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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze



Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997  (Batman / Batman Returns / Batman Forever / Batman & Robin) [Blu-ray]


(Tim Burton - 1989, 1992 - Joel Schumacher - 1995, 1997)


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Warner Brothers

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video



Region: FREE



Batman Returns


Batman Forever


Batman & Robin (1997)
Runtime: 2:06:19.863 2:06:28.956 2:01:35.329 2:04:53.861
Disc Size: 41,430,093,376 bytes 39,859,896,384 bytes 37,962,267,344 bytes 40,046,508,864 bytes
Feature Size: 28,339,040,256 bytes 30,592,671,744 bytes 29,255,172,096 bytes 32,485,896,192 bytes
Total Bitrate: 29.91 Mbps 32.25 Mbps 32.08 Mbps 34.68 Mbps
Chapters: 38 39 39 42

All are Dual-layered with VC-1 encode


Case: 4 X Standard Blu-ray cases inside custom heavy cardboard box
Release Date: March 10th, 2009





Batman Returns



Batman Forever



Batman & Robin





Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1


Audio (not including DUBs or commentaries):

Batman: Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1694 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1694 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby

Batman Returns: Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1684 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1684 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

Batman Forever: Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1879 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1879 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps  

Batman & Robin: Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1915 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1915 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps




English, English (SDH), Chinese (traditional and simplified), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian. Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and none



Behind the Story
Commentary by director Tim Burton
On the set with Bob Kane (2;33)
Legends of the DARK KNIGHT: The History of BATMAN – The BATMAN Comic Book Saga as reinvented and reinterpreted over nearly seven decades
Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the DARK KNIGHT Parts 1-3:
The Road to GOTHAM
The Gathering Storm
The Legend Reborn
Beyond BATMAN (Documentary Gallery):
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
Nocturnal Overtures: The Music of BATMAN
Music Videos – Three Music Videos by Prince - Batdance, Partyman and Scandalous
Batman: The Villains (Profile Galleries) - THE JOKER, BOB THE GOON,

BATMAN: The Complete ROBIN Storyboard Sequence
Theatrical trailer

Second disc - Digital Copy

Batman Returns
Behind the Story
Commentary by Tim Burton - Sit with director Tim Burton and explore this dark sequel
THE BAT, THE CAT and THE PENGUIN - Cast and crew recall the making of this equally spectacular sequel
Shadows of the Bat Pt. 4: Dark Side of the Knight - Hear from the cast and crew to learn how this sequel came to be
GOTHAM CITY Revisited: The Production Design of BATMAN Returns
Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of BATMAN Returns
Assembling the Arctic Army
Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of BATMAN
Inside the Elfman Studio: The Music of BATMAN Returns
Music Videos: Face to Face Music Video by Souixsie and the Banshees
Theatrical trailer



Batman Forever
Behind the Story
Commentary by director Joel Schumacher
RIDDLER ME THIS: Why is BATMAN Forever? – How a new director and cast created a new vision of Gotham's classic good and bad guys
Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the DARK KNIGHT Part 5: Reinventing a Hero - The BATMAN Franchise is reenergized with a new look and new characters , bringing fun to the set and success at the box office
Beyond BATMAN (Documentary Gallery)
Out of the Shadows: The production design of Batman Forever - Barbara Ling explains how each location in famed Gotham City was modernized and customized to each character
The Many faces of GOTHAM CITY - See how the costumes and make-up of Batman Forever contributes to the new and edgy look.
Knight Moves: The Stunts of Batman Forever - Go behind the scenes with stuntman Keith Campbell, as he demonstrates how some of the most difficult stunts are set-up and executed
Imaging Forever: The Visual Effects of Batman Forever - A look back at the special effects of the movie, at the beginning of the Digital Age of movie-making
Scoring Forever: The Music of Batman Forever - Sit in on a scoring session of Batman Forever and listen to composer Elliot Goldenthal as he discusses the sound chosen for the movie.
Additional Footage: Escape from ARKHAM ASYLUM, TWO-FACE's hate, Beauty and the BATMAN, Dick's pain, Bruce's dilemma, The secret of the BATCAVE, and Does it ever end?
Music Video - Kiss from a Rose Music Video by Seal
Batman: The Heroes - Brief character analyses of the characters of BATMAN heroes by the filmmakers, cast and fans : BATMAN, ROBIN, DR. CHASE MERIDIAN, BATMAN: The Villains – Brief character analyses of the characters of BATMAN villains by the filmmakers, cast and fans: THE RIDDLER, TWO-FACE
Theatrical trailer

Batman & Robin
Behind the Story
Commentary by director Joel Schumacher
Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Part 6: BATMAN Unbound - Cast and crew discuss the casting, controversies, and fan anticipation and reaction to the fourth installment of the BATMAN Franchise.
Beyond BATMAN Documentary Gallery
Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The production design of BATMAN and ROBIN - Take a look behind the scenes of the biggest character environments and the unique new inventions
Maximum Overdrive: The Vehicles of BATMAN and ROBIN - Highlights on the redesign of the Batmobile, ROBIN's motorcycle, and the Mr. Freeze machine
Dressed to Thrill: The Costumes of BATMAN and ROBIN - The design and manufacturing of the hot and heavy, and certain anatomically correct costumes is discussed by the costume crew
Frozen Freaks and Femme Fatales: The Makeup of BATMAN and ROBIN - Check out all of the details that go into the special effects make-up and hair as the crew transforms the actors into their characters
Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects of BATMAN and ROBIN - With more technology available than previously seen in BATMAN movies, filmmakers pushed the envelope in using visual effects
Additional footage - Deleted Scene: ALFRED's Lost Love
Music Videos - The End is the Beginning is the End by the Smashing Pumpkins, Look into My Eyes by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Gotham City by R. Kelly and Foolish Games by Jewel




BATMAN: Inspired by Frank Miller's graphic novel THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, this gothic, Wagnerian treatment of the Batman mythos explains the origins of Batman and his nemesis, the maniacal Joker (a ripe Jack Nicholson), who has sinister plans for the citizens of Gotham City.

BATMAN RETURNS: As the pitiful, orphaned psychopathic freak the Penguin and the power-hungry capitalist villain Max Schreck (named after the actor who played Nosferatu) plot to gain domination over Gotham City, the Caped Crusader battles an equally fatal distraction... Cat Woman.

BATMAN FOREVER: Gotham City is once again under siege, this time by the mind-controlling Riddler and the diabolical Harvey Two-Face. The Caped Crusader cleans up with the help of his new side-kick Robin in this effects-laden thrill ride.

BATMAN AND ROBIN: The Caped Crusader returns to battle the abominable Mr. Freeze and green-thumbed Poison Ivy. To save his ailing wife, Dr. Victor Fries turns to a life of crime after a hideous accident makes him unable to tolerate even moderate temperatures, while Dr. Pamela Isley falls victim to mutated plant DNA when things go awry in a jungle laboratory funded by Wayne Industries. Of course, though their interests are diametrically opposed (Freeze wants another Ice Age; Ivy wants to make the world safe for plants), the two villains team up to defeat Gotham's dynamic duo of Batman and Robin, who are joined by butler Alfred's motorcycle-obsessed niece as Batgirl. And when Alfred is diagnosed as having the same terminal disease as Freeze's wife, the trio find themselves not only fighting an altruistic battle, but a personal one as well. A frenetic, colourful, and often overwhelming sequel to the films that precede it.




The Anthology:

(or the Good, the Bad... and the Ugly) 

Warner had the right idea taking one of DC Comics potentially most mysteriously intriguing characters and bringing a star-studded re-telling to the big screen. While the circus-like villains (often in pairs) always had the upper hand in grandiose, flamboyant gestures, costumes and speeches - The Batman had some silent-type gadgets of his own to subtly 'Wow' and win over the crowd to his own brand of justice. With Burton at the helm and a free-range Nicholson, as The Joker, - fans were treated, in the first effort, to the best Batman ever... for it's time. Although the 'Return' was dismissed by some as too colorful- hence diverging from the old-style 'broodingly dark' narrative  - it became my personal favorite. The bizarre and sinister Penguin (extensively make-up'ed, and played brilliantly by Danny DeVito) and the mysterious and dangerous sexpot known as the Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Lurking in the background is a political manipulator named Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and an army of sewer-dwelling miscreants preparing their vengeance. Keaton more succinctly defined the lead role - making filling his shoes a daunting task for any closely made sequels - ditto for director Burton's unique style. The 'die was cast' and replacements Schumacher and Kilmer seemed destined for viewer dissatisfaction despite the femme fatale grace of Kidman. Lee Jones and Carrey couldn't fit in Pfeiffer's catsuit - and they wouldn't look the same anyway. Changing styles mid-stream or unsuccessfully duplicating the Burtonesque branding left fans uneasy and wanting... something else. So with one last kick at the can - Chris O'Donnell returns as the sidekick to a new Batman - Mr. Clooney who has all the natural gifts, and Silverstone as a cute third wheel (making my generation try to forget Yvonne Craig was unfair indeed.) But then came Arnold. Aaarnnnulllt! Saying it was the worst role of his career would actually be reaching quite low, but as Dr. Victor Fries (alias Mr. Freeze) the franchise was brought to an unprecedented halt and the final film is beyond dreck - it is physically painful to sit through. O'Donnell had a cup of coffee before TV called. It took almost a decade (okay less) to fire up the Batmobile with a full tank again - and while they are right on track today - this series - an anomaly - has it moments of fun and adventure with some iconic lines like 'Never rub another man's rhubarb' or the oft repeated 'You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?' I haven't and shan't.


Image:              NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.


This appears to be the international set - region free with extensive DUBs and subs - available in many parts of the world - perhaps with a different title or labeling (called the 'Legacy' edition in the UK.) But these are surely the same discs. For some reason North American got to the party later and don't yet have access to the Blu-rays individually yet but you can buy the imports if you choose to go that route.  




Technically the discs are all dual-layered with reasonable to strong bitrates around 30 mbps and use the VC-1 encode for transfers. Perhaps it is my prejudice but I believe Batman Returns looks the best of the lot. As I said in my comparison HERE - 'The color scheme supports the 2-disc version from 2005 but there is more vibrancy and depth. Everything is much tighter but probably a notch below what modern cinema fans may expect. Remember Batman Returns is almost 17 years old now. Burton's film is quite dark (gimmee) and contrast appears improved in the lower lit scenes. At times the image shows a strong texture and overall, with over 4X the bitrate, it bests the DVD in all areas that I can judge. In fact the visuals can be so strong you can discern production attributes (like make-up etc.) which lends itself away from the disbelief. I expect the VC-1 encode filling over 30 Gig alone fro the film probably reproduces the film as faithfully as it can. Effects and details may not be as glossy as modern films, but this is, probably, precisely how Batman Returns looked when it came out theatrically'. As for Batman - it looks a tad softer with grain visible. While detail is not stellar (20 years now folks) it has a very consistent film-like evenness that balances adeptly between the film's darker sequences while showing some occasional depth. The film is not by any means an exploration of color and hence probably achieves the least superiority of SD-DVD of the 4 films of this anthology. I think it looks fine but fans should temper their expeditions in accordance with Batman's age trusting as well that it was probably never meant to look glossy or refined. I have my biggest issue with #3 in this series - Batman Forever. Colors have a bit of life but the image clarity is minimal. While the softness may be a result of the rendering - it may also have been made looking quite similar. It's hard to know for sure but this compares pretty poorly to other Blu-rays I have seen and reviewed. All the good-looking actors can't make an image improve if it is inherently hazy. The grain exists - minimally - but appears blotchy and noise-like. I won't use the term 'DNR' but this is far softer than I would have anticipated. Batman & Robin is only a notch or two ahead looking slightly sharper, moderate color brilliance and while the film is a throwaway - it may have been a case where little effort was gone into the transfer OR some where given free reign to muck with it. I fear the latter. The brief outdoor scenes with Silverstone are probably the best looking in the whole film. I, thankfully, never saw this one theatrically so have no basis for comparison although DVD vs. Blu-ray may have been more telling. Bottom line the first 2 (and superior 2 films) appropriately look the best in my opinion. While these excel over SD-DVD fans should be forewarned not to expect the look of, example, hi-def Spiderman on Blu-ray.    




Batman Returns



Batman Forever



Batman and Robin



Audio & Music:

Warner gives all four films the TrueHD treatment - although all below 2000 kbps. There is plenty of action in these films plus great effect sounds like the roar of the Batmobile engine and the catchy, seething, score. None of the mixes sounded exceptional in my opinion but all had moments of obvious separation - superior to the DD 5.1. Dialogue was adeptly centric but often was overtaken my extraneous sounds. I had a few moments of being impressed but like sounded a bit flatter than I was anticipating. This again may be a case of expectations on my part although I suspect a lack of effort in producing a really dynamic score. Suffice to say better than DVD and audio is a big part of these film experiences.  


Operations: 9

Warner is always good on this front and there is not much getting in the way of simply throwing the disc in, the feature immediately starting, and then watching the film. The packaging is a sturdy box that opens like a Batman 'tongue-in-groove' gizmo. Best of all these are standard Blu-ray cases unlike Warner's issues of Dirty Harry or Casablanca which had fans shaking their fists while reproducing cases for their custom shelving(s) - to make them aligned (neat and tidy)As previously stated these are the region free international editions will inclusions of many subtitle options as well as DUBs (generally in DD 5.1 French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese.) There are other details like some Asian subtitles for the commentaries etc.




Extra Features: 

Stacked (full list above). Highlights being the Burton commentaries and the 6-parts (spread over the 4 films) Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the DARK KNIGHT. Warner and Criterion seem to go the extra mile with supplements and these - duplicated from the SD-DVD SEs have a never ending trail of details on the characters and villains as well as healthy amounts of production information. Some of the featurettes are appropriately short and others more extensive. I preferred the historical aspects of the batman legacy rather than the production details but the piece on creating the score was good and Warner should be commended that all are viable to the films (no filler) although some will appreciate stuff like the Music Videos more than I do. So while they are substantial nothing is in HD and nothing new for this package to my knowledge. You do get a second disc with the Digital Copy of the first film for watching on your portable device - this may be cool for some just for Nicholson.  




The Batman movies are not without their dividable faults, which can be easier to ignore when you load up the positives of the first 2 flics. Like the Adam West TV show we have a cavalcade of stars - hamming it up and having some fun... at our expense in the finale. Unfortunately the true stars can carry this off well but the last two films are so 'grating' that they have really tarnished this particular series irreparably. Depending on your love of Batman - purchasers might consider the package only in that the price may reward you with #4 - as a kind of modern Ed Wood example to put on for torturous amusement. Highlights are many though and one can only judge personally what they are and whether they are worth the obvious upgrade from DVD.

Gary Tooze
March 3rd, 2009



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

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