murphy.
We learn about story and character issues, adapting the comics, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts and effects, costumes and cinematography, vehicles and props, and music. That’s a good array of subjects, and the “Experience” covers them well. It doesn’t quite substitute for a complete commentary, but it opens up the movie in a satisfying manner.
Next we find three bits that appeared as Easter eggs on the original DVD. Reflections on Writing The disc also presents co-writer David Goyer. He gives us fun anecdotes about research and secrecy for the movie.
Under Digital Batman, we find a 66-second piece with visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin. He shows us a concept clip that contrasts Bale as Batman with a digital Dark Knight. For the final former egg, Batman Begins Stunts gives us two minutes, 29 seconds of test footage for the car, the cape and stunt concepts. Both of these are inconsequential but interesting.
Next comes a spoof called Tankman Begins. This five-minute and 12-second comedy piece aired at the start of the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. It focuses on Jimmy Fallon but also features an appearance by Andy Dick. It’s not funny at all, though I’m happy it’s here as a footnote.
The majority of the remaining attractions come from its eight featurettes. We open with one called The Journey Begins. This 14-minute and 10-second show offers the usual set of movie clips, behind the scenes elements and interviews. We hear from director Christopher Nolan, co-screenwriter David S. Goyer, production designer Nathan Crowley, producers Charles Roven and Emma Thomas, actor Christian Bale, and fight arranger David Forman.
The show covers Nolan’s and Goyer’s interest in the character, developing the material and choosing the movie’s subjects, secrecy around the project, casting the main character and supporting roles, and Bale’s approach to the role and physical training. A bit of puffery occurs when those involved discuss the supporting roles, but overall this piece includes a lot of good notes. I especially like the information about the scriptwriting as well as the parts that concern Bale’s training.
For the 12-minute and 45-second Shaping Mind and Body, we encounter information from Nolan, Bale, Jennings, Forman, Neeson, This one goes over the movie’s fight sequence. We learn about the Keysi method featured in the flick along with choreography and execution of the hand-to-hand pieces. We also gets notes about training and rehearsals as well as choices made in the cutting and photography of the fights. As usual, this one covers its material well and develops the topics effectively.
With Gotham City Rises, we find a 12-minute and 43-second program with comments from Nolan, Bale, Crowley, Thomas, Roven, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, director of photographer Wally Pfister, Cardington supervising art director Steven Lawrence, producer Larry Franco and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould. It discusses the look and building of the movie’s version of Gotham. We learn what the participants wanted to do with the urban visuals as well as places like Wayne Manor and the Batcave along with the methods used to execute these. The program gets into a deep exploration of inspirations and choices along with the technical issues to create a vivid program.
Next we get Cape and Cowl. The eight-minute and 10-second featurette involves Nolan, Bale, Goyer, costume designer Lindy Hemming, costume FX supervisor Graham Churchyard, and actor Gary Oldman. We learn about the design and creation of Batman’s costume as well as how it worked day-to-day. We get nice insights into their choices and intentions as this show provides a solid exploration of costume-related topics.
As you might expect, The Tumbler focuses on the new Batmobile. The 13-minute and 35-second piece offers details from Nolan, Bale, Pfister, Oldman, Crowley, Goyer, Corbould, Jennings, special effects workshop supervisor Andrew Smith, stunt performers George Cottle, George Peters and Dean Bailey, and actor Katie Holmes. We find information about the reimagining of the vehicle and how they made it. The program goes over initial considerations and their development into reality. We also see tests and shooting the vehicle. I must admit I’m not wild about the Tumbler, but at least I can better appreciate its design via this show’s nice exploration of its look and build.
Path to Discovery goes for 14 minutes and nine seconds. During it, we get notes from Nolan, Goyer, Crowley, Bale, Pfister, Franco, Thomas, Corbould, actor Liam Neeson, stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, stunt performers Buster Reeves and Mark Mottram, and art director Susan Whitaker. It digs into the sets and locations used to create the Himalayan monastery setting used in the first act. We hear a lot about the challenges related to shooting in Iceland; I particularly like the tales about filming on a melting lake. The show gives us another informative and rich take on its subjects.
Saving Gotham City lasts 12 minutes and 55 seconds. It gives us comments from Nolan, Corbould, Holmes, Jennings, Reeves, Pfister, Lawrence, miniature unit supervisor Steve Begg, sequence lead – Double Negative Matthew Twyford, and visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs. “City” focuses entirely on the movie’s climatic sequence. (That means you’ll want to skip this if you’ve not already seen the film, but really, who’d be dopey enough to examine the extras for a movie they’ve never seen?). We get information about the practical and computer effects used to execute the end scene and all its components. These also include stunts and photographic elements. As always, the program gives us a solid exploration of its topics and proves quite useful.
For the final featurette, Genesis of the Bat fills 14 minutes and 50 seconds with remarks from Nolan, Goyer, DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics editor Bob Schreck, comics writer Denny O’Neil, Wildstorm artist and editorial director Jim Lee, and DC VP/executive editor Dan Didio. We hear about what the writers wanted to do with the comics’ history, collaborating with DC and influences, the roots of some characters, and changes over the years. This doesn’t attempt a full history of the Batman comics. Instead, it prefers to focus on the effects the comics had on the movie, which makes it pretty tight. It’s not one of the better featurettes on this DVD, but it gets into matters with reasonable effectiveness.
A Stills Gallery breaks into three areas. “US” shows nine American ad pieces, while “International” offers 14 promo pieces used in other areas. “Explorations” presents 40 ad ideas that weren’t utilized. It’s the most interesting of the three areas, but I like all of them.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find some Confidential Files. These text elements provide notes about Batman’s hardware – including the Tumbler, his cape and suit, and his utility belt – as well as friends and foes. These offer nice details about the various elements.
One of the best Batman films, Batman Begins starts a little slowly, but it quickly picks up steam and stands as a very strong effort overall. The Blu-ray offers very good picture along with excellent audio and a nice collection of extras.
I strongly recommend Batman Begins as both a movie and a Blu-ray. This is a fine package for a terrific movie that will undoubtedly offer lots of replay value.
To rate this film visit the Deluxe Edition review of BATMAN BEGINS