REVIEW: "THE ART OF BATMAN BEGINS"

Author: Paul J. Wares

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THE ART OF BATMAN BEGINS

Sunday, June 12, 2005: Over the coming weeks I shall attempt to guide you through the plethora of merchandising goodies. I shan’t be covering everything; simply the stuff that I feel is worth buying (unless any license holders wish to send me any products they would like me to review ;) ).

We start with ‘The Art of Batman Begins’ – By Mark Cotta Vaz. This is the first book released to tie in with the movie that has been directed at an older market. The junior novel and several other books aimed at children have been released for a while now, but as my son is a way off reading age, I thought I’d stick to more mature related reading material.

The book has yet to be released in the UK, so I ordered my copy from the international Amazon site. At $40, the book is expensive for a casual buy, but with various discounts on the Amazon site, it totals a little less.

The book is a good quality hardback with a beautiful dust cover and is very securely bound, although not fragile in the least, this is something you’ll want to keep in good condition and for me will sit proudly next to my hardback editions of ‘Batman – A complete History’ and ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. In comparison to those two books, it’s as wonderfully presented but isn’t quite as dense in information.

Cotta Vaz has a wealth of experience in writing these kinds of ‘Making of’ books and does it very well. Certainly his Making of Spider-Man books are very comprehensive indeed. However with this book he is content to sit back and let the art speak for itself, interjecting occasionally with very good – albeit concise – facts.

The book is very good, but although there is some great concept artwork, I felt some of the subjects that warranted more attention were very lean indeed. For example the Batmobile is covered quite extensively with lots of sumptuous pictures depicting it’s various development stages, including Nathan Crowley’s ‘Kit-bashed’ models, while the Batsuit and the design concepts of the villains are limited to just a few pages and aren’t very detailed (in development terms) at all. We are not shown any examples of the Batsuit designs save for the final one used in the film (in every case, without cape clips and looking much better IMO).

Maybe I’m asking too much from the book, it is an ‘Art‘ book after all not a ‘making of’ book (which is released next week), it’s just that I feel huge gaps are missing in the artistic and design stages of the film as they are presented in this time.

One thing that I really did enjoy about the book though, was a firm focus on the Production Designer. Usually in ‘making of’ books this is limited to a chapter or so, but here the Production Designer is referenced and interviewed many times over. This is a delight as I met Nathan Crowley last year and he was probably my favourite interviewee of my set visit. I spent the entire Gotham City set tour at his side and while others were off admiring the Batmobile, Nathan and I casually chatted while he leant against the after burner at the back of the vehicle he had designed. The thing that really struck me about him was his passion and enthusiasm for the film, which is also reflected here.

Overall, it is certainly a book that anyone with a big interest in movie design should pick up, but I’m not sure about the casual fan. Incidentally any Batman fan that is trying to stay spoiler free, may wish to wait until they have seen the film as the book contains a few limited spoilers. Perhaps this book is intended to complement the ‘Official Movie Guide’ in which case I would suggest picking that up first and then waiting to see if you’re thirsty for more.

I’d rate this book 7.5/10. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but felt there was a lot missing.

Next week, I shall be reviewing ‘Batman Begins – The Official Guide to the Movie’ and ‘Batman Begins: The Ultimate Visual Guide.’

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