"Batman: 20th Anniversary Release Blu-ray Review"
By James Harvey
Jack Nicholson is the Joker, who emerged from a horrible accident as a maniacal criminal. Michael Keaton is the Caped Crusader, who emerged from a childhood trauma to become a masked crimefighter. Kim Basinger is Vicki Vale, the talented photojournalist desired by both men. And Batman is the movie, the all-out spectacular directed by Tim Burton, set to songs by Prince and a music score by Danny Elfman, and an Academy Award-winnerfor Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. And now all of this is yours to experience again with this new Blu-ray BD-Book release of Batman: 20th Anniversary Edition in high-definition.
Now, there's not a soul out there who likely hasn't seen Batman, especially with the recent "Bat-mania" that once again braced the country thanks to The Dark Knight. Sales of nearly every live-action Batman property shot up in sales in light of the theatrical and home video release of The Dark Knight, allowing a whole new generation to experience Tim Burton's Batman. And while Burton's interpretation is different than Director Christopher Nolan's, I won't bother comparing the two, as doing so would be unfair to both movies. Both Burton and Nolan's interpretations and equally valid and that's all that really needs to be said,
Arriving on Blu-ray, in the special "BD-Book" format, Batman (1989) has never looked better. However, despite that, this won't be a simple purchase decision for fans to make. This release is directly on the heels of the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 Blu-ray release, a solid Blu-ray set collecting the first Batman film series. This Batman: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release contains the same content as the Batman disc from the aforementioned Blu-ray collection, which may make this a purchase decision surprisingly hard to make. On that note, let's take a closer look at the extras.
As I said, if you own the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 Blu-ray or DVD release, or even the Batman: Two-Disc Special Edition release from a few years ago, the majority of the bonus content here won't be new to you. However, exclusive to this release is a roughly 50-page built-in book containing a wealth of behind the scenes information, script excerpts, and comic pages. For fans who pick up this release you'll get some really enjoyable additional content to this release, something that can't be found in any other releases to this movie. Out of all the content included in the special built-in book, I really enjoyed the script pages and the absolutely gorgeous artwork by Jerry Ordway (from the included comic adaptation of Batman). The built-in book itself is roughly the height, width, and thickness of a regular Blu-ray release.
That pretty much covers all the new content in this release, so let's quickly look through the bonus material fans will no doubt find familiar. Batman: 20th Anniversary Edition contains a wealth of bonus features, all packed on to one disc. Naturally, this content is available through the pop-up menu and the on-screen menu made available through access on your player's remote.
First up is a detailed and fascinating commentary that covers pretty much every aspect of the movie's production from Director Tim Burton's perspective. He covers everything from the design of the series to costume choices, to how the final edit of the movie. There's rarely a stone left unturned. "Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman" is a roughly 40-minute featurette that covers the history of this pop-culture character and the various incarnations that have been unleashed over the years."Shadows of the Batman" covers the nearly every aspect of Batman (1989)'s production, from how the cast came together to day-to-day filming, in the roughly 70-minute run-time. "Beyond Batman" is a 50 minute documentary made up of five featurettes covering the film's cinematography, make-up, props, vehicles, costumes, and musical score. "The Heroes and The Villains" are seven video profiles of the, well, heroes and villains of Batman (1989). "On Set with Bob Kane" is a short 3-minute look at Batman's creator visiting the set of Batman (1989). The Blu-ray disc is wrapped up with an "animated storyboard sequence" of a deleted appearance by Robin, a collection of music videos, and the film's theatrical trailer. All applicable bonus content is presented in standard definition.
A second disc is included in this release in a paper sleeve, seemingly as an afterthought, containing a Digital Copy of the main feature.
So what about the audio and video transfer? Well, again, if you own the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 Blu-ray release then you know what to expect. But, if you've been holding out for this release, then you'll be in for a relatively pleasant surprise. Predictable, this is the best Batman has ever looked, surpassing the last DVD release of the movie. That being said, the age of the film is evident, so don't go in expecting a transfer matching that of The Dark Knight, for example. The detail is still great, but noticeable defects are at an absolute minimum with this transfer. I just want to stress that new details are noticeable in this transfer, and spotting that new detail actually adds to the viewing experience. As for the audio, it's pretty much the same story. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is great, but once again, it also shows the age of the movie. Everything is nicely balanced and seems rather expected for this type of release. This isn't a massively aggressive track that you'd come across in a Blu-ray release of a new movie, it's still pretty immersive and well put-together.
Personally, it would have been nice for Warner Home Video to provide a new transfer or include some sort of new bonus feature touching upon the 20th anniversary of Batman, something this release is supposed to be dedicated to. There's also no mention on the packaging that this title is released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Batman Odd. This is the only real quibble I have concerning what's actually a pretty solid stand-alone release for Batman, allowing fans to get their hands on this film without having to lay down considerable change to get the film through the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997 Blu-ray collection.
Warner Home Video has created a notable Blu-ray release with Batman: 20th Anniversary Edition, especially with the overall package and the book content found on the release. That being said, the majority of the bonus content here, and even the feature itself, is something fans have likely already purchased either on DVD or on Blu-ray, so fans may want to consider that before picking up this Blu-ray release. Save for a few package changes - the Blu-ray packaging, new disc art, the built-in book - this release is basically what we've all seen before. The lack of any new bonus content or packaging mentioning the 20th anniversary of this movie is also perplexing, but not entirely unexpected and doesn't really detract from what is basically a solid Blu-ray catalog release. If fans are on the fence about picking up this release, the built-in book will likely lean many toward a purchase. The handsome packaging and excellent built-in book is definitely something that those who pick up this release will definitely enjoy. The Batman: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release comes Recommended, offering a great movie in a dashing package.