As the holiday season approaches, Warner Home Video rolls out the first of its “big box o’ stuff” collector’s editions, with more scheduled to follow. Not surprisingly, this iteration for the Dark Knight Trilogy has its share of interesting and mundane bonus items, depending on one’s interests. But ultimately, few outside of the die hard Batman collector will see the product as a “must have,” especially considering five of the six discs are mere re-pressings of prior releases.
Given the already extensive coverage of the Dark Knight films, this review draws on previous HTF articles on the Dark Knight Blu-ray releases – Michael Osadciw’s write-up on Batman Begins, my evaluation of The Dark Knight, and Ken McAlinden’s piece on The Dark Knight Rises. For the sake of brevity, I’ve chosen not to do a wholesale import of their content into this review, instead including selected comments. Those looking for complete evaluations should follow the links to the full reviews.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/VC-1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Run Time: 2 Hr. 20 Min. / 2 Hr. 33 Min. / 2 Hr. 45 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/24/2013
Batman Begins returns the Dark Knight to the screen the way that I expected: Dark, gloomy, and full of solid, super hero action. – Osadciw
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
With its commercial and artistic success, The Dark Knight has joined the distinguished ranks of other successful sequels like The Empire Strikes Back, T2 and The Godfather Part II. While I personally prefer Batman Begins (I love origin stories) I can't deny The Dark Knight is in many ways more exciting and more profound. – Yee
For fans of both of the previous films in the series, The Dark Knight Rises proves a fitting and satisfying conclusion. The emphasis in the previous sentence should be on the word “both,” as this film is designed to bring the events from its predecessors full circle. – McAlinden
One of the telltale signs the previous releases have been re-pressed for this edition is the use of the VC-1 codec on the first two films’ transfers. Originally released on HD-DVD in 2006, Batman Begins probably looks the most long in the tooth. The Dark Knight, when it debuted on Blu-ray in 2008, generated a fair bit of controversy because of its shifting aspect ratios, as well as complaints about edge ringing. Those clamoring for do-overs on both films will probably be most disappointed by the title repackaging for this collection, though, for what it’s worth, here’s what HTF’s reviewers had to say about their video quality at the time.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Just awesome. This is a fine looking video presentation that brings film to home. Its finely textured images are resolved with precision on this amazing high definition image. Depth, clarity, image contrast, and colours are all displayed with accuracy, so it seems. Black level is deep and shadow detail is exceptional. I’d recommend viewing this film in a dark room for the best experience. – Osadciw
The Dark Knight
What impresses first is the excellent detail and sharpness - from skin texture to strands of hair – certainly with the finer grain IMAX footage but also with the conventional 35mm material. The grain structure on the latter is more apparent, but I found its visibility reassuring, a sign of the lack of noise reduction. Black levels are equally impressive, their depth and inkiness being particularly important given the naturalistic, available light cinematography that defines the film's look. Colors – though somewhat limited in use – also have very good depth and saturation. – Yee
The Dark Knight Rises
The darker scenes, particularly in the 35mm sequences occasionally get a bit murky, but this does not appear to be a video encoding artifact, and viewed with a properly calibrated system under appropriate lighting conditions, appears to be within the range of cinematic intent. I noticed no specific video artifacts or other obvious shortcomings. – McAlinden
Another sign the previously authored discs have been passed along unaltered is the defaulting to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, instead of the lossless Dolby TrueHD option, for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But outside of this disc set up issue, viewers should find the audio presentation for all three films holds up quite well.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
As expected, there is plenty of surround use during action sequences but even quiet moments can have room ambiance to increase depth perception. What is disappointing about the soundtrack in general is dynamic range – the differences between quiet sounds and loud sounds aren’t that dramatic making the soundtrack sound a bit compressed. – Osadciw
The Dark Knight
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is highly immersive, offering beautifully seamless directional effects, clean and clear dialogue and deep and powerful LFE. The latter element will probably impress the most, being used aggressively but effectively in both atmospheric and environmental sound effects. Whizzing bullets, caped crusader flyovers and enveloping echo effects will also leave their mark. – Yee
The Dark Knight Rises
The sound is every bit as impressive as the video presentation with an immersive mix that exploits the entire surround field rendered with outstanding fidelity throughout the whisper-to-scream dynamic range. – McAlinden
Rather than detail every extra spread across the set’s six discs (information that can be found on the individual title reviews), this section focuses on new bonus material exclusive to the collection, a mix of physical items and video content on the collection's sixth disc.
Special Features Rating: 5/5
Given the sheer quantity of both new and old material, it’s hard not to grant the release a high score for its extras, though ultimately one’s inherent interest in special features will determine the content’s replay value. Personally, the feature I’d most likely return to is the IMAX Sequences, if only to spare myself swapping discs to watch some of the best scenes from the last two films.
Packaging: The discs and physical materials are housed in a sturdy cardboard box measuring 11.5” x 8” x 3”, a shelf-hogging footprint many are familiar with after several years of similar releases. The discs themselves are kept in a handsomely printed and bound hardcover book sized to fit inside the box, with each disc sliding into die-cut slots on the pages.
Letter from Christopher Nolan: The director reflects on being given “the keys to one of Warner Bros.’ most prized assets.”
The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of the Dark Knight Trilogy (1:16:48, HD): The retrospective documentary covers the development, casting, and production of the films, through interviews with the creative team, Nolan’s filmmaking contemporaries, and the critical press, alongside various behind the scenes and archival footage. There isn’t much new territory covered (though the previously unreleased screen test of Christian Bale in Val Kilmer’s old Batman costume is interesting), and none of the cast is included in the interviews, but the piece is slickly produced, offering a consolidated view of almost a decade of production on the franchise.
Christopher Nolan and Richard Donner: A Conversation (25:11, HD): Nolan cites Donner, who directed 1978’s Superman (and part of its sequel), as an inspiration, so he sits down with the director to discuss common ground, shared visions, and approaches to adapting comic book source material.
IMAX Sequences: Those who complained the IMAX footage on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises was framed at 1.78:1, instead of the format’s native 1.44:1, finally get what they asked for, presented in 1080p with the AVC codec and with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I suspect, however, some viewers will be a little let down by the experience (be careful what you wish for!), since no matter how grand one’s home theater, it’s still not a five-story IMAX screen.
As a technical curiosity and for comparison purposes, however, the footage remains of interest. In some shots there’s obvious corner vignetting from the lenses used. There’s also extra headroom in many of the medium shots and close ups of people, which on an IMAX screen would occupy the peripheral areas of one’s field of view.
The other benefit of the collection of scenes is that it aggregates the films’ most visually dynamic and thrilling set pieces, giving viewers a “jukebox” style interface to watch some of their favorite moments. The only thing lacking is a "play all" button.
The Dark Knight
- Prologue (6:26, HD)
- Hong Kong (3:53, HD)
- The Armored Car Chase (8:30, HD)
- The Lamborghini Crash (7:58, HD)
- The Prewitt Building (7:25, HD)
- The Dark Knight (2:44, HD)
- The Prologue (5:49, HD)
- Dive Bar Fight (4:00, HD)
- Gotham Exchange Heist / Return of the Batman (10:04, HD)
- Escape in the Bat (2:35, HD)
- Batman vs. Bane (6:05, HD)
- Reactor Breach (:54, HD)
- Let the Games Begin (9:30, HD)
- Bane’s Revolution (4:45, HD)
- The First Attempt (1:47, HD)
- Rise (1:50, HD)
- Kangaroo Court (1:27, HD)
- Back in the Game (5:00, HD)
- The Battle for Gotham City (5:15, HD)
- Stopping the Bomb (4:32, HD)
- Rising from the Abyss (6:59, HD)
Collectible Art Cards: A set of five illustrations of the films’ villains.
Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Hot Wheel recreations of the Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler.
UltraViolet: Redeem by September 24, 2015.
Warner Home Video rolls out the big box treatment for the Dark Knight Trilogy, and like the other titles to get the Ultimate Collector’s Edition label, it’s bound to appeal less to the average consumer and more to the die hard collector. That five of the six discs are merely re-pressings of previous releases makes it questionably deserving of the “ultimate” moniker, not to mention less of an overall enticement for those who already own the films. Consequently, it’s hard to recommend the release for just anyone, though that may fit perfectly within Warner Home Video’s vision of the title's target market.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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