"Batman (1989): Special Edition"
by Zach Demeter "Bird Boy"
In 1989, Batman was one of the biggest movies of that decade.
People ate up the tons of press and publicity and
this new and dark take on Batman, forming huge lines. With Jack
Nicholson as perhaps one of the best renditions of The Joker, the
film enchanted all those who viewed it.
It’s almost strange to watch this film now, post-Batman Begins.
You can still see the charm it holds, but on one hand you keep
comparing it (and, really, all the films from 1989-1997) to Batman
Begins and it’s difficult to not draw the comparisons. Once you
can ignore that however, you become just as entertained as you once
were before Nolan and Bale took over the universe.
But, let’s completely ignore the existence of Batman Begins.
Let’s talk about what makes this film great, not only for its time,
but also the present. On top of that, we can do it while watching it
in a way it’s never been presented before: in glorious DVD clarity
and 5.1 (and DTS, if you have a receiver that supports it) surround
From the very start of Batman, Danny Elfman’s classic theme
resounds and vibrates throughout the room and we’re taken on a
“ride” around the bat-insignia. A petty robbery later, we get our
first glimpse of Batman. His words are few in his first appearance
but it’s capped off with the two words people would quote (and
continue to quote) years later: “I’m Batman.”
Tim Burton’s Batman was one of the darkest versions of the
Dark Knight (his follow-up, Batman Returns, would darken the
universe even more). To this day, people speak the praises of
Burton’s original vision, with Keaton being to many the definitive
Batman and Nicholson being the definitive Joker.
I’m not going to ramble on too long on the film; by now, you’ve
undoubtedly seen it many times over. You’re not here to hear praise
about the film; you’re here to see if this two-disc special edition
of the 1989 classic is worth it.
So is it worth it? I think a resounding “Hell Yes!” is in order. The
original DVD release was one of the first DVDs WB released. Snapper
case and flipper disc included, the DVD held a poor transfer of the
film with simple audio and
with the theatrical trailer being the
only special feature. The video quality was horrendous, especially
when you started viewing it on higher-definition sets; even without
that, however, you still could see the massive amount of grain.
Better than VHS, yes, but not anywhere near what you expect from a
They’ve fixed that completely. The video quality on this movie is
gorgeous. There is grain, what with it being filmed almost twenty
years ago and on simple film, no less, but the transfer still is
pretty damn gorgeous looking. Blacks are true blacks, colors, what
there are of them, are sharp and vibrant. Very little edge
enhancement on this film shows up and it’s just an overall beautiful
transfer. I really can’t stress how great it is to see this film in
such clarity after seeing muddy VHS and DVD for so many years.
Audio is incredible as well. It’s clear and crisp and with two audio
tracks (5.1 or DTS) to choose from, you can experience the movie in
a way you were never able to before. If the new digital video
transfer won’t bring you in, then the audio certainly will.
This isn’t enough for such a film, however. Presentation is one
thing, but DVDs are known for extras such as behind-the-scenes
footage, interviews and commentaries. It delivers on all of those in
spades; for a film so old, you wouldn’t expect so much.
The first disc contains the movie, a theatrical trailer and
commentary. Some will complain that there is only one trailer, while
there were undoubtedly many, as well as TV spots. I agree, but in
the end trailers are just footage from the movie; you rarely see
much else, except maybe some random footage that didn’t make the
cut. It would have been nice if they included the trailers, but I’m
not going to cry over it too much.
Tim Burton provides a very interesting commentary over the film. One
excellent thing about it is the amount of information he’s able to
recall, almost all of which is never repeated on the second discs
featurettes. This is an amazing feat, considering how much footage
there is to see.
From on-set stories to production tales, Burton retells all he can
in the two-hour film’s commentary. I definitely recommend listening
to it, as it’s a lot of fun and very interesting to listen to.
The second disc contains many featurettes, character bios and music
videos. Things get pretty intensely deep here and it’s all a lot of
fun to watch. Despite knowing I’d have to review all of these
features, I didn’t want them to end; they covered enough to leave me
satisfied, but maybe a few deleted scenes (assuming any are even
around still to put on) would’ve left me completely happy.
Nonetheless, what we get here is amazing and there is plenty of it.
Disc Two starts out with “Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of
Batman.” This featurette (over forty minutes long) catalogues the
escapades of the Dark Knight from his incarnation in 1939 up to Batman
and a little of Batman: The Animated Series. We hear from Bob
Kane, head honchos at DC Comics, writers and artists of the Dark
Knight throughout the years, Kevin Smith, Mike Mignola, Paul Dini,
Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Frank Miller, Alex Ross and many, many
others. It’s a really good featurette for any Bat-fan to watch and
to hear the praises of our favorite hero sung.
The second bit on the disc is “On the Set with Bob Kane.” This is
just as it says, with Bob Kane walking around one of the sets of Batman.
He describes where the idea of Batman came from and how happy he was
to see the film being made. It is very short in length, but it’s
great to see and hear from the creator of the Batman.
“Beyond Batman” is nearly an hour in length and goes through the
pre-visualization of the film, its sets, casting, gadgets and props,
the Batmobile, the costumes / make-up applications and the music for
the film. It’s all divided into sub-categories and gives a great
look into what went on during the movie. In addition, it’s all
backed up with cast interviews and amazing amount of archival
“Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight (Parts
1-3)” showcases the main development of the movie. It is kind of
like the later batch of documentaries in “Beyond Batman,” but all of
the information is different and condensed into a smaller
featurette. As interesting as the more in-depth stuff in “Beyond
Batman,” this is a must-watch for fans of the movie.
“Heroes and Villains” profile galleries detail the individual
characters in the films, ranging from Batman to Alfred and Joker to
Bob the Goon. All the casts are present for these profiles, whether
from newly shot footage or from old footage from Batman or
Batman Returns interviews.
“The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence” was something that was
originally written and boarded for the movie but never made it into
the final cut. It’s presented here in animated fashion, with Kevin
Conroy, Jason Hillhouse and Mark Hamill providing the voices for
Batman, Dick Grayson and Joker respectively. It’s a fun little scene
and we get to hear Hamill do a nice and long maniacal laugh at the
Three music videos by Prince round out the second disc, all in
glorious 1989 sound and video; watch them for nostalgia, but then
never watch them again. “Batdance”? Scary…
If you’re a fan of the film, then buy this release. It’s worth it
just for the transfer and audio, but with the over four hours of
special features (including commentary), you get a lot of goodness
to keep you occupied long after the film has ended.
Batman (1989): Special Edition will be in
stores on Tuesday, October 18th, 2005.