Batman: Two-Disc Special Edition

January 28, 2012 12 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

The summer is where this viewer has had some of the best memories with big pictures and none came bigger than in the year 1989 when Indiana Jones went for the holy grail without bumping into Monty Python, Captain Kirk had his first outing in the directors chair, and Hulk Hogan tried to be an action star. Among all of that was one film that was talked about, trailered about but nothing was seen fully and I can recall going into the wrong theater where they extended this film to 3 screens. Luckily I had spent the better part of a brother’s graduation reading the novelization and guiding my group to the right theater. This would go down as a big summer and a film that I viewed two more times after the first and one time many years after its release on the big screen. A symbol, a hero, the legend that is Batman.

It is Gotham City and crime lurks in the night and out of the darkness leads a coweled individual with fists and weapons to his choosing. He wants the hoods to know his name and spread the word that the Batman is out. At the same time, a man named Jack (Jack Nicholson) is in charge of a crime bosses operation at a chemical plant. It’s this assignment that not only alerts the caped crusader but also comes down to Jack’s fate as he is dipped in toxic waste and comes out in a new guise as The Joker. Out of it all is a pretty woman (Kim Basinger) who falls in love with the caped crusader’s alter ego Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) unaware that the Joker in his spree of crime has a weakness for the same woman too.

It’s been so many years and some people feel nostalgia can be a sketchy influence on an opinion but not to this one. It is many years and even though the prequel did an amazing job reinventing series, it couldn’t have been as good without this one. This was one that made others think of doing their own comic book movie and its thanks to the right bit of casting even though at the time the casting of the main character was doubtful and everything around from the production value to the big exclamation mark to credits.

No matter how many times I am either a passenger or the driver of a vehicle, whenever I am at a long turn, it always makes me think of the title sequence that forms the bat symbol. From beginning to end, Batman entertains, thrills and captures the dark spirit of the comic book as well as adding a few little touches here and there cinematically. Michael Keaton played the Caped Crusader beautifully through 2 movies and seeing this original should be a reminder as to why the third and fourth movies failed miserably.

Where the first two stuck to the darkness in the right direction, the other two played for the younger audience and thus even though it looked like great eye candy, failed to give us what we had built up in the first place with the first film and it had some of the best elements and this viewer feels the best comic book movies are the ones that have one central villain of the piece even though the prequel managed to make a nice balance of the rogues gallery involved and Jack Nicholson makes the giddy sinister madman a reality in playing The Joker.

Major props do go to director Burton who makes the impossible task of bringing the caped crusader to the big screen in all seriousness a reality and with that task paved the way for others to take their stab at the illustrated multicolor pages translated to the big screen.

No matter how many Batman movies come about in every which way, the very first Batman movie away from the Adam West-Burt Ward version, will always have a special place with this reviewer for it provided a great big screen summer and provided in addition a great entertaining film.

Video: How does it look?

The term “leaps and bounds” apply to this second release of this title as the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is exactly that in terms of the overall look of the film captured on a superior video source such as this one. Nothing brought me back to that theater seat than seeing this DVD with capturing the sets and color and everything around it without getting too light or too dark but having just the right balance to make for a very satisfying picture that frees itself of the majority of debris that plagued the first release and it’s a major improvement.

Audio: How does it sound?

From the front to the back,. the Dolby Digital 5.1 track certainly makes great use of the effects and the great score of Danny Elfman in terms of separation and balance as it gets a great boost from the score and its effects and out of the center comes the dialogue and a few more effects in between and anything can beat the cheap display of sound that was the first release when DVD was at its infancy and even when the first release looked tempting to own, here was a case that the best came to those who waited and the track for this film is well worth the wait. This disc also has a English DTS and a French 5.1 Channel along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

With this new 2 disc Special Edition, it all starts with a commentary from Tim Burton which is informative and tells some stories here and there about the making from the director’s point of view and even though it does have some silent spots, it never fails to entertain and Burton makes a good listen for this track. In addition on disc 1 is the film’s theatrical trailer (I wished the teaser would’ve been included as well but you can’t ask for everything, I still have it and I didn’t have to pay a cent for it)

On disc 2 is where the bulk of the extras are and it all starts with Legend of the Dark Night: The History of the Batman which goes through exactly that through the eyes of many experts, filmmakers and fellow comic book artists on the take of evolution from the pages of comics to the other mediums that have excelled today. Historically, it works very well and it is a nice documentary that moves faster than its length

Afterwards is a 2 1/2 minute featurette of Bob Kane on the Batman set made at the time of the film and its short and gives others a chance to see what Bob looked like then.

Next is Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight and at first i thought it was going to be a documentary made at the time from the networks. Much to my sincere delight, it was a lot more and wasn’t made at the time but rather a documentary that covered many bases and had the majority of players involved and all shared some great stuff throughout along with a few outside things this viewer didn’t know at the start of the evolution of its big screen.

Also are different galleries that are more than just photo representations, it covers the Heroes and Villains and mentions one key element that was not in the finished film that related to Commissioner Gordon and its one element this viewer wonders whether it was ever filmed or not.

If Shadows was a big documentary than the Galleries provided an in-between for another big documentary known as Beyond Batman that extends six parts and covers the other technical part of the making of the film and does so brilliantly.

By all means, the documentaries cry PLAY ALL for viewing them seperately just won’t do.

Next is an illustration with voices of a scene that would’ve been the introduction to Robin in this film but as the many have noticed, this film does better without him and its an interesting extra complete with the voice of Mark Hamill as the Joker and a scene that would’ve done better in another Batman film and would’ve made a better scene in the latter 2 Batfilms.

Finally, there are three Prince videos with songs from the film and they can be goofy at times but a fun look at the year of 1989 through 3 music videos and they’re fun representations, that amount to some laughs in the end along with some decent music.

Overall, one of the biggest improvements from original to revised comes here in the form of the first Batman movie for it deserved better with the golden boy and one award did not do the film justice and should’ve been considered for more golden boys. However on this edition, it’s improved picture quality and excellent assortment of extras with many of the players involved makes for one of the best 2 disc Special Editions to come around in quite some day and must be owned by all.

Disc Scores