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Batman Begins’ DVD offers more than expected

Mark Bemenderfer | Friday, December 2, 2005

Adam West move over, there’s a new Batman in town.

In the recent DVD release “Batman Begins,” Christian Bale assumes the identity of the caped crusader to spectacular effect. Set as an introduction of sorts to the Batman mythology, “Begins” is the perfect movie for the uninitiated and the avid comic fan alike.

The first thing that “Begins” does is to set itself apart from the other Batman films, mainly the ones helmed by Tim Burton. It follows a more faithful translation of the comic, depicting the murder of Bruce’s parents in a way that followed the Dark Knight comics. It also follows the comic more faithfully in other ways as well, particularly in Batman’s refusal to kill.

For those who don’t know Batman from Man-Bat, Batman is really the fictional millionaire Bruce Wayne. He lived in Gotham City with his loving parents, and his life was perfect up until a fateful night following a stage performance. It was then that his parents were killed before his eyes in a bumbled robbery. This in turn set Bruce on his path to becoming Batman, the bane of criminals everywhere.

The movie dedicates much of its running time to depicting Bruce’s transformation into Batman. The Batman costume isn’t even seen until around an hour into it.

Instead, the time is spent on developing first how Bruce gained his hatred for criminals, and then how he became trained to combat them.

Many characters went into influencing Bruce’s transformation, including his father Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache), his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), among others. However, the majority of his transformation occurs due to two characters. The first is Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). Holmes feels unconvincing in her role as Rachel, and while she does a decent job, it feels a little lacking.

The second influence on Bruce’s life was Henri Ducard, played fantastically by Liam Neeson. The role of mentor is one Neeson is familiar with, having taken a similar role in “Star Wars: Episode 1.” Neeson does a great job of portraying a person with a background similar to Bruce’s, one whose loved ones were taken away by violence.

The secondary characters were all solid, and played by respectable actors. Gary Oldman played Jim Gordon, a staple of the Batman comic. Since this is “Batman Begins,” Gordon is not the highly ranked police official he is in the standard comic. Instead, the movie depicts Gordon as a lowly grunt, the single good cop in a town of corrupt or inefficient police.

Cillian Murphy plays the criminally under-used Dr. Jonathan Crane. Delegated to a supporting role within the movie, this Batman villain steals the scene every time he makes an appearance, and hopefully makes a return in the sequel.

There are two DVDs on the market – a sparse standard edition and the special edition. For the money, the special edition is the superior choice. It comes with a second disk that contains many special features, commentaries, and behind-the-scene technical showcases. It also comes with a special comic book that has snippets of the influential Batman comics. However, there were some legal issues with the comic, forcing the special edition to be discontinued.

There are still some special editions left to be found though, making it a decent holiday purchase.

“Batman Begins” is a great movie for everyone. It’s a super-hero movie done correctly, with a compelling lead and storyline. But if you decide to pick it up, pick up the standard edition at your own risk. There may not be enough “Batman” to fill your craving.