Sunday, February 11, 2007

[DVD] Batman Begins (2005)


I'm gonna summarize it a little and not cover the review of the movie, which I have already done twice. You can read them here and here. What I'll do is to zoom in onto the special features of this Code 3 Two-Disc Special Edition from WB.

Disc 1 contains the movie, and the theatrical trailer. Visual transfer was great, in widescreen version, and did not suffer from being too dark that you can't see the fast fight scenes (that audiences complain about), as compared to the 1989 Batman where night scenes are shrouded in virtual haze. I've the Two-Disc Special Edition for that as well, but the review will come the next time.

You don't have much of a choice with the audio selection, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but naturally it's all fantastic, with a choice of either English or Mandarin subtitles. Nothing much fancy in this disc, no cast and crew commentary put in, but very gorgeously done animated menus, and the provision for scene selection.

My beef will actually come from Disc 2.

Disc 2 is the special features disc, but while there are loads of features embedded into the disc, the logic of the presentation could have been drastically improved. You are "forced" to navigate through a comic-book embedded with somewhat hidden links to the features. With the digital comic book being nice to look at, with some of the drawings in the panels being animated, you'll probably be oblivious with the embedded links, until you chance on one, then realize you have to find more (how many, you just won't know).

Navigation will drive you nuts, until you realize that in some pages, the stylized bat symbol provides simple forward/backward functions, while some sub menus or menu items that you click on, lead you right to the beginning of the comic book. It's not intuitive, and you need to navigate it a couple of times before feeling comfortable with it. And you realize, that at the very end, everything's listed down (well, almost) like a site map, so you won't miss the major documentaries.

The main beef is, THE MENUS AND COMIC BOOK PANELS ARE NOT IN ENGLISH!! So unless you can read Chinese, Thai, Korean or Bahasa Indonesian, this Code 3 version will drive you up the wall in navigation. Wonder what gives, that while effort is made to make this special features disc a force to be reckoned with in terms of content, the instructions are not in the English Medium. Hello, Code 3 also means we can speak English! Thankfully the content is in English, with the mentioned languages available in subtitles.

And I present to you a glimpse of the content inside, done page to page according to the sequence in the comic book styled menu:

Page 1 Panel 2, click on the books on floor.
Batman - The Journey Begins is the summary making-of, detailing the concept stage, interviews with the director Christopher Nolan and co-writer David S Goyer, and their shrouding of the project in secrecy. Christian Bale also shares about his need to bulk up after his role in The Machinist, and we look at the filmmakers' assembly of the great cast in a Batman movie (which I am still in awe, and hope the sequels will pile on great actors who can really act).
14 mins 8s

Page 3 Panel 1, click on Batman
The 8 mins 15s documentary focuses on the design of the costume, from cowl to cape. It's interesting to note that the comfort level of the costume has improved, so much so that Christian Bale was able to wear it the whole day. The cape was designed to give it a life of its own, and the cowl (which I thought was more like a helmet) enabled the Dark Knight to turn his head, much unlike the earlier Batman's with Keaton's, Kilmer's and Clooney's costumes.

Page 5 Panel 2, click on Scarecrow's eyes
This is a Finders Keepers Easter Egg running 1 minute long, which looks at the Visual Effects and the creation of a digital Batman. While the filmmakers could have digitized many aspects of the movie, Nolan made it a conscious effort to perform stunts, and really on CGI only as a no-means resort.

Page 7 Panel 1 and 2, mouseover the texts.
Here's where the navigation of the menu selections and hyperlinks will start to drive you mad. Containing short writeups on the cape and utility belt, there are links to links about other informative bits on the bat-equipment including the costume, and the batmobile, and more links to character bios of Friends and Foes, with animated menus and short character video clips.

Page 7 Panel 3, click on the building
Gotham City Rises - how Gotham City was built using massive sets which included a freeway, and enhanced with digital graphics. We also learn about the sourcing of a Wayne Manor equivalent, and the building of the batcave to resemble a real cavern, coupled with the difficulties with lighting the sets. It makes you appreciate that no effort is spared in creating the sets which serve as realistic as possible the backdrop for the movie. Remember, Gotham City itself is a character.
Runs 12 mins 45s.

Page 8 Panel 1. short writeup on costume.

Page 8 Panel 2, click on Batman's reflection in a puddle of water.
This is a Finders Keepers Easter Egg running 2 mins and 25s, presenting itself as Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences Division Testing Labs. Contains the test driving of The Tumbler, various uses and tests done on the cape, observing stunt people put through the motion of stunts in the film like the fights and the torching of the batsuit.

Page 8 Panel 3, short writeup on the Batmobile.

Page 9, mouseover to highlight the names of the villains for more of their respective character bios.

Page 9, click on Ducard.
Path to Discovery - a documentary running 14mins 13s which focuses on Bruce Wayne, and largely details the filming of the big action sequences in Iceland.

Page 11, click on Batman
Shaping Mind and Body explains and showcases the adopted fighting style of Batman, the relatively new Keysi Fighting Method, which is fast, brutal, and allows for much creativity in designing the various fight sequences. Runs 12 mins 45s, and we're told that Bale has such a photographic memory, he can master 20 sequences in a short period of time, much to the surprise and envy of the stunt master.

Page 12, click on Panel 2
Genesis of the Bat running at 14mins 50s takes a look at the source material of Batman - the comic books. It's a must watch for comic book fans as it contains interviews with the industry folks, like Dennis O Neil and illustrators such as Jim Lee. It also flips through the pages of the three books with primary inspiration for the movie - Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Year One, and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween. Recommended reading those 3 books.

Also on Page 12 Panel 2 is a link to a poster gallery, which contains only 3 poster pictorials, and I thought there were more, as Batman Begins had probably one of the largest poster gallery out there.

Page 13 Panel 2 has a link to the character bios of Lucius Fox.

Page 14, click on the Batmobile
Batman The Tumbler making-of which details the creation of the Batmobile, from the concept state in Nolan's garage, to the actual building of the 2 ton monstrous tank and putting it through its paces in various test drives in various stages of production. The stunt driver is the envy of everyone as he actually gets to drive the car at high speeds up to 130miles per hour (and they were filming the chase sequence at that speed!), and it is clear that this is a vehicle everyone desires. Clocks in at 13 mins 36s

Also on Page 14 is the character bios of Alfred Pennyworth.

Page 15, click on Batman.
Saving Gotham City details the large train sequence in the finale, and how the entire shot was put together using live action, miniature sets, CGI, and stunt teams to make it as realistic as possible. Runs 12 mins 55s.

All in all, a decent production package put together for the special features disc. Now if only someone had remembered to put in ENGLISH menus and text as well.

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