Batman Begins – HD-DVD Review
ARCHIVE: Original Post Date – October 7th, 2006
After numerous horrible, horrible Batman films (Batman and Robin and Batman Returns are my least favorite), the Batman film’s have finally, finally returned to a place where someone can be proud to have seen and proud to own to this film. Director Christopher Nolan (probably mostly known for Memento) was chosen to helm this latest Batman film while actor Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Machinist) was chosen to portray Mr. Bruce Wayne.
The film mostly follows how Bruce became Batman. As the film begins we learn how Bruce’s parents were killed, what happened to Bruce to cause his initial fear of bats and how he trained to become Batman. I truly did enjoy these differences in the films, particularly how Bruce’s fear of bats was filmed and shown to us (helped to tie in the Scarecrow character). After the death of his parents, something Bruce blames himself for, Bruce continues his life never really feeling like himself. During his early twenties, Bruce decided to head overseas where he gets caught up in a kind of theft ring, which results in his arrest. Turns out that he was stealing from his own company. Once in jail, Bruce decides to stand up to a few guards basically eliminating them quickly. He’s thrown into a cell where he meets Henri Ducard (Schindler’s List’s Liam Neeson). It’s here that Bruce learns the art of stealth and fighting. This gains the eventual attention of a man named Ra’s Al Ghul (The Last Samurai’s Ken Watanabe in a short, but fabulous performance). Bruce eventually returns home and becomes Batman.
What makes this film work on such a high level is not necessarily the idea of the Batman character, but the all around use of the character’s story, the film’s cast, score, locations, director and sequences. The usage of Christopher Nolan brought the series a needed breath of fresh air. The way he decided to showcase Bruce’s earlier years was simply fascinating and completely interesting with no real sequences of bore. The all star cast included Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine, really helps to add a lot of credibility and thought to the film. Each actor brings their own talents to the screen adding a new feel to the series.
I simply loved this film. Having seen the film well over 4-5 times, I can easily say that this is the best Batman film to date and I do have high expectations for the second film (especially after seeing the film’s ending teaser). If you haven’t seen the film yet, do yourself the favor and go out and buy, don’t rent, this film.
“Batman Begins” arrives courtesy of Warner Brothers in a 1080p 2:40:1 VC-1 encoded video, Batman Begins has a lot of it’s shoulders. This title, as it has been demoed, is suppose to be the must title for HD-DVD boasting interactive features and amazing video and audio. Luckily for us all, this film has never, ever looked this good.
The first obvious example here is the usage of colors. The film’s most dominant color, naturally, is black. Mr. Wayne’s suit looks flawless with such intense detail (take a look at the scene where he is painting his suit. Simply amazing). The film’s other colors, like the earlier yellows and blues, the fire sequence’s reds and oranges, look equally as good breathing new life into this transfer. Speaking of the film’s transfer, the film’s very recent life really shows here. The sharpness of the print is truly great with many sequences of extreme detail (One of my favorite scenes in the film has always been where Scarecrow, well, scares his victims showing them their true fears. Do as I did here. Pause the film and walk up to your screen and look at the intense detail in the look of the picture. Trust me, you don’t be disappointed.
With such a dark looking film, I wondered if the used VC1 encoding would allow the film to look this good. Despite a few sequences of minor grain, everything looks fine. No real evidence of pixilation, distortion in the print. I simply must congratulate Warner Brothers here. Not only have they brought this film up to the level we expect out of HD-DVD, but have delivered a film that regardless of what format you spend your money on, must be seen to be believed. Truly great stuff here and certainly one of the best HD discs out there.
Wow. I don’t even know where on earth I should begin here. Well, I suppose I should tell you what is included here. Presented using the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 in English, Francais or Espanol, Batman Begins also includes one of the best, if not the best, uses of the Dolby TrueHD audio track I’ve ever heard. Due to my high impressions of this, I’m going to speak about three particular scenes (chapter 7, chapter 17, and chapter 28).
Chapter 7 is the film’s real more popular demo sequence (at least the demo scene Toshiba and Warner Brothers have been using). The sequence features Henri and Wayne battling on the ice. I was immediately brought to ears with this scene as these two men fought. As their swords clashed and clanged, I decided to view the sequence first in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and then with the Dolby TrueHD track. The provided Plus 5.1 was a lot quieter and more subdued resulting in one having to turn up the volume a bit to hear everything. The same sequence with TrueHD was a totally different experience. Everything, from the film’s surrounds to the bass, sounded completely different and much louder (not louder in a poor way but louder in a ‘WOW’ way).
Chapter 17 is where Lucius Fox is showing Bruce the new and improved Batmobile dubbed ‘The Tumbler’. While the scene is a lot shorter than say the first and the last scenes, I was still quite impressed here. As this machine revved and blasted away, my ears, it felt, went with the vehicle. Even when Lucius and Bruce are speaking the vehicle’s loud engine, and the accompanying TrueHD track, really showcase the power of the film’s audio.
Write this down. Chapter 28 on the HD-DVD of Batman Begins is my new demo sequence. From the first uttering of ‘I brought mine’, my brother immediately ran downstairs to view this sequence. Just to show him the power of TrueHD, I first played a bit of the scene with the Plus 5.1 track, which resulted in him commenting that this doesn’t sound all that good. I simply smiled and went back turning on the TrueHD track. There is just so much to comment on here, especially the well placed use of the sequence’s surrounds. Little subtle things like the officer’s speaking to each other, are not compromised here and are well balanced with the rather robust and well-defined audio. As The ‘Tumbler’ crashes and races throughout Gotham City, your complete audio system really keeps up with no evidence of muddled audio or lackluster performance. I particularly enjoyed the first of two sequences where ‘The Tumbler’ jumped over the rooftops. As the rockets flew, I wondered if the rocking (sorry) sound my sub was creating was outside (as did my family). Whoops, guess it was a bit too loud.
Warner has delivered on all fronts here with an incredibly impressive audio track here. Out of the two options here, I don’t really need to tell you what I enjoyed the most. What a breathtaking experience Warner.
- IME – In Movie Experience: The latest use of the IME option is probably the least impressive here. While the provided information was great and all the cast and crew that spoke were interesting, there were just too many sequences where no one was talking. Even though this was not as good as other IME uses, I do still give praise to Warner for giving us some exclusive HD content.
- Tankman Begins: This five minute spoof was made for the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. While the spoof was funny, it is nothing worth watching more than once through.
- The Journey Begins: This fourteen minute feature showcases how the film was developed, written and casted.
- Shaping Mind and Body: This twelve minute feature shows us how Christian Bale trained and rehearsed for the role of Batman.
- Gotham City Rises: This twelve minute feature shows us how Gotham City was built. Included are the building of The Batcave and Wayne Manor.
- Cape and Cowl: This eight minute feature shows us how the various designs for the Batman suit were done.
- Batman – The Tumbler: This thirteen minute feature us how the brand new Batmobile, jumped ‘The Tumbler’ in the film, was built.
- Path to Discovery: This fourteen minute feature takes on locale in Iceland where we get to see how Bruce Wayne was trained and how he developed his skills.
- Saving Gotham City: This thirteen minute feature goes into the film’s various action sequences. Of particular interest was how little CGI was used in the film.
- Genesis of the Bat: This fourteen minute feature shows us the film was brought from comics to the big screen.
- Reflections on Writing: In this two minute feature, we get to hear how the word got out that a new Batman film was being penned.
- Digital Batman: In about one minute, we get a comparison between the film’s costumed Batman and the digital Batman.
- Stunts: In this brief two minute feature, we get to see how a few of the film’s stunt sequences were accomplished.
- Stills: Here we get to see various designs and concepts for the film’s marketing.
- Confidential Files: A few of the film’s facts and a few games are shown here.
- Trailer: Here we the film’s Theatrical Tailer.
With such an incredible film, Batman Begins is as enjoyable as it was the first few times through. But this isn’t the issue here is it? This new HD-DVD of Batman Begins has finally arrived and is exactly what we all hoped it was. With a fine transfer, the same features, but an explosive audio experience, Batman Begins is, simply put, the must own title for all HD-DVD fans and the title other studios need to try and beat.