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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Batman - 20th Anniversary Edition

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#1 of 9 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 15 2009 - 06:08 AM

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20th Anniversary Edition

Year: 1989
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2h06m
Release Date: May 19, 2009

Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1480i or 480p standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 2.0, Spanish (Castillian 2.0 and Latin 1.0), German 2.0, Italian 2.0, Portuguese 1.0Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish (movie and select bonus material)

Note: Portions of this review include material from MattH.'s review of "Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology" on Blu-Ray. The entirety of that review can be read here.

The Feature: 4/5
Crime plagues the city of Gotham, but a mysterious, costumed vigilante name Batman (Michael Keaton) is beginning to change things, finally putting fear in the hearts of those who prey on the innocent. But the city's crime scene takes a bizarre turn when a new boss shows up. With his garish jester's face and a deadly unpredictability, the Joker (Jack Nicholson) eventually holds the entire city hostage with his Smilex nerve gas, a toxin that leaves its victims dead with a telltale, maniacal grin. Though Batman may soon find a way to stop the Joker, Batman as Bruce Wayne has a growing relationship with photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), complicating a battle that at one time may have been relatively simple.

Though it embraces darkness and eschews the camp of the 1960s version of the Caped Crusader, director Tim Burton's "Batman" has a distinctly comic book quality compared to the most recent incarnation from director Christopher Nolan. In no way a bad thing, Burton's version holds up well after 20 years, the things that date it being inherently subject to aging (some special effects techniques, costuming, hairstyles and fashion). Though some of the film's violence and situations are cartoonish, the '60s and '00s versions of Batman reveal the late '80s incarnation as perhaps the most balanced, capturing the dark pathos of the character but without foregoing the fun. Though the direction and quality of the sequels are debatable, the uniform appreciation of the first film (of what was then a remarkable reimagining of the character) is more than deserved.

Video Quality: 3.5/5
Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec, the film image fills the entirety of my 16:9 display despite package labeling the aspect ratio as 1.85:1. Grain structure is nicely preserved with no obvious signs of noise reduction. Fine object detail and texture are good - strands of hair and skin texture are notable for their clarity, though wide shots lack an equivalent amount of detail. Black levels can be inconsistent - at times they are appropriately inky but at others more gray than black. Overall sharpness is good though, excepting a few obvious special effects composite shots, and there's a good three-dimensionality to the image, thanks in part to the production's copious use of smoke and fog. Edge enhancement or signs of excessive digital sharpening is also absent.

Audio Quality: 3/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio track offers minimal activity in the surround channels, with the bulk of activity occuring across the front array with occasional panning and localized effects. LFE is non-existent. Though bass activity is heavy at times, it tends to sound quite thick and boomy, lacking much in the way of subtlety. Dialogue, however, is consistently detailed and intelligible.

Special Features: 4.5/5
Content review by MattH.

Tim Burton’s audio commentary is a very worthwhile listen. Never at a loss for words even when he stumbles over his own enthusiasm constantly, the track is well worth the time for fans of the movie.

“On the Set with Bob Kane” is a too-brief 2½ minutes with Batman creator Bob Kane sharing his original ideas for the character and expressing his delight with the finished film.

“Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman” is a comprehensive 40½-minute condensation of the original character’s transformations through the decades with many comic book experts sharing their ideas about the character’s changing persona.

“Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight” is a three part distillation of the making of the picture. “The Road to Gotham City” runs 17¾ minutes detailing the ten year journey of the script to its production stage. “The Gathering Storm” offers 23 minutes about the casting of the movie (including actress Sean Young’s departure and replacement by Kim Basinger) and the cast’s unanimous praise for director Tim Burton. “The Legend Reborn” is a 31-minute behind-the-scenes look at the filming with many key people in front of and behind the camera describing their work.

“Beyond Batman” is a gallery of featurettes offering in-depth discussions about the production design and cinematography (10 ½ minutes), the construction of the Batmobile (9½ minutes), the dazzling array of props and gadgets in the movie (6 minutes), the construction of the batsuit (7 minutes), the extensive make-up for Jack Nicholson’s The Joker (10½ minutes), and Danny Elfman’s wonderful music score (7 minutes).

“The Heroes and the Villains: Profile Galleries” allows the viewer to select a series of brief cinematic profiles of the characters and the actors portraying them. On the Heroes side are Batman, Vicki Vale, Alexander Knox, Commissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent (if chosen to view all, the featurette runs 12½ minutes), and the two Villains noted are The Joker and Bob the Goon (together running for 7¼ minutes).

A storyboard sequence for an unfilmed Robin subplot is available for scrutinizing. Dialog, music, and audio effects have been created to go with the storyboards in this 4½-minute segment.

The original theatrical trailer runs 1¾ minutes.

Three music videos by Prince can be watched individually. “Batdance” runs 7 minutes. “Partyman” lasts 4 minutes. “Scandalous” runs 4¼ minutes.

The set offers a digital copy of Batman. It can be used with both PC and Mac devices with instructions in the box for installation.

Integrated into the now familiar, but still somewhat divisive, Warner "Digibook" packaging, the commemorative booklet includes essays, cast bios, script and comic excerpts, and photographs that provide a nice tribute and retrospective on the film.

Title Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

The first film of the previous "Batman" franchise - now available in a high definition release independent of its sequels - gets decent (but not great) video and audio, and an impressive range of special features. Those who passed on the previously released "Motion Picture Anthology" because it included the less popular sequels should be pleased with this standalone title.
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#2 of 9 Jeff_HR



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Posted May 19 2009 - 03:00 AM

Thanks for the review. I bought this stand alone instead of the box. Posted Image
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#3 of 9 TheBat



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Posted May 19 2009 - 08:41 AM

thanks for the review. I am also a huge fan of this movie over the new nolan films.


#4 of 9 Nicholas Martin

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Posted May 19 2009 - 10:01 AM

Originally Posted by TheBat
thanks for the review. I am also a huge fan of this movie over the new nolan films.


I'm not, in any sense of the word but I'm glad to see this get a nice anniversary edition. I still have the 'making of' book that is sampled in this.

#5 of 9 Joe Karlosi

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Posted May 19 2009 - 10:46 AM

I like this much better than the Nolan films, and I'm glad I'll be able to buy it individually.

#6 of 9 Guest__*

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Posted May 16 2012 - 04:13 AM

This film has a 2-word advantage over the Nolan films: Kim Basinger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#7 of 9 Johnny Angell

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Posted May 17 2012 - 04:21 AM

I thought I'd buy this after reading the review, then I saw that Amazon wants $28 for it. The Camel-Camel price history indicates it's been as low as $13 and change. Guess I'll wait on this one. I always liked this film, didn't care for any of the others.
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#8 of 9 Osato



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Posted May 18 2012 - 06:28 AM

Love the older Batman films in addition to the great Nolan ones. I picked the Anthology Batman blu ray set a few years back and have not been disappointed with any of the films picture or audio. Usually at least once a year I end up watching all of the films in the set. Might be time to do this! : )

#9 of 9 Fabien Renelli

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Posted May 18 2012 - 10:20 AM

Just love the movie, along with the rest of this 90s franchise.
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