El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BATMAN BEGINS (Limited Edition Gift Set)


Just in time for The Dark Knight marketing onslaught, Warner Brothers has re-released a Limited Edition Gift Set of Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the franchise. It’s a very good movie, but is the double-dip worth it?

Eight years after the damage done to Batman from the one-two combination of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin by the equally villainous and inept filmmaking team of director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer put a new spin on the movies, adding a realism and darkness to the story.

As the title reveals, Batman Begins presents the hero’s origin. It opens with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in an Asian prison where Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) approaches him to join The League of Shadows, a mysterious ninja group led by Ra's al Ghul. Wayne agrees and receives the martial arts training that creates the physical prowess of Batman, while flashbacks reveal what shaped him mentally. He breaks from the group when he learns that his mission is to destroy Gotham City due to its being so corrupt and rotten. According to group, only then can it be rebuilt.

Wayne instead returns to clean up the city, which is under the control of gangster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Wayne, with the help of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), uses the technological resources of Wayne Enterprises to become a caped crusader. He also receives crucial assistance from family butler Alfred (Michael Caine); Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of the few honest cops; and his childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), now an assistant district attorney.

However, Falcone isn’t working alone either. He has a more powerful partner that wants to take control of the city and is willing to go to extremes to see his plan and the citizens of Gotham executed.

Nolan and his team have created a marvelous universe for Batman to take place in. The story rises above the previous films because it’s not just an action/adventure tale. It strives to be deeper as the theme of dealing with fear runs throughout it. Upon reflection, there’s a major flaw in the logic of the main villain’s plan, but it speaks to the character’s sanity.

The entire cast delivers great performances, which is not a surprise for such a talented ensemble. Holmes received a lot of negative criticism, but I thought she was just fine for a role that didn’t require much and don’t see what the complaints were. However, I am in the minority as Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Dawes in the new film.

The advertising team for this new release should be embarrassed because the marketing language is rather silly. They trumpet this gift set as one-of-a-kind and inform consumers they only have a limited time to buy it, which is laughable considering how lame the extras are. Aside from the previously released 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, this new set offers lenticular art of the DVD cover image and five collectible postcards with images that aren’t anything special, so I am not sure who would be collecting them.

No surprise that this release is part of The Dark Knight promotion, but the related items are pretty poor and show a surprising lack of imagination. There’s a 128MB flash drive loaded with 18 images from the new movie and an exclusive two-minute sneak peak on one of the DVDs, which may be of value if you don’t have access to the Internet as The Dark Knight may possibly be the most marketed film of the year. The last and least bonus is movie money to see The Dark Knight, but it’s only a $7.50 value that has to be used within a month. That’s not even full price to most matinees at the nice theatres in Southern California.

For those who already own Batman Begins, there’s no reason to pick this up regardless of how obsessive your fandom is. If you don’t own it and are thinking of buying it, go back and find the two-disc deluxe edition that came out in 2005 because that came with a small booklet filled with the stories that influenced the film. It features Detective Comics #27, the first Batman story; the Secret Origin story “The Man Who Falls”; and an excerpt from Batman: The Long Halloween. For some reason though, it is missing Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which was surely just as influential.

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