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Barman Begins

Batman Begins on DVD

Our favorite superhero movies have been origin stories. This is what we get with Batman Begins and, though it may not be quite as good as Tim Burton’s original Batman, it’s a satisfying and entertaining look at how events at and below stately Wayne manor got under way.

Like the original Richard Donner Superman and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, Batman Begins follows the creation of the legend. This time, Christian Bale is the young Bruce Wayne (well, the adult young Bruce Wayne; there’s also a little kid Bruce Wayne played by Gus Lewis) who searches for his destiny through a life of petty crime that leads him to a far east prison and eventually membership in a mysterious group called the League of Shadows.

Like Donner’s Superman, Batman Begins helps get its sense of realism through an outstanding supporting cast that includes Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman (as a kind of “Q” from the Bond movies), Gary Oldman as the one-day Commissioner Gordon and Liam Neeson as Wayne’s eventual mentor and nemesis. Oh, yeah. Katie Holmes is also along as Wayne’s longtime girl friend.

The story of young Bruce witnessing the murder of his parents at the hands of a thug is well known. But we get it fleshed out a tad this time, with background into what kind of man his father was (a liberal vision of a “good capitalist”, a rich guy with a heart of gold, though we aren’t beaten over the head with it, fortunately) and looks into his relationship with young Bruce . This serves to show us the huge loss his parents’ death was to Bruce, partially as a way to explain why when he grew old enough he left his life of privilege behind and crawled into the dark underside of world society.

But someone named Ducard (Neeson) finds him and recruits him to the League, where Wayne is trained in all kinds of methods of battle. But when he learns his mission for the League is to destroy Gotham City because it was a horrid place – kind of like Islamofascists want to destroy western civilization because they don’t like people who don’t kowtow to their world view.

Hence Bruce Wayne’s split from the League and his return home not to destroy Gotham but to save it. He discovers a conveniently forgotten arm of the Wayne conglomerate, run by Freeman, to equip him with the nifty high tech stuff used to stuff Batman’s utility belt and, combined with the skills he honed in training for the League, becomes the crime fighting sensation we’ve been waiting to see since the movie began.

And this is when it gets to be a more conventional Batman movie as the Caped Crusader starts up his secret life from his bat cave headquarters below stately Wayne manor (we were a little disappointed that they never referred to it as “stately Wayne manor,” but just a little).

We enjoyed Batman Begins very much. It may not be high art, but it does a pretty good job of stringing the new story around the Batman myths that have become so well-known over the years. Christian Bale does a good job in the title role, and we even enjoyed how he put on a “fake” voice while wearing his Bat suit to help prevent people from identifying him from his voice (how come no superhero has thought of that before?).

The whole cast is very good, and we were pleasantly surprised to see Rutger Hauer on hand, though he has quite a small part. We particularly liked Caine, who brought depth to a role we figured he’d just walk through before we saw it. Likewise, Freeman brings some humor and heart to his role, and Neeson’s dual role gives him a chance to flex his thespian muscles a bit as well.
This Batman movie features a wonderful, high tech look for Gotham City and we liked it even better than Burton’s dark metropolis from his versions.

We’d have to say that this is the best bat film since Burton’s original, which we liked chiefly because of Michael Keaton and the film’s great look. It also features by far the best special effects of all the bat films.

It’s a great DVD, too. There are two versions out, a single disc sold separately in widescreen and Pan&Scan incarnations and a widescreen two disc special edition. We got the single disc, widescreen version, so we lose a lot of the more deluxe set’s extras. That didn’t bother us a lot, since we care more about the movies themselves anyway except for a few special titles we can never learn enough about (and this ain’t one!).

The picture is nothing short of spectacular. This is a reference quality disc, with wonderful sharpness and detail and a 16x9 compatible widescreen picture that you’ll probably be seeing used to demonstrate TV’s in stores over the next several months.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it, like the picture, is reference quality.

The only extra on our “non-special edition” is the theatrical trailer.

We went into this expecting the film to suck. To our joy, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s a very entertaining film that’s not only fun to watch, but a joy for home theater aficionados.

Batman Begins, from Warner Home Entertainment
140 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1, 16x9 TV compatible/Pan&Scan sold separately), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman
Produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, Larry Franco
Written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, directed by Christopher Nolan


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Updated May 13, 2006