By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 18, 2005 12:00 AM
"Batman Begins: Two-Disc Deluxe Edition" (List price: $22.95)
Release Date: Oct. 18
Comic books don't often translate into intelligent works of cinema. That's why "Batman Begins," director Christopher Nolan's revival of the Warner Bros. movie franchise, is such a delicious surprise. It's slick without being empty and smart without losing its sense of fun. Plus, with apologies to fans of Adam West and Michael Keaton, Christian Bale may be the best Batman ever.
This summer blockbuster, which also stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes, is available on DVD in two forms: The two-disc deluxe edition, which comes with numerous bonus features and a 72-page comic book, and a basic single-disc with no extras. The price difference between the two is minimal -- the two-disc's retail price is just $3 more -- so it makes good sense to opt for the deluxe treatment.
In either case, the film looks decent, but not as stellar as one would hope for such a high-profile release. For whatever reason, "Batman Begins" plays in a letter-box format even on widescreen TVs, a bummer for anyone hoping to see the shadowed streets of Gotham City in as large an aspect ratio as possible.
But load the bonus "Batman" disc into your DVD player and you'll discover one of the most exquisitely designed menu screens in recent memory. Rather than merely outlining the extras, the second DVD plays like the pages of a comic book, with each detailed frame potentially including a link to another featurette on the making of the film. Viewers with short attention spans may get frustrated by this design, but comic book geeks will be thoroughly enraptured.
Unfortunately, not all of the features are as engaging as the path that leads to them. "The Journey Begins," a look at the early stages of the movie's production, is only mildly interesting, while "Genesis of the Bat," a 15-minute exploration of the various Batman comics, will sound overly familiar to longtime lovers of Bruce Wayne's underground lair.
Still, there are enough compelling moments -- including an enjoyable behind-the-scenes glimpse at the fight scenes and stunts shot in Iceland -- to make this trip in Bale's tricked-out Batmobile more than worthwhile.
Most Inflammatory Bonus Point: On the bonus disc, click on the text that reads, "Fire-resistant body armor kept the flames at bay." That unveils a two-minute look at some of the more dangerous-looking rehearsal moments, including one in which a Batsuited stuntman's arms are set on fire. You know who could put out those flames? Aquaman.
Weirdest Quote: During the "Path to Discovery," stunt doubles for Bale and Neeson film a frightening-looking scene in which one of them nearly slides off a cliff. As a means of reassurance, producer Larry Franco interjects this comment: "It looks dangerous. It is dangerous, because anything could go wrong. But it is safe." Um, okay. Safe if you're not the guy sliding off the cliff.