Batman Begins—Warner Bros. (Blu-ray)

Video: 4.5/5
Audio: 4.75/5
Extras: 3.75/5

Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight's emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents' murder disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman a masked crusader who uses his strength intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.

I must say that it takes a lot of guts for a studio like Warner Bros to release a film that technically has already been done. The Batman franchise already ran its course starting in the late eighties with Tim Burton’s masterpiece and ending with Schumacher’s tragedy. Instead of relocating this series to straight to video fare, Warner did the surprising and completely re-entered the story from a totally fresh start. Batman Begins may be the best comic adaptation film I’ve seen to date. Mainly because it never feels like I’m watching a comic movie at all, but rather a great drama and action film. Christopher Nolan put together a fantastic cast and made a movie that stands firmly in reality and stays away from most (but not all) the clichs. Instead we get characters that make sense, situations that feel far more real and pure visual splendor. Can’t wait for The Dark Knight.

When Warner first delivered this on HD DVD I was quite pleased with the results. It’s been awhile now and I was wondering how well this direct port would hold up compared to the newer HD releases we’ve been seeing. Thankfully, it still holds up quite well. The image has a great sense of dimension and depth and contrast is exceptional. This film has a very dark look and the blacks are very deep but shadow detail is preserved beautifully. The filming style does lend to a somewhat softer look at times but fine detail is still quite good in close ups and longer shots. There are a few moments when fine detail in character’s faces seems a tad low but it is hardly distracting. Overall this is still a great looking HD presentation.

Like the video, Warner has ported over the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. This has always been one of the stronger mixes from Warner and it sounds just as good on Blu-ray as it did on HD DVD. The soundtrack has incredible dynamics and is very bass rich. The soundstage has a very open quality and I love the use of the surrounds in the sound design, especially during the sequences with “Scarecrow”. Dialogue is balanced nicely with the rest of the track and the score is never overpowering.

Extras are largely the same as the previous HD DVD release but there are some new goodies that tie-in to the upcoming sequel. The most notable is the inclusion of the prelude that was screened in IMAX before I Am Legend last December. I was blown away with the video from this when I saw it in IMAX and it looks astounding on this Blu-ray release. Warner has opened the matte up slightly to 1.66:1 for this presentation and since the new film has several sequences shot in IMAXI REALLY hope they intermix the aspect ratios for the eventual Blu-ray release to keep the incredible vertical resolution offered by the IMAX format.

The rest of the extras are the same as the HD DVD release and include a decent Picture-In-Picture option with interviews, production footage and insights into the film. There are also PLENTY of production features that go into locations, vehicle and suit designs, interviews, set creation and more. You also get the spoof from the MTV Movie Awards and the theatrical trailers and teasers.

For this review I got the limited edition box set that also included some postcards, a comic version of the Dark Knight prelude and a free movie ticket to the upcoming sequel. The packaging is also a bit different with a themed box.

This one has been a long time coming to Blu-ray and Warner has delivered a great A/V presentation. I love the fact that they included the IMAX prelude for the new film and it alone made this one worth upgrading to over the previous HD DVD release. Highly recommended.