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HTF REVIEW: Batman Begins - Two Disc Deluxe Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 436 Herb Kane

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Posted October 03 2005 - 04:00 PM

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Batman Begins
Two-Disc Deluxe Edition





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2005
Rated: PG 13
Film Length: 140 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $30.97
Package: Two discs/Keepcase with cardboard slipcover case





The Feature:
Directed by Christopher Nolan, best known for his 2000 brain-twister hit, Memento, he has come to the plate of big-budget filmmaking and cleared the park with a dark, dazzling and engagingly original Batman Begins. One may question whether the world really needs another "Batman" movie, but there can be no doubt that the waning franchise has been given a refreshing new spin, if not reinvented for a new generation. As its title might imply, the film may be presumed to be a prequel to the four-film Warner Bros.' series that ran between 1989 and 1997, however, not only is Gotham City a completely different place, but key events of the Batman chronology are re-spun opening with a vignette establishing how a childhood incident traumatized the young Bruce Wayne and gave him a pronounced bat-phobia.

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Batman Begins takes us to the dark corners in the life of billionaire Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale), who is rescued from an unspecified Asian prison by the mysterious Henri Ducard (played by Liam Neeson). Bruce, who has been haunted by the memory of seeing his parents gunned down in front of him, has been wandering the world, picking fights with small-time thugs until Ducard finds him and offers him an alternative to his nomadic existence. Ducard wants to train Bruce so he can become a member of the League of Shadows, the organization presided over by Ra's Al Ghul (played by Ken Watanabe). The League of Shadows is dedicated to restoring balance to a world in which criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding.

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Under Ducard, Bruce undergoes rigorous physical training, but it transforms the young man into a living weapon. In the end, Bruce breaks with the League of Shadows so he can return to his native Gotham City and fight the escalating crime wave there. Aided by his faithful butler, Alfred (played by Michael Caine); a Q-like inventor named Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman); one of the city's few good cops, Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman); and a childhood friend-turned-assistant D.A., Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes), Bruce sets out to bring justice to Gotham. He decides to do this not as Bruce Wayne, but as a sinister alter-ego. And, at the beginning, he has two dangerous enemies to face: the city's crime lord, Carmine Falcone (played by Tom Wilkinson) and a demented psychiatrist who calls himself The Scarecrow (played by Cillian Murphy).

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To tell this first story of Batman, Nolan and co-screenwriter David Goyer weave elements of the Caped Crusader's history that includes material of their own devising. We see what prompts Batman to choose his image, how the Batcave is developed, where the suit and utility belt come from, and what the secret of the Batmobile is. Rather than de-mythologizing Batman, this provides us with better understanding of who he is and what motivates him - aspects whose absence were glaringly evident when Tim Burton brought his vision of the superhero to the screen 16 years ago.

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Of the five well-known actors to don the cape (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale), surprisingly, there's little doubt that Bale is the most talented and the most effective. We believe him as both Bruce Wayne and Batman and, while in the latter role, he seems more than just a face behind the mask. In order to play this part, Bale had to gain about 85 pounds. Keaton, Kilmer, and Clooney allowed the costume to dominate their performances. Here, it's the other way around. Bale comes close to being the definitive Batman. He is surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast, with Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman leading the way. Also on hand are Gary Oldman, this time, playing against type as a good guy; Tom Wilkinson, chewing a little on the scenery; Ken Watanabe, who barely speaks a word – and never blinks; and a chilling Cillian Murphy. Katie Holmes has the thankless role of the "love interest" - perhaps one of the few – and new to story - elements of Batman Begins that doesn't necessarily work. Holmes and Bale seem to lack the chemistry necessary and her character feels superfluous.

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The action scenes are, for the most part, kinetic and exciting - things that have rarely been true of fights and chases in the superhero's previous incarnations. Clearly, Nolan understands how to elevate the adrenaline level, with interesting camera angles, strong editing, and effective special effects work - all contributing postively. Batman Begins is a strong re-start to a franchise that perhaps deserves better than it has often been accorded. The ending provides a direct lead-in to another Batman movie, and Nolan is on the record as stating his desire to do a trilogy. And while the next installment might be several years away, in the meantime, we'll truly have something to look forward to.

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The Feature: 4.5/5
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Video:
Presented in it’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this enhanced-for-widescreen transfer is mighty impressive, to say the least. In fact, I’d go on to say that projected on a 96” screen, it is a sight to behold. Colors were refined – slightly subdued and somewhat cool looking no doubt due to use of various filters. Saturation levels were never an issue. Flesh tones also looked real and spot on. Black levels were as deep as imaginable allowing shadow detail to be shown off nicely and never becoming murky or ill-defined – especially considering how dark some of the film can be. On top of the dark appearance, there’s plenty of smoke and fog throughout the film’s entirety.

Image detail was sharp and very impressive. There is virtually no film grain noticeable and the level of depth and dimensionality was very pleasing. As we would hope, the film is absolutely free of any dust or dirt or any other noticeable blemishes and the image itself, is rock solid.

The authoring seems to have been handled with excellence as there was no evidence of artifacting, compression or noticeable edge enhancement.

An excellent job overall.

Video: 4.5/5
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Audio:
In a word… WOW…! When I constructed my HT, I took great pains to ensure things like rattling doors and such wouldn’t be a distraction, and there are very few discs among my personal collection that are capable of reaching that level. This is one of them. From the time you insert his disc, the DD 5.1 track will keep you on your toes for 2+ hours. A very healthy and active track.

The track is exceptionally clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. The track overall, sounded natural and is delivered with a healthy dose of oomph. Dialogue was always clear and intelligible if not just slightly bright. Needless to say the dynamic range here is terrific as is the width of the soundstage, showing great separation. Equally impressive is the all-involving and ever present score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard.

This active track is complemented nicely with the generous use of surrounds showing off various ambient noise and whatnot. Tactful and not overbearing. LFE use is healthy and plentiful. Your sub is about to endure a pretty hectic workout.

Outstanding.

Audio: 4.5/5
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Special Features:
Not only is disc two jam packed with special features, but there's even a couple of supplements to be found on disc one. The set looks like this:


Disc One
[*] MTV's Tankman Begins A Batman Spoof starring Jimmy Fallon who bums a ride to the MTV awards an manages to get picked up by Batman in the Batmobile... only it doesn't quite turn out to be Batman. Duration: 5:12 minutes.
[*] The other feature found on disc one is the Theatrical Trailer which is, as we would expect, in perfect condition. Duration: 1:12 minutes.


Disc Two
Disc two is laden with special features but the use of a right wing (advance), left wing (back) feature really makes the navigation of this disc rather clunky and awkward. Perhaps some may appreciate the design, but I’m not a fan of having to work this much for special features. Anyway, if you use the “go to” feature on your PC’s DVD drive, you’ll easily see the menu as to what’s available. Anyway, enough of that, it looks like this:
[*] Batman - The Journey Begins - A number of the film's participants show up here including Christopher Nolan and various aspects of the film’s production are discussed including the concept, set design as well as the development of the film and the casting of Batman himself. Duration: 14:15 minutes.
[*] Shaping Mind And Body. Observe Christian Bale's transformation into Batman which includes many rehearsal shots and the training that was necessary. Some great martial arts demonstrations to be found here. Duration: 12:48 minutes.
[*] Batman - The Tumbler The reinvention of the Batmobile as Christopher Nolan and the production designers discuss what was envisioned as his "new Batmobile". A number of models and concept designs are shown including demonstrations of the finished product. Duration: 13:39 minutes.
[*] Gotham City Rises. Witness the recreation of Gotham City, The Batcave and Wayne Manor. Director Nolan talks about how he wanted Gotham to have a “recognizable texture”, with a desire to resemble a large American City. Duration: 12:48 minutes.
[*] It should come as no surprise that Cape And Cowl is a feature that focuses on the garb and wardrobe of Wayne/Batman. The design and manufacture of the Bat Suit is shown here from start to finish. Duration: 8:18 minutes.
[*] Next up is Path to Discovery where Nolan talks about the importance of Wayne’s disappearance in terms of the storyline. Also discussed here are various location shoots and the reasons they were chosen. Duration: 14:13 minutes.
[*] Saving Gothan City is a feature the focuses on the development of the miniatures, CGI and special effects for the monorail chase scene. A ton of great behind-the-scenes and stunt shots to be found here. Duration: 13:01 minutes.
[*] Genesis Of The Bat is a look at the Dark Knight's incarnation and influences on the film through the evolution of time. Duration: 14:53 minutes.
[*] In Confidential Files, go beyond the movie and discover facts and story points not in the film. These are located on a single menu where you can click on individual items such as the Utility Belt and find various bits of trivia and facts relating to each item. Other pieces of equipment covered are the Memory Fabric Cape, Prototype Military Suit and the Tumbler. There is also a section listing the various enemies; Scarecrow, Carmen Falcone and Ra’s Al Ghul. And lastly, you’ll find a listing of the various allies and mentors; Detective Sgt. James Gordon, Rachel Dawes, Lucius Fox, Alfred Pennyworth and Henri Ducard.
[*] Last but not least…. an Art Gallery is where you’ll find the dozens of film posters that were used to help promote the film. It is comprised of three sections; U.S., International and Explorations. As a huge fan of movie posters, a terrific little inclusion. This is a feature I’d like to see more often.

There’s also a well crafted soft-cover book included with the Deluxe Edition which contains 3 stories that inspired the film. The disc also has a DVD-ROM feature.

There’s really no way I can score these special features with any fewer than 5 stars, especially considering the many new releases showing up nowadays with little, if any, features. Although Nolan is primarily at the forefront of these features, they are quite informative. The layout and navigation however…. is terrible.

Special Features: 5/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Through the years, of all the major comic book characters, none has been more mistreated than the Bat-Man. As originally envisioned by creator Bob Kane (no relation, unfortunately) in 1939, Batman was a dark character who walked the tightrope between hero and vigilante. That was his image until the 1960s, when the campy TV series starring Adam West transformed the character into a silly, but likable good guy in gray spandex.

Tim Burton re-invented Batman for the surreal but commercially successful 1989 feature, but the movie ended up focusing more on The Joker, as a supporting character. By the time the Batman series reached its third installment, it had fallen back to the campy level of its TV predecessor. The 1997 film was quite simply, a disappointment. Batman appeared to be dead - at least until now. Batman Begins is designed as the start of a new life - a new lease on life. In the process, Nolan has not only crafted the best Batman movie, but perhaps one of the finest superhero movies ever.

If you’re a fan of the Caped Crusader, you should be absolutely impressed with the presentation of this film and to top it off, the special features go a long way to complement this enthralling film.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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Highly Recommended...!!!





Release Date: October 18th, 2005
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 436 john mcfadden

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Posted October 03 2005 - 04:07 PM

I cant wait !!!!!

#3 of 436 Brent M

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Posted October 03 2005 - 04:14 PM

Great review!!! I'm drooling in anticipation of this release. Only 2 weeks to go. Posted Image
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#4 of 436 JoshB

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Posted October 03 2005 - 05:27 PM

By far one of the best films of 2005 thus far, which is pretty hard to believe considering it's a film based on a comic book that has already had 4 previous films. The Katie Holmes aspect didnt really work all to well and felt very tacked on, but thankfully she won't be back (supposedly) for the sequel. They casted this film extremely well with Freeman, Caine, and especially Oldman. I look forward to them in the next one.

The DVD looks superb and the review only makes the wait that more difficult.
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#5 of 436 Mark Lucas

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Posted October 03 2005 - 05:47 PM

I guess I'll pick this one up, along with the other Batman films, if only for Burton's. Weird thing about BB at least for me, the non Batman scenes are the reason why the film works.

#6 of 436 Dharmesh C

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Posted October 03 2005 - 07:34 PM

No commentary? Oh wait, super-duper edition just around the corner. Ah well, it's the film that counts here.

#7 of 436 JackKay

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Posted October 03 2005 - 07:53 PM

Cool Review! I did not see the movie in the theater. Could you send me your copy Herb?
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#8 of 436 Tommy G

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Posted October 03 2005 - 11:07 PM

Well, I was on the fence with this one until now. Herb, you pushed me over top. I'm buying this one blind. Great review, Herb! Posted Image
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#9 of 436 Tino

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Posted October 04 2005 - 12:07 AM

Quote:
at least for me, the non Batman scenes are the reason why the film works.


Me too. I love the character development in this film. The quiet moments were my favorites. The "Batman" scenes imo reduced the film to resemble every other generic superhero film with generic action scenes.

However I still enjoyed the film very much and will be picking it up. Thanks Herb.Posted Image
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#10 of 436 Chris S

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Posted October 04 2005 - 12:29 AM

I really enjoyed this film in the theaters (saw it 3 times). For those sitting on the fense, this is definitely worth a blind purchase (IMHO).

Thanks for the review Herb! I always love the added screen grabs Posted Image
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#11 of 436 Bill Williams

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Posted October 04 2005 - 12:57 AM

Excellent review, Herb! I missed seeing this film in the theaters when it came out, but I'm looking forward to getting the DVD and kicking back for some great Bat-entertaiment! Posted Image
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#12 of 436 Mike_G

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Posted October 04 2005 - 12:57 AM

I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks for the review.

Did they let you review this title because your last name is Kane? Posted Image

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#13 of 436 Jerome Grate

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Posted October 04 2005 - 01:28 AM

I'll be getting this one. Can't wait.
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#14 of 436 Chris Tedesco

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Posted October 04 2005 - 01:35 AM

Good review, for some reason I did not see this in the theaters, this is a must have...and I haven't even seen it!




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#15 of 436 Andrew Radke

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Posted October 04 2005 - 02:05 AM

Excellent review. I'm definitely getting this along with the Anthology set. I saw this in the theater a couple of months ago and was mesmerized by how great it was. My only gripe would be the inclusion of Katie Holmes (I never liked her anyway). Otherwise, a top-notch film. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd see a better Batman flick that was better than Burton's from '89. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.
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#16 of 436 Brendon

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Posted October 04 2005 - 04:07 AM

Excellent review Herb, much appreciated!

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#17 of 436 Russell G

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Posted October 04 2005 - 04:17 AM

Wow, this sounds like a GREAT special edition! Nice review!

#18 of 436 Dannie

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Posted October 04 2005 - 04:27 AM

i will be picking up mines today along with the anthology hopefully

#19 of 436 Stephen Orr

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Posted October 04 2005 - 04:28 AM

I pre-ordered two of the 2-disc sets from Amazon - one for me, one for my son at college. Cannot WAIT to crank this one up.

BTW, the ONLY feature film I paid to see in IMAX....

#20 of 436 Mark VH

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Posted October 04 2005 - 04:29 AM

One of the only summer releases I'll be buying (along with Land of the Dead and Wedding Crashers). Solid film. Looking forward to it.