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Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2009
Article Index
Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997
Page 2
ImageWarner 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)

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