The best "Batman" movie of the series, "Batman Begins" suits the HD-DVD transfer magnificently. Director Christopher Nolan juggles a multi-time narrative with panache and the settings (the ice mountains of an Asian country, a shadowy dojo, the dark nether-regions of an infested urban metropolis) glisten with clarity. This is quite a nightmarish vision and, certainly, a dark movie in more ways than one. With the Hi-Def transfer, the dark is opened up and it avoids the splotchy shadows that invades your typical 'black' on film. The sequence towards the end of the film, when Scarecrow (played to hammy villianness by Cillian Murphy) unleashes his psychotic image-inducing gas on Gotham is especially vibrant in the way Hi-Def layers the pixel quality for full maximum effect. Bottom line, my last viewing of "Batman Begins" was in the movie theater in 35MM and this film just looks better on HD.
Another terrific transfer belongs to Lawrence Kasdan's epic 3 hour plus western, "Wyatt Earp". While a litttle too much time is spent on the early days of Earp, the visual quality is outstanding. It's pretty damn hard to beat the wide open vistas that most westerns place front and center, but with "Wyatt Earp" this was my first experience of seeing these expansive landscapes in the new format. There are several shots here that blew me away with color and definition. A seemingly throwaway shot, there's a simple lateral pan outside of a cabin where a flower garden is growing and the color is breathtaking. It's the small moments like these that make me appreciate the precision of Hi-Def.
Lady In the Water
M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady In the Water" pretty much got hammered about the box office due to bad word of mouth from audiences and critics. I'm definitely in the minority, but I've always thought it was a moving and entertaining fairy tale. But between this venture and the failed "The Village" from a few years earlier, these two films have pretty much sidelined him as a major player in Hollywood. As far as the Hi-Def transfer goes, it's largey unremarkable. I notice very few differences between this version and the standard DVD format. Christopher Doyle's cinematography seems ripe for Hi-def exploitation, but the film's images feel flat and desaturated. Shyamalan is known for his creative use of color, and even that's barely explored in the transfer. Disappointment.