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Batman Begins (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Christopher Nolan released his tenth directed feature film in 2017, the escape/evacuation World War II thriller chronicling the events of Dunkirk. Being well regarded as one of the best directors of the the twenty first century; one of the rare breed who manages to consistently please the general audience and critical one alike. Breaking out with Memento and finding major success in reinventing Batman on the big screen, Nolan has been an influential voice in cinema and made many modern classics. Commemorating ten films, Warner Bros has put together a box set containing the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of the segment of his work from Batman Begins to Dunkirk. Releasing on December 19th, you have the option for a full box set, individual releases or a trilogy set with just the Dark Knight films. We have already reviewed the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-rays of Dunkirk and Interstellar and will continue with the Batman trilogy and Inception (We were not sent The Prestige for review). In this review, we cover Batman Begins.

Film 

A young Bruce Wayne travels to the Far East, where he’s trained in the martial arts by Henri Ducard, a member of the mysterious League of Shadows. When Ducard reveals the League’s true purpose — the complete destruction of Gotham City — Wayne returns to Gotham intent on cleaning up the city without resorting to murder. With the help of Alfred, his loyal butler, and Lucius Fox, a tech expert at Wayne Enterprises, Batman is born.

Batman is my favorite superhero of all time, which I guess makes me pretty much like most of the population. I grew up on reruns of the 1966 television series, read comics and had my “Star Wars-like” cinematic ecstasy in 1989 when I saw Tim Burton’s film in theaters. Coming into this review, I had the realization that in the five years I’ve been writing about films and doing reviews, I have not written much about the caped crusader. That’s not some calculated choice, its just not happened and writing about stuff you love can be a challenge to yourself in trying not to just sit and fawn over something with your words. But, that changes now, as I write about the film I saw in theaters four times in the summer of 2005.

What a different world it was for movies back in 2005. I was super hyped for Batman Begins. One of my favorite new directors (I was and still am OBSESSED with Memento) was going to make the new Batman film. Since 1997, there had been starts and stops, different directors attached and many different scripts to do something new with Batman. From Darren Aronofsky being attached to a constantly referenced script called Batman: The Intimidation Game, something was going to happen to start us afresh and distance things from Batman & Robin that effectively killed the franchise. Back in 2005 though, you had to convince and assure general movie goers that this was a NEW Batman film that had nothing to do with the previous ones. It was restarting everything. And people were also hesitant, even given that fact, to return to Batman because of Joel Schumacher’s last outing. Really strange, I know, but you have to realize, this is the film that created the modern reboot. Nolan’s film was also considered to be a bit of risk back then too. Its all very weird sounding when you look back at it, but its true.

At the time of release, Spider-Man, X-Men and some other Marvel properties like The Punisher, Hulk and Daredevil were headlining the world of comic book movies.  DC had already had its films in a similar vein, so Nolan and wirter David Goyer decided to pull from their favorite comic book sources (Year One, The Long Halloween) and take them in a very practical approach. Each piece of Batman’s suit would make sense, there’s a reason he’s good at fighting and you could almost seeing this as a real life possibility somewhere, somehow. They brought on Scarecrow in a unique fashion both true to the character and the universe. They would use A-level Rogues gallery villains, or at least ones the public was on a first name basis with. Like people thought of Burton’s 1989, it was taking the material seriously and going for the “dark and gritty” approach back when it was okay to use that terminology.

Christian Bale was selected as Batman, and while us film fans all pour one out for Empire of the Sun, he wasn’t a real household name. So just as is tradition since Donner’s Superman, the rest of the cast was absolutely stacked with name veteran actors and stars.  Even in smaller parts, you get people like Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe or Linus Roache playing them. This cast also just really gels and would continue to throughout the series. One thing these movies and Nolan’s work in general gets accused of is being ultra-serious with zero jokes. Its a complete falsehood and one quick look at a scene featuring Michael Caine or Morgan Freeman will dispel that notion. Hell, even Christian Bale has some fun comedic moments in this movie and has this nice twinkle in his eye of facetiousness every time he’s in a fancy suit and tie.

Bruce Wayne’s first adventure is quite an ambitious one and for the most part, Christopher Nolan is quite up to task being at the helm of his first major studio blockbuster.  Where the film is kind of lacking is in its coverage on action scenes; something that Nolan would continue to improve as he goes on and immediately sees a lot of progress in the sequel. But, in lacking there, he more than makes up for it with a well thought out and executed plot complimented by superb performances and well done dramatic scenes. Hell, people always bump super hero movies when they have too many villains, but this movie has four recognizable villains from the comics, woven together in this plot with such each. I always point to this one when I hear the “too many villains” complaint, as no one ever realizes it because its done so well.

I hadn’t gone back to this movie in a couple years and instantly upon my return I was struck by how much I love it again. It clearly gets overshadowed for various reasons by the two films that follow it, but its an outstanding one in its own right as a superhero film or just a film plain and simple. When it came out I was a little bummed that while Tim Burton’s Batman will forever be my favorite comic book superhero movie and Batman movie (Few movies have had an impact on my life and love of cinema as that one), I realized this was a better movie. However, why compare awesome Batman movies, eh? Just enjoy them. And enjoy I did as I continually returned to the theater to see this movie back in 2005.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Batman Begins was formerly on the old VC-1 codec in its Blu-ray form and now jumps to the HEVC / H.265 for 4K. While I do stand by that this is a clear upgrade any way you shake it, its an underwhelming one. It feels like this could have been crisper, appearing kind of soft at times. There also appears like there has been some DNR applied in some areas. The image does look more filled out and solid in this new transfer and the details and textures are impressive. There’s just something about it, keeping it from appearing stronger than it should. I know this one had its problems when it came out on Blu-ray, but I feel we could still get better on Batman Begins. This is a definite improvement, but improvements could be made on this one.

Depth:  Dimensional work is solid here, with some really good looking sweeping shots of the city and the Narrows. Movements are smoother and look very cinematic in their nature. No blurring or jitter distortions with quicker, rapid movements occurs.

Black Levels: Blacks on this one are dark and consuming. Sometimes their saturation is all up to snuff. There are moments where it does feel brightened. There was a moment where there was a medium shot on Christian Bale and you got the back of Katie Holmes head and her hair was really lacking in terms of detail with what looked like a little bit of crush.

Color Reproduction: Colors hold a life-like look in this image, with really strong, full looking rustic colors like browns and the like. HDR gets put to use with explosions/fire, neon lights and some of the fear induced visions in the narrows. Blue is a strong color early on, highlighted by some rich looking and well saturated ice and a flower that is picked.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent look from start to finish of the film. The overall facial color is much stronger here and full than was before. Facial details such as stubble, blemishes, dried blood, wrinkles and are visible with ease.

Noise/Artifacts: Some light grain is still apparent.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin America)

Dynamics: Batman Begins boasts the original theatrical mix in 5.1, now on a DTS-HD Master Audio track (Previously Dolby TrueHD).  Some may be disappointed these Nolan films aren’t equipped with a new Atmos mix, but Nolan is a purist and this is how he executed and originally envisioned the film. Begins 5.1 in a pretty inclusive mix that has a jump in intensity with some of the big action as well as Hans Zimmer scoring hits. This is a nice, loose mix with the vocals, sound effects and score all feeling a nice separation and freedom from one another. The 5.1 gets the trick done and makes for a good experience.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer gets some good rev’s with the Tumbler on screen roaring around as well as with some gunfire, explosions, punches and Zimmer booms.

Surround Sound Presentation: Rear speakers get some unique contributions to add to some fight/action sequences and also provide good ambiance to pump through the speakers. Mostly, the big stuff comes through the front which provides accurate movement and placement of volume to coincide with the positioning of what is going on onscreen.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clear. Sometimes they can seem a hair low in the mix, but I feel that’s in the source and by design.

Extras 

Batman Begins is an 3-Disc set containing the 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy. All bonus materials are featured on the second standard Blu-ray disc.

The Dark Knight IMAX Prologue (HD, 6:37) 

Behind The Story

  • Tankman Begins (SD, 5:13)
  • The Journey Begins (SD, 14:17)
  • Shaping Mind and Body (SD, 12:50)
  • Gotham City Rises (SD, 12:49) 
  • Cape and Cowl (SD, 8:18) 
  • Batman-The Tumbler (SD, 13:40)
  • Path To Discovery (SD, 14:14)
  • Saving Gotham City (SD, 13:01)
  • Genesis of the Bat (SD, 14:54)

Additional Footage

  • Reflections on Writing (SD, 1:57)
  • Digital Batman (SD, 1:06)
  • Batman Begins Stunts (SD, 2:30)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:13)

Summary 

Batman Begins is a hell of a successful motion picture and a very influential film on our film culture even still to this day for better and for worse. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray edition does find itself as an upgrade, but I can’t help but feel there was some unnecessary tinkering and the image could have looked better. Regardless, it does see a jump in quality and all the extras are intact. Batman Begins is one of those titles that you’re going to upgrade and have the most current format of anyway, whether it be a big difference or just a minimal one.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Batman Begins (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Steve

    “and not jumps to the HEVC / H.265 for 4K.”

    Should read “and NOW jumps”

    You can delete this comment after you’ve read it, happy holidays!

  2. Brian White

    Man I was hoping for a 4 in video 🙂
    Do you have your receiver mixed where the DTS track can bleed into the height channels?
    Watched American Made on 4K last night and audio was amaze balls. I love the DTS-X tracks so much more than Atmos for some reason.