Batman Begins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. 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, light edge enhancement permeated the transfer and sporadically rendered it a little on the soft side. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and the movie appeared free of any form of defects. Some grain 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 Digital 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.
How did the picture and audio of this 2008 “Limited Edition Giftset” compare to those of the original 2005 DVD? Both releases are literally identical. The LE simply packages the old two-disc set with some added non-disc-based materials.
So most of the LE simply replicates elements from the two-disc “Deluxe Edition” of Batman Begins. First we confront a disappointment: no audio commentary. This surprised me since director Christopher Nolan chatted over Insomnia and Memento, his two prior films. I don’t know why he didn’t provide a commentary here.
That leaves most of the supplements on DVD Two. All we get on Disc One are the flick’s trailer and a spoof called Tankman Begins. This five-minute and 10-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.
When we head to Disc Two, we find an unusually cool format. We flip through the extras via an Exclusive Interactive Comic. Each menu screen presents parts of a story that pits Batman against the Scarecrow. This comes out in a smooth manner and offers a lot of fun.
The majority of DVD Two’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On screen 11, highlight “ripped from the pages” and hit “enter”. This presents a featurette called Genesis of the Bat. It 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.
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.
For the final featurette, 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.
You’ll get to an Art Gallery if you click “down” from “Genesis” to highlight “A Jungian archetype come to life”. This 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.
Strewn throughout the various screens, you’ll find 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. To access them, simply look for connected words in the comic book text. For instance, if you see “Rachel”, that’ll take you to her biography. You can find the other components attached to the ones you choose. These offer nice details about the various elements.
By the way, if the presentation of these components annoys you, simply skip ahead to the final screen. It offers an icon that lets you see an index of all the various features.
The disc also presents some not-too-hidden Easter Eggs. On the second screen, there’s only one icon available. Press “enter” to see a 113-second clip with co-writer Goyer. He gives us fun anecdotes about research and secrecy for the movie.
From the fourth menu screen, do the same thing. (You won’t see an obvious icon, but just press “down” and hit “enter”.) This opens a 61-second piece with visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin. He shows us a concept clip that contrasts Bale as Batman with a digital Dark Knight.
The third egg appears on the seventh screen. Go “left” from “Tumbler” to access two minutes, 25 seconds of test footage for the car, the cape and stunt concepts.
All of the above elements repeated components from the 2005 “Deluxe Edition”. All of the exclusives on this 2008 “Limited Edition Giftset” come from non-disc-based materials. We find a 3-D lenticular cover and five collectible postcards. These are nice but not anything special.
At least in the short time before the sequel hits the screen, fans will be most interested in the Dark Knight Sneak Peek. The clip runs a total of two minutes, 20 seconds and essentially presents a trailer for the new flick. (I admit I didn’t watch this closely at all; I want to avoid spoilers for Dark Knight as much as possible, so I just scanned the snippet for its length.)
Speaking of the sequel, we also find a 128 MB Flash Drive with 18 images from The Dark Knight. No, I didn’t look at those either; I really want to know as little as possible about the new movie! I like this addition simply because it’s cool to have a reusable drive with the Batman insignia on it.
Do we lose anything from the original package? Unfortunately, yes; it drops a collectible 72-page comic. That was a good extra, so its absence disappoints. (I’m not sure if 2008 copies of the SE still include this comic book; that might’ve been a limited release extra back in 2005.)
Ask me in few years where Batman Begins ranks among the other flicks. Right now I still prefer the two Tim Burton efforts, but I may feel differently down the road. Begins starts a little slowly, but it quickly picks up steam and stands as a very strong effort overall. The DVD offers very good picture along with excellent audio and a nice collection of extras. The absence of an audio commentary or deleted scenes disappoints, but at least the featurettes give us a positive view of the production. This is a fine package for a terrific movie that will undoubtedly offer lots of replay value.
I’m not sure for whom I’d recommend this “Limited Edition Giftset”, however. It essentially replicates the two-disc set from 2005 along with a few non-essential components – for twice the price. The LE goes for about $40 retail, while the 2005 SE sells for $20. Sure, the LE tosses in “movie money” for The Dark Knight, so it you get it before you see the sequel, you’ll save $7.50, but the other LE exclusives don’t compensate for the extra $12.50. There’s nothing here that makes the LE worth the added cost; if you don’t already have Batman Begins, just buy the two-disc SE. If you do already own the film on DVD, there’s absolutely no reason to consider a purchase of the LE.
To rate this film visit the Deluxe Edition review of BATMAN BEGINS