Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1989) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Fantasy
Warner Brothers || PG13 - 498 minutes - $129.95 || March 10, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-03-02


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher
Writer(s): Bob Kane (characters); Various Writers
Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Palance, Danny De Vito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris O'Donnell, Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 4 Feature Commentaries
  • 24 Featurettes
  • 6-Part Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Profile Galleries
  • 9 Music Videos
  • Storyboard Sequence
  • Theatrical Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • Dolby TrueHD 5.1: English; Dolby Digital 5.1: English, French, Spanish-Latin, German, Italian, Dolby Digital 2.0: French, Spanish-Castilian, German, Italian, Portuguese; Dolby Digital 1.0: Spanish-Latin, Portuguese
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish

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.::THE FILM::.

20 years ago, Batman was king. The excitement that built up among the masses was insane as the film went on to gross over $250 million in 1989 ($445m adjusted). And there was no doubt, Tim Burton’s art deco, gothic tale took the nation by storm but with three disappointing sequels, other superhero movies like X-Men and Spider-Man took over in terms of box office, popularity and quality... that is until Christopher Nolan and Warner Brothers revived the franchise. With The Dark Knight, Batman has taken is rightful place at the top of the box office (not just amongst superhero films).

[Note: Portions of this review have been copied over from my original DVD reviews and updated for new thoughts.]

BATMAN (1989) **** / *****

Normally I don't talk about personal experiences in my reviews, but I feel this is the appropriate time to do so. Like many out there, Tim Burton's Batman has always had a place in my movie heart. It was 1989, I was 8 years old when, while on vacation to the Oregon coast with my family, my favorite comic book character was coming to life on the big screen. Luckily there was a theater in town (a classic one to boot) where my parents took me to what was not only a movie experience, but also my very first PG-13 film which, though not on the same level, but something a kid will remember feeling a bit special, almost as if getting beyond some invisible velvet rope.

Point is, I always felt that Batman was a great movie. A great, iconic character matching up with the most vicious villain of any of the comics (DC or Marvel), a film with a wonderful, fantastical look and just something that I always felt like I loved; that is, until Batman Begins. After buying the Anthology DVD set (along with Begins), I decided to pop in Batman as I hadn't seen it in a couple years (during which I had already seen Begins 4 times). To my surprise -- or perhaps chagrin --, I found Batman to be merely a good movie that pales in comparison to the latest vision.

I think what happened was after seeing what Nolan, Goyer and company did with the character of Wayne/Batman, it made Burton's version just that, a Tim Burton film. OK, I guess I can accept that... but oddly enough, my opinion on Jack Nicholson's Joker also seemed to be off. Was there anything wrong with him? Not really. My problem with his Joker stemmed from the fact that he was the focal point while our hero was a distant second to a script that gave him little to work with. Again, though, this movie has been around for 16 years... what happened? Batman Begins. So the question now is, is that fair? Shouldn't I just look at these as two different films? I should, but I truly cannot. I know there are a ton of people out there that feel Batman '89 is better than Batman Begins, and there are plenty who like both equally and then there are those (like me) who have changed their minds.

While I will always remember going to see the movie early in my youth, I just cannot say that it's that great of film any longer. Is it still good? Sure. While I have my reservations about the Joker, Nicholson does give a good performance worthy of remembrance. But it is a new era in the world of Batman. Just as he has had plenty of reinventions in the comic, so has he in this new franchise.

Update: Having watched the film now on Blu-ray after almost four years (last watched in 2005), I feel that Batman, while still a solid and good Batman movie, had plenty of flaws going against it. First, and this is more personal taste, Tim Burton’s art deco theme was visually interesting but strangely out of place given the classic 1980s décor (cars, interiors, etc). OK, not exactly anything against the art deco, more so that the film hasn’t exactly aged well. Then again, it also matches the tone of the late 80s and, especially, Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”.

BATMAN RETURNS (1992) *** / *****

Amongst the "Batman" fans out there, this has to be one of most controversial 'Batman' movie. Based upon reading many message board posts, it seems that there's nearly a 50-50 split with some fans having Batman Returns on par or better than the original (if not still the best over Begins) and then there are others who were offended by it and believe it is the worst (or second worst ahead of Batman & Robin) Batman movie ever. Sad to say, but I am in that latter group. After watching Returns for the first time in a few years, I found myself disgusted with what I had seen.

Even though the original Batman went off the reservation when it came to the mythos by making the Joker the killer of Bruce's parents, I could accept that. And although Nicholson's Joker stole the show and made Batman a secondary character, I still enjoyed his performance enough that I felt like I had a good time watching. But, with this one, not only is Batman shoved back even more, playing third fiddle, but the lead and more colorful villain was absolutely loathsome... but for all the wrong reasons. I realize that one should root against the villain, but who the hell do I cheer on? Brooding millionaire Wayne? Or how about sex kitten, Catwoman, in her tight fitting costume (don't get me wrong, that's all good)? Where ever one turns, there's nothing to like. Even Gotham City itself lost the little appeal it had. Director Tim Burton brought forth a dark and dank picture that nearly turned me completely off.

On a non-fanbase level, Returns is not a terrible movie. Danny DeVito is good as The Penguin and if the goal was to disgust the audience, well he surely succeeded. Michelle Pfeiffer fits right in as Catwoman and is really the only one that made the movie remotely watchable, but when trying to establish a relationship with Keaton's Wayne, it never quite worked.

To be fair, there were a couple moments in the film that was true Batman: In the beginning when confronting a goon holding Selina Kyle, he fires one of his gadgets, striking the wall next to the thug to which the guy says "You missed!" and with a tug, Batman rips a piece of the wall and knocks the guy out. Classic and cool. At another point, Batman roams the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile at night, checking on what The Penguin was up to. Classic and cool. But these parts are not enough to overcome some of the other elements.

Update: Seeing Batman Returns for the first time since this initial review back in 2005, I wasn’t as “disgusted” with the film as I once was and actually appreciate Tim Burton’s style choices. That being said, I still do not feel this was a Batman movie, more of a film that Tim Burton could sink his teeth into, fans be damned. If anything the Nolan Batman movies have shown, is he can direct characters and stories that interest him while still give the fans what they want, sadly this was not the case for Burton.

BATMAN FOREVER (1995) ***¼ / *****

With parents and kids leaving Batman Returns stunned with they had just seen, Warner Brothers decided to take their Batman franchise in a lighter direction. Doing so marked the departure of both Tim Burton (who apparently offered to direct a third one) and Michael Keaton and Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer came aboard for a new approach. Schumacher wanted to make a comic book movie, which apparently meant an anything goes style, logic be damned. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey were brought to continue the Nicholson-tradition of colorful villains while Chris O'Donnell was signed to play Dick Grayson, Batman's sidekick, Robin. Nicole Kidman plays the latest Batman-babe, Dr. Chase Meridian, a psychologist who takes a fascination with Batman.

Although I have a certain hatred for Batman Returns since it makes Batman not only a third wheel to Penguin and Catwoman, but he's also some sadistic monster purposely frying one villain and blowing up another with a bomb (to be fair, he did get this bomb from another villain...). But admittedly, Batman Forever has its share of things that are just insane, though this time it's more silly insanity than anything. For instance, sitting on Chase's desk is her research material on Batman with his face on Time Magazine and others. Most of these pictures looked like Batman came in for some photo shoot and did some heroic pose rather than a spy camera that you normally see in tabloids. The other items such as a neon-lit Gotham City, a ribbed cage Batmobile or an oversized Bat Cave just reiterates my feelings for Batman Forever: excess.

Schumacher was brought on to make a Batman movie that the kids and marketing partners will enjoy, and so it was. Rather than a psychological thriller/horror, instead it's the (now) typical summer extravaganza with loud explosions, illogical scenes (after Batman scales the wall in the Batmobile, where the hell does he go from there?) and character development issues. However, despite all of the negatives, I still found myself to be entertained. See, what Batman and Batman Returns failed to do was provide any in-depth look into who Bruce is. Burton and company merely pass it off that his parents died and now he's Batman, end of story. But the character of Bruce Wayne is deeper than just that. Of course, I'm not going to sit here and say Forever covered all those bases either since Schumacher's number one goal was to create a comic book movie rather than a coherent story, but at least they tried.

No, Batman Forever is not a fine piece of cinema and as a Batman movie its way short of being anything but summer blockbuster entertainment, but, the positives the film has (such as portraying Batman in a heroic light) slightly outweighs the negatives. Much like Returns, Forever is a 50/50 with the fans and no matter how great the new franchise gets, I doubt that will ever change.

Update: I still feel that Batman Forever is an OK movie given the tone Warner was trying to do with this franchise and I guess if Batman & Robin wasn’t so awful, I’d be fine with it. Unfortunately just like how Tim Burton’s vision of the character went too far, so did Schumacher’s (and Warner to sell toys) vision as well with...

BATMAN & ROBIN (1997) *½ / *****

And then it all came crashing down.

Batman Forever may certainly have been a change-up to the two Tim Burton movies in both style and quality, but Batman & Robin is in its own class, its own class of crap. I’ll forget that it’s sacrilege upon the source material and instead focus on the basic levels of story and acting.

From the opening sequence where Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) gay-lishly suit-up for a night of fighting crime to a finale that is just laughable, Batman & Robin is such an awful movie, I would have loved to have seen Warner executives reactions after a screening... In any case, from the jump, we have stilted dialogue, terrible acting from a future Oscar winner in George Clooney and a neon/loud production design that will give kids with ADD a headache.

Not helping matters, director Joel Schumacher and Oscar-winning writer Akiva Goldsman decided to go with two of Batman’s more colorful villains in Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Together, these super villains come together to rid the Earth of humans, first by freezing everything and everybody then letting nature run its course after which Freeze and Ivy will apparently rule with a cold and green fist.

In terms of casting, I have nothing against George Clooney as Bruce/Batman. In fact, over the years he’s made fun of himself for the debacle, but he’s actually not bad in the role, just sorely miscast, although I guess going back to 1997, Warner quickly nabbed the future superstar and he, being someone ready to move from television (“ER”) to feature films.

As much as I can forgive miscasting Clooney as the Caped Crusader, I cannot fathom what the hell they were thinking with Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. I’ll overlook that he’s just too large for the role, but having the man who can’t even say ‘California’ make those one-liners and punned-laden punch lines, was pure brilliance: “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”, and then Mr. Freeze proceeds to destroy a giant dinosaur to help with his escape (into a spaceship where more he lays more puns upon Batman who he has trapped).

Last we have more brilliant, perhaps even thespian, casting of the likes of Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone, the latter coming aboard with the idea of making her a part of the Bat-team in a fourth film if this had been successful (more than likely being called "Batman: Triumphant"). Despite this was the time when Alicia Silverstone was still relatively cute/borderline hot, she reached the depths of her co-stars and the awful writing with an equally terrible performance that would be laughable if you weren’t cringing every time she opened her mouth.

Fact is, as terrible as Batman & Robin was and as much as it raped Bob Kane’s creation, if it weren’t for this crown jewel of a film, we would never had gotten Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so for that I salute you Mr. Schumacher, Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Clooney. Job well done gentlemen.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Packaging: The Blu-rays come in four Thinpak BD cases housed inside a cardboard case exactly like the 2005 DVD release (except smaller of course).

BATMAN ***** / *****
Feature Commentary - Even though this is not the most entertaining tracks I've listened to, Burton certainly has a lot of things to say and, outside the occasional lapse, uses up the two plus hours. Some of his comments are obvious such as casting Nicholson as The Joker, but other things like what he wanted to accomplish with really his first major film were interesting.

Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman (40:36) is an in-depth look at, well, the history of Batman as a comic book character. This features interviews with past "Batman" comic book writers/artists, those involved with the movie as well as Kevin Smith and "The Man" himself, Stan Lee who had sort of an odd-couple relationship with Batman creator Bob Kane (demonstrated by Kane always taunting Lee about having one of his characters getting a box office winning movie whereas, at that time, Spider-Man wasn't in development). Although his clips were short, you could see that Lee had admiration and respect for Kane, which is cool to see from two rivals.

Segway into, On the Set with Bob Kane (2:33) which is a featurette made (I assume for TV) back in 1988, in which Kane walks around the Batman set for a bit. It's fairly short, running under 3-minutes, but any kind of footage of a man who had so much to do with where comics are today, is always good.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight – Parts 1-3 (71:40) is an extensive documentary split into three parts: "The Road to Gotham City", "The Gathering Storm", and "The Legend Reborn" which covers the beginning stages of trying to get Batman to the big screen and the troubles faced doing so. After some wheeling and dealing, an agreement finally came through, but dangling on the edge of oblivion. These featurettes goes through the approach Tim Burton and writer Sam Hamm wanted to take with the movie, the inclusion (or not as was the case) of Robin, the casting and the negative publicity when Michael Keaton (known more for a goofy actor) as Bruce Wayne/Batman. But with Nicholson's signing as The Joker, it brought the project some credibility. Throughout this, I was glad to see that, although Keaton's stuff was old, Nicholson did a new interview for this DVD, and truly seemed to have enjoyed his time making the movie.

Next in line are The Heroes and Villains Profile Galleries (19:53) that, on the surface, sounds like a bunch of production stills and some on-screen text. Instead, each of the major characters are quickly analyzed by the previous interviewees. Here, Batman, Vicki Vale, Alexander Knoxe, Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Dent, The Joker and Bob the Goon.

Beyond Batman (50:23) features 7 documentaries:
"Visualizing Gotham: The Production Design of Gotham" (10:16) goes into some nice detail on Tim Burton's vision of Gotham and that he didn't want the city to have any real time period to it (though it does borrow from the 30s/40s); Burton wanted Gotham to be a "parallel version of New York." Gotham itself is a mixture of different cultures as well as the art deco and such.

"Building the Batmobile" (9:15) is a lot like the same featurette shown on the Batman Begins DVD. The art director and others recount how they made Batman's vehicle. We also get to see sketches and photos of the skeleton of the car where the designers admit they hadn't figured how to make an entrance for it.

"Those Wonderful Toys: The Props and Gadgets of Batman" (5:53) obviously talks about Batman's (and The Joker’s) arsenal of weapons and how they were created. Again, there's more interview material as well as footage from the film.

"Designing the Batsuit" (6:49) is another interesting featurette/documentary that explains Batman's costume and its purpose. Burton always wanted the suit to be black since keeping it in-line with the comic book (blue and grey) would've been dumb (I'm interpreting here). This is fairly detailed with some concept drawings of the suit and the process of making it.

"From Jack to Joker" (10:30) is one of the better mini-documentaries of the bunch, mainly because I find Nicholson to be an interesting person and to hear him talk even more about his time playing The Joker was fun. But going beyond just that, they also show how much work had to go into putting on Nicholson's Joker makeup (and his flesh color over the white stuff).

For all you Danny Elfman fans, there's the "Nocturnal Overtures: The Music of Batman" (6:55) in which Elfman talks about how he came up with what is now an infamous score that is instantly recognizable. His inspiration for the score came while walking around the set of Gotham at night.

Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence (4:15) came about when, early in the writing process, Warner Brothers was thinking of including Dick Grayson in a small role. According to the storyboard, The Flying Grayson’s are performing and get caught in the middle. I had somewhat of a hard time following, somehow Batman manages to get on a horse (since it was established in early drafts that he rode one) and Grayson helps out.

Lastly are three Prince music videos which were popular back then, but sure as hell have not aged too well. There is also the theatrical trailer and a digital copy.

BATMAN RETURNS ***** / *****
The commentary track from Tim Burton seemed to me a little more upbeat or lively [vs. Batman]. He spends most of the film explaining things like why he wanted to do the sequel, how the Catwoman was his second favorite villain (behind The Joker) and why he wanted to change the Penguin from a socialite to a monster (Burton never understood the TV show or comic book versions of the character). Beyond that, he also gives some tid bits/trivia such as, during the chase scene, they filmed it on a larger stage at Universal (before it was on Warner Brothers' stages).

The weakest of the bunch is the original 1992 sneak peek called The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin (21:52). This behind-the-scenes promotional stunt looks like it originally aired on some network channel (maybe NBC) and is the typical thing you saw back in the day.

The Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight – Part 4: Dark Side of Night (30:15) – This one talks about how to make the sequel different but not too different from the original. It's revealed that to get Burton to direct the sequel, the WB execs allowed him to make a "Tim Burton" movie, rather than being tied down the material. Also discussed is who the villain would be and then just going ahead and making it a two villain movie. A lot of the things Burton talks about here was also discussed in his commentary so some of it can be repetitive.

Once again, Beyond Batman (65:37) features 6 documentaries:
"Gotham City Revisited: The Production Design of Batman Returns" (11:16), like Visualizing Gotham before it, is about the new production design. Where Batman used a 40s style, Burton this time around went with art deco.

With "Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of Batman Returns" (13:20), even though Batman's suit looked nice back in 1989, Burton and company decided a minor makeover was needed to match with the new art deco design. So instead of the ribbed look, they carved out an industrial style into the torso area. Along with Batman's costume (for which they needed another body cast and such), they also show the process (via current and old interviews) of the making of The Penguin and Catwoman get-ups.

"Making Up the Penguin" (8:04) is a nicely extensive look, from the hair to the nose, at the reasons as to why they went the direction they did with The Penguin. Danny DeVito also talks about how he used the amount of make-up to his benefit. As seen before, we get to see some of Burton's hideous designs of the Penguin.

"Assembling the Arctic Army" (9:24) is strictly about the penguins used as The Penguin’s army. Because these are penguins, the set had to be kept in the 30 degree range (plus to see the actors' breath during some scenes). It's also revealed, most of the penguins, while real, were also either digital (in a time where it was used minimally because it was still new) or were robotic or were people in suits with a robotic head.

"Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of Batman" (11:25) is actually cool to watch as there were (for its time) quite a few visual effect shots they had to do. Some of the more noticeable are the ending where Catwoman looks up at the Bat signal (including a motion control Catwoman, before being replaced with a double), another is Wayne Manor, the signal projected in Bruce's library, etc.

Finally, "Inside Elfman Studios: The Music of Batman Returns" (11:13) is primarily a rehash of the featurette on Batman, though this time Elfman admits that he didn't have anything to prove this time around. But while he does have the Batman theme down, he needed special themes for Catwoman and Penguin and others (including the penguin army march, as I like to call it).

The Heroes and Villains Galleries (18:19) are mini-featurettes covering the various characters in Returns. For heroes, they talk about Batman and Alfred while the villains go over, of course, Penguin, Catwoman and Max Shreck.

Last, again, is a music video (4:22) and the theatrical trailer.

BATMAN FOREVER ****½ / *****
Feature Commentary - For the most part, Joel Schumacher is somewhat interesting to listen to though, unlike Burton, he tended to telestrate a little telling the viewer what we can already see. However, he does give some tid-bits on the casting of some of the parts (like Drew Barrymore who's a friend), filming locations and the like. He does, oh so briefly, address the nipples on the Batsuit, amazed that it had become some kind of international controversy to which he responds that people need to get out more... (nice Joel, very nice).

Next is a featurette called Riddle Me This: Why Is Batman Forever (23:24), which, like "The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin”, is only there to convince those watching to go out and see the movie in theaters. But, the extra layer is that this was also to say to folks that this is not going to be another dark and twisted Batman movie. Instead, it's a movie you can take your kids to. This is only good for nostalgia value and on that level; it is fun to watch.

The Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight – Part 5: Reinventing a Hero (28:28) – This is a broad range behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with director Joel Schumacher, the producers and writer Akiva Goldsman as they explain why this movie was different from the last. There's also a mixture of new and archive footage/interviews with cast members Val Kilmer (new), Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O'Donnell (new) and Nicole Kidman. I would've hoped for more participation, but it's certainly nice to see at least one of the men who played Batman to contribute to this set (Keaton and Clooney did not, the latter I believe for obvious reasons).

Batman: The Heroes and Villains Galleries (16:19) are the mini-featurettes like on the other three DVDs. This time, Batman, Robin, Dr. Chase Meridian, The Riddler and Two-Face are covered. Like the others, these are basic character profiles put on video. Nothing overly fascinating, but still fun for some fans I suppose.

Beyond Batman (45:41) contains 5 making-of documentaries:
"Out of the Shadows: The Production Design of Batman Forever" (12:30) shows the new direction the 'Batman' franchise was taking with Schumacher instead of Burton. The Gothic look of Gotham is replaced with giant statues and the style itself was more comic-booky.

"The Many Faces of Gotham City" (12:34) goes over the costume designs for the main characters as well as the extras (circus, street gang, etc). Val Kilmer talks about his part in the Batman costume (and the difficulties). Although this isn't the most fascinating featurette, it's still nice to hear from those involved in their ideas to make this movie different from the first two.

"Knight Moves: The Stunts of Batman Forever" (5:34) contains behind-the-scenes footage of stunt rehearsals, particularly the scene when Batman crashes Nygma's party after Two-Face shows up. He comes down from the ceiling, onto a water fountain, does a back flip and takes out a couple of Face's goons.

"Imaging Forever: The Visual Effects of Batman Forever" (6:58) is interesting since this is probably the first 'Batman' movie to feature so much CGI (integrated with miniatures). Since this is 1994, the art of CGI was still new, but it worked well in Forever. They use the opening sequence as an example of this where some of the helicopter shots were a combo of miniatures and CGI.

"Scoring Forever: The Music of Batman Forever" (6:17) continues what was started on the first two discs, this time composer Elliot Goldenthal replaces the great Danny Elfman in order to match up with the lighter tone.

Deleted Scenes (13:57) – In total, there are 7 scenes and for what's there, a couple were actually good. "Escape from Arkham" is an alternate opening in which Dr. Burton rushes to Two-Face's cell and finds that he has escaped; "Dick's Pain" is more character coverage in which Grayson sulks some more but it's a nice exchange between Kilmer and O'Donnell; The best scene, and perhaps the strangest, has Bruce returning to the place where he fell and finds his father's diary, in which the last entry reads like it was Bruce's fault his parents are dead (it goes something like "Martha and I wanted to stay home, but Bruce insisted on going to the movies"). It is after this that he comes face to face with a giant, red-eyed bat.

Last is the music video (3:56) to Seal’s Grammy-winning song, “Kiss from a Rose” and the theatrical trailer.

BATMAN & ROBIN ****¼ / *****
Feature Commentary – Joel Schumacher sits down for what had to have been one of the most anticipated commentaries for such a horrible movie and thankfully it was a pretty good track, though I kind of zoned out after he apologized for the film... Whether he was sincere or not, I don’t know. Anyway, the commentary was part trivia, some honesty and the rest just who did what and all that.

The Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight finishes things up with Part 6 “Batman Unbound” (27:01). The last entry is an honest account on why Batman & Robin failed and it was most appropriately said by Chris O’Donnell that making this one felt like he was making a toy commercial. What I enjoyed the most was the inside Hollywood elements including briefly talking about why Val Kilmer did not return for this one (he had already committed to doing The Saint and there was miscommunication between Kilmer and Warner Brothers).

Beyond Batman (49:33) for this entry contains 5 featurettes:
“Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of Batman & Robin” (10:00) – Features more interviews with Chris O’Donnell, Joel Schumacher, the set designer plus some archive interviews with Clooney and Schwarzenegger. This examines the various sets like the museum, Poison Ivy and Mister Freeze’s respective lairs.

“Maximum Overdrive: The Vehicles of Batman & Robin” (9:55) takes a look at the cars or bikes featured in the movie and how they tried to make things like the Batmobile different from that in Batman Forever. What was cool about this is you do get more behind-the-scenes footage of them testing out the vehicles.

“Dressed to Thrill: The Costumes of Batman & Robin” (12:13) – This one examines each of the costumes from the changes they made from the Forever Batsuit to this one, making the Mr. Freeze costume and all the rest (including Robin and Batgirl).

“Frozen Freaks and Femmes Fatales: The Makeup of Batman & Robin (9:23) focuses just on the makeup for both Poison Ivy and, especially, Mr. Freeze who had a massive amount of makeup for his head.

The last featurette, “Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects of Batman & Robin (9:02), tackles the effects on the film with more interviews from crew members on the difficulties of creating certain visual effects shots. The most fun part was an old interview with the then Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Adamson, who would late go on to direct the first two Chronicles of Narnia movies.

Batman: The Heroes and Villains Galleries (17:18) is just more little featurettes on the various characters from Batman, Robin and Batgirl on the heroes side and Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane for the villains.

Last is a short deleted scene (0:45), 4 music videos (“The End is the Beginning of the End”, “Foolish Games”, “Gotham City” and “Look Into My Eyes”) and the theatrical trailer.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Batman comes to Blu-ray for the first time in 1080p high-definition and its original 1.85 aspect ratio. Given the movie is now 20 years old, it’s not too surprising that the picture isn’t the sharpest video you’ll see in HD but I was still impressed that it cleaned up quite nicely; I noticed very little in terms of dust or scratches and really no distracting noise (a la The French Connection). Black levels weren’t the greatest looking a bit faded in spots and dark, which is certainly a drawback given the tone, but colors looked, from what I can tell, spot on from The Joker’s green hair to the yellow on Batman’s chest. I think with how old the movie is, this is the best Warner could do and overall it’s still a nice looking movie. **** / *****

Batman Returns – Again presented in a 1.85 aspect ratio, the sequel to that blockbuster isn’t too bad looking since it is now 17 years old. I found the black levels on this to be much better in places and detail, while not outstanding, was pretty decent. I actually watched portions of Returns on one of the HD movie channels and the two are pretty comparable (only difference really is 1080i vs. 1080p). With off-color villains this go-around (meaning no white face or green hair), the sequel is far darker in both aesthetics and story. This isn’t some demo material for older/classic movies but it is satisfying enough. **** / *****

Batman Forever – The film is presented in its original AR of 1.85 and because this is the first of two neon-Batman entries, the picture actually wasn’t too bad. The colors pop off the screen and black levels look just right; my only complaint is, the picture doesn’t have the greatest detail. I realize the film is 14 years old so I can excuse some of it and at the very least the noise level was acceptable, though at times noticeable. **** / *****

Batman & Robin is presented with a 1.85 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition. While I wouldn’t say this was a fantastic HD transfer, the picture on this now 12 year old film is actually pretty good. Schumacher’s use of bright neon colors comes across the screen quite nicely without bleeding. Now, the video wasn’t very crisp in terms of sharpness and while I did notice some pixilation at times, especially in darker scenes, the picture on this film wasn’t too bad. ****¼ / *****

[Note: Like other Warner Blu-rays, the movie will automatically start and the audio defaults on the standard Dolby Digital 5.1, so make sure you select the pop-up menu to “Languages” and turn it to TrueHD.]

Batman comes with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio that, much like the video, isn’t going to blow you away, but is certainly more than suitable for a 20 year old movie. Dialogue is clear enough from the center channel (I actually heard dialogue I never realized was there before). The front speakers get most of the use though I did notice the occasional ambient noise (cars, background chatter, etc) from my rear channels while the sub woofer clicked on every once in a while but wasn’t that strong or effective. ***¾ / *****

Batman Returns – The audio on Returns is slightly better than for its predecessor, but not by much. While Danny Elfman’s fantastic score and Batman theme sound pretty good with the Dolby TrueHD track, other elements such explosions or other action sequences, at times, were a tad underwhelming. Dialogue on the other hand was clear and rarely, if ever, sounded flat or off. My sub woofer didn’t get much of a workout on this one, though this could be a good thing as rather than being over-the-top it was more subtle in certain scenes. **** / *****

Batman Forever – Like the previous two Blu-rays, Forever comes with a nice Dolby TrueHD track that, in a word, sounds fantastic. Now, some dialogue still sounds a tad flat in some spots but the sound effects will encompass your home theater and Elliot Goldenthal’s score also sounds excellent with the lossless audio. As someone who enjoys the subwoofer, I’m happy to report that that too got some use and isn’t overwhelming either. ****½ / *****

Batman & Robin – If there was one thing that was actually good about this movie is the audio was actually impressive. From the opening with the flying names and Elliot Goldenthal’s score, the movie sounds fantastic. Dialogue was very clear coming from the center channel and all those inane action sequences (or those limited moments of “character development”) also sound good coming from the front speakers. Overall, this was an excellent audio experience, it’s a shame it had to be with this movie though... ****½ / *****



.::OVERALL::.

I think even with Batman & Robin in the mix, the Batman Anthology is a nice package for Blu-ray owners. The video and picture quality are especially noticeable for the latter two films, so take that for what you will, but even the older first two look pretty good in HD. The features are all carried over from the 2005 DVD so you’re not really getting anything new (it would’ve been nice to get a new commentary from the likes of Keaton or Kilmer).

Now, there is an issue with the price which at the time of this writing was $130, but if Warner comes down in the price, it would make a good pick up, especially if you never owned the previous DVD.