Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 
Blu-ray Action-Adventure
Written by Noah Fleming   
Monday, 16 March 2009

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Warner Bros. has put forth the two best superheroes in comic book history.  Superman and Batman are by far regarded as the most thrilling adventure series of all-time.  Without a build up, Warner Bros. has released the Batman Anthology on Blu-ray.  Following the success of “The Dark Knight,” and “Batman Begins” before that, “Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 – 1997” contains the original four Batman films – “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.”

In 1989, “Batman” thrilled audiences.  After years of the series being turned into a farce, the original motion picture brought darkness, mystery and revenge to the character.  Director Tim Burton is the master at dark and dreary, and it truly shines in the original film.  Michael Keaton made blockbuster history as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  He brought the dark knight to the screen, while retaining some of the comedic genius that lies in the character.  No one will ever forget the hysteria caused by Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

The original film follows the initial landing of Batman in Gotham City.  It doesn’t take long before the Joker shows up after being drop into a vat of acid.  Bruce struggles to bring honor to his murdered parents, in which the Joker played a big part of.  The film contained a terrific soundtrack, wonderful visual effects (for the time) and over the top acting.  It is by far the strongest film in terms of plot and acting in the Batman series. (Film: 4/5)

Tim Burton returned in 1992 to direct the successful sequel, “Batman Returns.”  Also returning is Michael Keaton as Batman.  He and Christian Bale are the only actors to portray Batman in back to back films.  This time, Batman goes up against the Penguin and Catwoman, along with Max Shreck.  Danny DeVito was a bit annoying as the Penguin, but fans seemed to like his role.  No one will ever forget Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.  The skintight vinyl and whip (later referenced in “Batman Forever”) never looked so good, with the possible exception of Halle Berry in “Catwoman.”  Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and the Penguin plot to take over Gotham City and destroy Batman by framing him for awful crimes and turning the people of Gotham against him.  Unfortunately, Catwoman gets in the way of their plans, leaving Batman in the clear. (Film: 3.5/5)

In 1995, Joel Schumacher took the reigns from Tim Burton, directing “Batman Forever.”  Many consider this to a horrible blockbuster.  In actuality, the film has a lot of good points.  However, it is easy to see why the mass public criticizes the film.  It feels as if the creators tried to toss too many villains and too many heroes into one installment.  I for one don’t mind Val Kilmer as Batman, but most despised his performance, calling it elementary.  This installment finds Bruce Wayne taking in a stray, Dick Grayson, his long-time comic book partner, Robin.  After his parents are murdered at the circus by Two-Face, he thinks of nothing but exacting revenge, much like Bruce Wayne.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) is out for revenge on Batman, nothing else.  Meanwhile, Edward Nygma, an experimental genius at Wayne Enterprises, goes nuts.  He invents a device that can suck the intelligence out of peoples’ minds while they are memorized by 3-D TV.  He of course becomes another villain, the Riddler.  Also thrown into the loop is Dr. Meridian Chase (Nicole Kidman), the love interest for Batman, no wait Bruce Wayne, no Batman, nope that’s right, it is Bruce Wayne.  Can she please make up her mind?  It’s not like they are same person or anything? (Film: 3/5)

Finally, in 1997 Joel Schumacher returns to direct the fourth Batman film, “Batman & Robin.”  This film was purely a blockbuster ploy.  The studio fit as many big names, villains and weak plots into one two hour film.  In this installment, George Clooney puts on the hard rubber suit to become Batman.  Chris O’Donnell returns are Robin.  The film unsuccessfully introduced Batgirl, played by the stunning Alicia Silverstone.  In terms of villains, the trio had to deal with Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Bane.  No real love interest to speak of for this film.  Both lead males are smitten with Poison Ivy, while Bruce is having a weak relationship with Julie Madison (Elle MacPherson).  Mr. Freeze plans to implant diamonds into a telescope and freeze Gotham City in its entirety.  Poison Ivy is out to take back mother nature from the humans that are poisoning mother earth.  The film is entertaining, but certainly just a summer blockbuster. (Film: 2/5)

“Batman” (Video):
The first of the Batman films has a remarkably good transfer.  I was impressive with the cleanliness of the source image.  It is not plagued by artifacting due to compression or motion, nor is it hindered by digital noise reduction, of which I was anticipating a tone of.  The black levels are decent.  The blacks are solid in the low and upper ranges.  However the mid blacks fluctuate, leaving the picture looked a little washed out.  The colors are stable, but not vibrant, which of courses is a stylistic choice.  There is hardly a spec of dust or dirt in the print.  Overall this is a fantastic transfer for a 1989 film. (Video: 3.5/5)

“Batman” (Audio):
The film is given a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  Again, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of this audio track given the prior standard DVD release.  Unfortunately, unlike the video I was not thrown for a loop.  The film lacks any real good use of the surrounds channels.  Occasional discrete sound effects appear in the rears, but not much in the way of ambience.  The dynamic range is wide, especially when it comes to the pop music used in the film.  With a lot of subtle moments in the film, the extensive dynamic range is nicely appreciated.  The LFE channel is lacking much presence.  It does its most work during the last sequences of the film.  A slightly disappointing audio track, but still better than the standard DVD release. (Audio: 3/5)

“Batman Returns” (Video):
This film contains a much better transfer than its predecessor.  The blacks are much more even across the spectrum.  Unfortunately, shadow delineation is lacking, as it does in all Tim Burton films on Blu-ray.  I also notice some minor crushing the deep black levels.  The colors of this film are also more eye-popping.  As part of the visual style, the reds are nicely contrasted against the blacks and whites.  The contrast and skintones are stable and right on target.  This film is also free from edge enhancement and noise reduction. (Video: 4)

“Batman Returns” (Audio):
This audio track is a step up from the original film as well.  The surrounds channels are given more to present in terms of ambience.  Discrete effects are still lacking in the surrounds.  The dialogue is a bit inconsistent.  It sometimes drops to a level that makes intelligibility drop by 50 percent.  The dynamics are still wide, but the frequency range is still lingering in the mid-range.  The dialogue lacks the high frequency clarity and the LFE channel does not contain smooth bass frequencies.  (Audio: 3.5/5)

“Batman Forever” (Video):
I would claim that this film has the best video transfer of the anthology.  The blacks are even across the board with no crushing in the bottom end.  Shadow delineation is the best it can be for such a dark film.  Contrast and skintones (the normal ones anyway) are impeccable.  Details and textures are terrific.  The details on the new superhero outfits are spectacular.  This film is of course free from edge enhancement and digital noise reduction.  The print has no evidence of dirt or blemishes.  With Joel Schumacher at the helm, the colors are bold and leap right off the screen.  Magnificent. (Video: 4.5/5)

“Batman Forever” (Audio):
As well as having the best video transfer, this film would also have to have the best audio transfer.  The frequency range of the audio track has been fixed, extending much further into the upper frequencies.  The LFE channel has a bit more kick to it.  The surround channels are now filled with ambience as well as discrete effects.  The front and rear divergence provides nice front and back movement.  The film just lacks that cohesive factor that would make it truly remarkable. (Audio: 4.5/5)

“Batman & Robin” (Video):
This film contains an excellent video transfer, however the overproduction of the film’s visual style just gets to be too much and impacts the viewing experience.  The black levels, details and textures are all stable and excellent.  Once again the shadow delineation is lacking ultra clarity.  I found that the extreme color saturation led to some minor bleeding.  The contrast was also overblown slightly.  It looks as if the studio let production get in the way of visual stimulation and plot. (Video: 4/5)

“Batman & Robin” (Audio):
As with “Batman Forever,” this film contains a great audio track.  Everything with the previous film holds true with this one.  The LFE channel is thumping this time around.  Dialogue becomes unclear during some points, but it is hard to stay focused during this film in any event, so it is not that disconcerting. (Audio: 4.5/5)

The Batman Anthology comes with a plethora of special features, which are spread across all four discs.  All the bonus materials are presented in standard definition.  “Shadows of the Bat” is an extensive that is broken into pieces and placed on each of the discs from beginning to end.

On the “Batman” disc there is a commentary with director Tim Burton.  “On the Set with Bob Kane” is a brief look at the writing of the screenplay.  The first three parts of the “Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight” are located here.  The three segments are “The Road to Gotham City,” “The Gathering Storm” and “The Legend Reborn.”  “Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman” takes a lot at the development of the superhero.  “Beyond Batman” is a featurette that contains all the movie specific documentaries: “Visualizing Gotham: The Production Design of ‘Batman,’” “Building the Batmobile,” “Those Wonderful Toys: The Props and Gadgets of ‘Batman,’” “Designing the Bat-Suit,” “From Jack to the Joker” and “Nocturnal Overtures: The Music of ‘Batman.’”  The disc also contains a photo gallery, storyboard sequence and theatrical trailer.  Lastly the disc contains three Prince music videos: “Batdance,” “Partyman” and “Scandalous.”

The “Batman Returns” disc contains an audio commentary with Tim Burton.  There is a making-of of featurette, “The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin.”  The disc contains the fourth part of the “Shadows of the Bat” documentary: “Dark Side of the Knight.”  The Beyond Batman section of this disc contains: “Gotham City Revisited: The Production Design of ‘Batman Returns,’” “Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of ‘Batman Returns,’” “Making Up the Penguin,” “Assembling the Arctic Army,” “Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of ‘Batman Returns,’” “Inside the Elfman Studio: The Music of ‘Batman Returns.’”  The disc also contains a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and a music video Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Face to Face.”

“Batman Forever” has an audio commentary by director Joel Schumacher.  “Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?” takes a look at the new director and cast of Batman.  There are additional scenes as well as part five of the “Shadows of the Bat” – “Reinventing a Hero.”  The Batman Beyond section of this disc contains: “Out of the Shadows: the Production Design of ‘Batman Forever,’” “The Many Faces of Gotham City,” “Knight Moves: The Stunts of ‘Batman Forever,’” “Imaging Forever: The Visual Effects of ‘Batman Forever,’” “Scoring Forever: The Music of ‘Batman Forever.’”  Lastly, the disc contains the a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and a music video of Seal’s “A Kiss From the Rose.”

The “Batman & Robin” disc contains an audio commentary with director Joel Schumacher.  Along with one additional scene, the disc contains the sixth and final part of the “Shadows of the Bat” saga – “Batman Unbound.”  The Batman Beyond section of this disc contains: “Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of ‘Batman & Robin,’” “Maximum Overdrive: The Vehicles of ‘Batman & Robin,’” “Dressed to Thrill: The Costumes of ‘Batman & Robin,’” “Frozen Freaks and Femmes Fatales: The Makeup of ‘Batman & Robin,’” “Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects of ‘Batman & Robin.’”  Lastly, the disc contains a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and four music videos: The Smashing Pumpkins – “The End Is the Beginning Is The End,” Jewel – “Foolish Games,” R. Kelly – “Gotham City” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – “Look Into My Eyes.”

Lastly, the Anthology comes with a Digital Copy of all four films.  These are located on one disc, which is placed inside the case with the Blu-ray of “Batman.”

The Batman series is a terrific saga.  I thoroughly enjoyed this release and it will find a great place among my Blu-ray collection.  I only hope that Warner Bros. sees fit to bring “Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1978 – 1987” to Blu-ray really soon.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Without a doubt, add this to your collection.
Studio Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG-13
Starring Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Chris O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher
Film Release Year 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Running Time 2 hr. 6 mins., 2 hr. 6 mins., 2 hr. 1 min., 2 hr. 5 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • English Dolby Digital 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 2.0 • German Dolby Digital 5.1 • German Dolby Digital 2.0 • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 • Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles Chinese • Danish • Dutch • English • Finnish • French • German • Italian • Korean • Norwegian • Portuguese • Spanish • Swedish
Special Features Director Audio Commentary; Cinematic Documentary; Photo Galleries; Music Videos; Theatrical Trailers; Production Featurettes; Additional Scenes; Storyboards; Digital Copy
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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