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Batman Begins: Deluxe Edition

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A-
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A/B+

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Based on the characters by: Bob Kane
Produced by: Larry Franco, Charles Roven and Emma Thomas
Starring: Christian Bale, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

"Tell us, Mr. Wayne...what do you fear?"

After the extreme disappointment that was Batman & Robin, Warner sought to completely re-invent the Batman film franchise. Hired to pen the new film were David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, who were both very interested in working on the project. For a while, their writing of the new film was very secretive and neither of them could reveal that they were working on it. Their script dealt heavily with the origins of Batman, showing exactly how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight. Little did they know that their script would breathe new life into the franchise.

As a boy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) watched as his wealthy parents were mercilessly killed in front of him. With a new obsession for revenge and justice, Wayne fled to Asia, where he was given training and counsel from the dangerous cult leader Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and his right-hand man Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). Upon returning to the decaying Gotham City, Wayne, with the help of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), family ally Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and rising cop Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), takes on a new persona: Batman!

Honestly, this was everything I could have hoped for in a new Batman film. The casting is just about perfect in nearly every area, the script is precise and well-written and the direction is top-notch. However, that's not to say that there aren't any problems with the film. There are several action sequences that seem overly long and these could have easily been cut down a bit in regard to pacing. Many people have problems with the casting of Katie Holmes as Wayne's childhood friend Rachel Dawes, but I thought she did just fine with the role. Regardless of some small problems, this is the best Batman film since Tim Burton's 1989 blockbuster.

The DVD serves up a great presentation of the film, with one of the cleanest-looking anamorphic widescreen transfers I've seen in a while. This is probably the best any movie could look on disc. The audio is equally very good. The English Dolby 5.1 audio track really showcases the atmospheric sounds of the film and the bass gets a nice workout, as well, during the action sequences. In the video and audio departments, this DVD is simply superb.

The first disc of this dual-disc package doesn't include much in the way of extras, limited to the film's original theatrical trailer and the infamous MTV Movie Awards spoof, "Tankman Begins" with Jimmy Fallon and Jon Heder. The bulk of the extras are on the second disc and are laid out in a very interesting way. The second disc is designed like a comic book with extras to be found on most of the pages. The pages can be easily navigated through and the extras aren't hard to find at all. However, for those of you who would rather get your extras the old-fashioned way, there's an icon on the final page of the comic book that will take you to a full list of the disc's extras. I should also note that there are a few Easter Eggs hidden throughout the pages.

The extras open with "Batman: The Journey Begins", which is a very interesting behind-the-scenes featurette about how the film came together and the casting of the film. The next featurette is "Shaping the Mind and Body", a featurette on how Christian Bale physically trained to play the role of Batman. "Gotham City Rises" gives us information on the brilliant production design of the film and "Cape and Cowl" shows us how Batman's costume and equipment were updated for the new film. "Batman: The Tumbler" looks at the design of the new Batmobile. "Path to Discovery" gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Wayne's journey through the Asian wilderness in the first half of the film, while "Saving Gotham City" shows us the creation of the film's climactic chase sequence. The final featurette, "Genesis of the Bat", gives us various interviews from the filmmakers and comic book experts on the key comic book stories that influenced the Batman film. A selection of Confidential Files give us loads of additional information on Batman's equipment and characters in the film. Lastly, an Art Gallery gives us a large selection of posters and promotional stills for the film.

This two-disc Deluxe Edition also includes a miniature Batman graphic novel that includes the very first Batman story, plus two other tales that also inspired the film. For those of you who are curious, these tales are "The Man Who Falls" and "The Long Halloween: Chapter One." This DVD fares very well in all departments, giving us a great presentation of Batman Begins, a load of bonus materials and a comic book to boot. This one is highly recommended for fans of the series, while casual fans might just want to get the single-disc edition that is also available.

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