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"The Dark Knight: Two-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray)"

Release Date: 12/09/08
Packaging Type: Elite Blue
Subtitles: English, Francais, Espanol
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition 16x9 Variable 2.4:1 and 1.78:1 (IMAX Sequences)
Sound Quality:
Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1
Dolby Digital: English 5.1, English 2.0, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Special Features:
• Gotham Uncovered - Creation of a Scene - Director Christopher Nolan and Creative Collaborators Unmask the Incredible Detail and Planning Behind the Film, Including Stunt Staging, Filming IMAX, the new Bat-suit and Bat-pod...and More!
• Batman Tech - The Incredible Gadgets and Tools
• Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight - Delve into the Psyche of Bruce Wayne and the World of Batman Through Real-World Psychotherapy.
• Gotham Tonight - 6 Episodes of Gotham Cable's Premier News Program
• The Galleries - The Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art, Production Stills, Trailers & TV Spots

Review (Zach Demeter)
I doubt there was anyone who could have imagined the impact that The Dark Knight would have. Although no doubt bolstered by the last performance of the late Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight continued the blockbuster storyline from Batman Begins and introduced an array of new characters, both heroes and villains, and strung the audience along for the ride. The film would eventually go on to gross near a billion dollars worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film of all time. For a franchise that was once dead in the water for nearly a decade, Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman proved to be one of the best decisions Warner has made, both for their financial benefit and also for the benefit of Batman fans and movie goers alike.

The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Ekchart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective. But soon the three find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

After Batman Begins, my hype level for The Dark Knight was greatly diminished. It’s not that I didn’t love every second of the first film, I just simply saw too much of it before settling into the theater. Seeing how good the first film was I told myself I would watch nothing but the official trailers released for the film, and even then I cut it off after the second trailer was released in the States. A few images here and there and some hype for Ledger’s performance were all I allowed myself to play with and by the time the premiere day came, I was oddly calm before entering the theater. This may sound a bit ridiculous, but I, like many others, have spent years reading and enveloping myself in the world of Batman, whether it be comics, animation or film, there’s no medium of Batman I haven’t traversed.

Needless to say there was a giant smile upon my face during my entire viewing of The Dark Knight and I would have been perfectly contented to wait for the theater to set up again so that I could view it a second time. On a time crunch, however, I wasn’t allowed this leisure and my second viewing would have to come later. It did, a week later. And then a couple days again after that. And then a week later again, this time in IMAX. When all was said and done I ended up going to the theater for The Dark Knight five times. Each time I went with a different group, but anytime someone wanted to go see it I was right there, ready and willing. Needless to say I became absolutely obsessed with the film over the remaining months of the summer, draping a few of the films many posters on my walls and even going so far as to replace the wallpaper on my phone to images from the film. Yes…I was truly obsessed with this film and geeked out just about every way imaginable. I divulge all of this, of course, to let you know that I am about the last person you want to come to this film about for an unbiased view.

So what was so engaging to me about the film? The short answer is “everything,” as Nolan expounded upon what he created in the first film and heaped a myriad of layers on top of it. The cast, once again, was perfect and engaging. The score, while familiar, changed itself up enough and created a haunting theme for The Joker. Everything about this film simply felt more open and expansive. It’s hard to explain, but it almost feels entirely different from the first film in its cinematography and tone. The city is much more open, less dark (and brown) and expansive feeling. I always felt the city in Begins felt a bit too confined at times, although maybe that was a point of the film…who knows.

I was also delighted to see Eckhart as Harvey Two-Face, as I’d enjoyed his other films for many years (Thank You For Smoking especially). He made a wholly believable Dent and a frightening Two-Face and while I doubted the ability to have two villains on screen at the same time, the brief interactions between Joker and Two-Face were nothing short of brilliant. There isn’t a scene in this film I would drop in or change out, Nolan really tightened the screw on this one to the point where the film may have very well been flawless. Of course there are small little ticks I still find a bit irksome (the annoying GCPD SWAT member in the van, some of the prisoners on the boat segments also felt rather poorly acted at times), but overall there isn’t a segment of the main story that I would switch around at all.

Of course I can only go so long in this review before I can resist talking about Ledger’s performance. I knew, as an avid Bat-fan, that if this was the direction that Nolan was taking with the Clown Prince that the role itself was going to be very psychotic and twisted. I wasn’t sure about Ledger, but after hearing that first teaser trailer with his laugh, my worries were alleviated. I wasn’t even concerned about the scars on his face when that notorious image (used on the second disc artwork on the Blu-ray release) was released online. Without a doubt the film was elevated to a whole other level (and also received way more attention than it would have otherwise, sadly) due to his involvement and I cannot imagine another actor in the role. It’s bittersweet that the character lived on at the end, as even though he’ll exist in the world of Nolan’s universe, sadly the actor no longer exists in ours. Strictly speaking the Nolan universe isn’t known for keeping the same cast members around between movies, so I guess Joker showing up again wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, although given the circumstances behind why the recast would have to take place I doubt very much we’ll be seeing anymore purple coats in the future.

Speaking of recasts, I honestly feel that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s replacing Katie Holmes was for the better. While I didn’t necessarily object to Holmes in the first film, I realized I simply did not believe her enough…her acting just wasn’t on the same level as the rest of the actors. While some will argue Gyllenhaal isn’t as pretty of a face as Holmes, I’ll take her over Holmes any day, simply because the woman can act alongside the rest of the cast, all of whom just pulled out all the stops. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman and Christian Bale all did absolutely fantastic jobs in this film and it will no doubt go down as one of the best films in cinematic history because of it. At the very least it will be more welcomed at the top of the box office list than Titanic has been.

Visual effects in this film were also a leap over the last film, mainly in part due to the IMAX camera. While smaller, character-fueled sequences were shot with standard 35mm, the big action pieces of the film occurred in full IMAX glory that created for an absolutely astonishing viewing experience. I wasn’t quite as blown away by it as I’d hoped, but when I returned to the theater to see the film for a fifth time (the IMAX viewing was my fourth) I lamented the lack of massive screen and incredible sound system in the theater. It certainly was the ideal way to see the film and I’m glad I at least made the effort to see it once in the format, even if the closest theater was an hour away. The little CGI used in the film was also a boon for me, as I knew what I was seeing was actually real, although I would’ve bet that the hospital explosion was CGI…but no…that was absolutely real.

I’m sure I could go on for awhile about how much I love this film and the small details in it, from the realistic introduction of the bat-pod, to the redesigned suit and the brilliance of the script and the anarchistic turmoil that Gotham was thrust into because of a few small deeds by The Joker, but I’ll cut it here before I’m up several hours discussing this film. To boil it down simply, this film is a Must See. If the box office receipts and volumes of critical acclaim heaped on this film didn’t convince you, this isn’t just a great comic book film; it’s just a great film period. Everyone involved in this picture deserves a massive round of applause, as I doubt we’ll see something this remarkable again grace theaters for some time.

The Blu-ray
Oh boy…here we go. What will undoubtedly be the highest selling Blu-ray of all time and I actually have issues with it. I don’t feel they’re minor either, but I’ll get to those in due time. First off is the packaging for the film, which boasts a reflective foil slipcover on the outside with the bat-pod poster, while underneath we have a one-sheet of Joker standing in the street. I’m incredibly happy they gave us the two covers, as I really don’t think the bat pod, for a film of this stature, is enough to really sell the film. Then again I don’t think a single shot of Joker does it either, so it’s a nice marriage of the two. Even the rear art is different, with the slipcover “normal,” and the Joker backing all marked up with the similar graffiti style we saw early on in the films marketing campaign. Inside the packaging are three discs, two Blu-ray’s with the film and special features and a third with the digital copy. Inserts include a bit on Warners Bros. BD-Live features, as well as a redemption code for the digital copy and a notice about keeping your players firmware up to date.

Next up we have the VC-1 encoded variable 2.35:1/1.78:1 video transfer that looks absolutely astonishing. The IMAX sequences (1.78:1) especially are jaw-dropping in quality, with so much detail on the screen at any given time that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Although the 35mm (2.35:1) sequences are no slouch in the video quality department, the clarity of the IMAX print is just…it’s something you have to see to believe. It’s also a shocking comparison between the two prints, since they often interchange with one another as you watch the film itself, so it’s easy to compare the quality difference between the two.

And thus…that puts me at my main complaint against this release. As enjoyable and gorgeous as the IMAX sequences are…you can’t shut the damn things off. You’re forced to watch the film with changing aspect resolutions, which may be fine for a massively projected version of the film in a theater or on a big 60”+ LCD screen, but for me, the switch between the two ratios was simply jarring. I was mentally noting each time it happened and while I attempted to convince myself that this was an all right way to watch the film, I remembered how engaged I was while watching the film in the theater and how, even on the fifth viewing, my attention was purely focused on the screen. With this release, I felt my attention wandering, wondering when the aspect would change again. I finally got fed up with it by the time the hospital scene ended, where we see Joker leaving the building in IMAX, a quick cut to 35mm, and then back to IMAX again. I sat there in disbelief, wondering if that really just happened since it was so jarring. During the night sequences it isn’t quite so bad as the disappearing and reappearing black bars aren’t quite as obnoxious at that point, but…honestly, I’m going to have to pick up the DVD version of this film to watch on a regular basis just to actually engross myself in it, as ridiculous as that sounds. If you have yet to see this film, then please, please do not watch it on Blu-ray first. You will become rather annoyed at the changes and watching this film for the first time should not come with any kind of technical annoyances such as that. More than anything I’m actually surprised they didn’t include both versions; so many studios include both rated and unrated versions on the same disc now with no compromise in video quality and with a full 11gb of space leftover on the 50gb disc used for the first disc of the Blu-ray release, there was plenty of room for the non-IMAX versions.

Thankfully the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track isn’t anywhere near as bothersome as the video transfer. The surrounds are used to a fantastic degree, with every one of the big sequences (usually denoted by IMAX ratio) throwing effects all around the room. The subwoofer also gets quite the work out, as Zimmer and Howard’s score is absolutely thudding, releasing copious amounts of bass for seemingly no reason. I didn’t mind it in the theater, but my subwoofers a bit big for my room and I get constant reverb whenever the music kicks up in this film, but that’s no fault but my own—I simply shouldn’t have bought such a big beast of a subwoofer for such a small room. Overall this is a fine audio mix and one that you’ll certainly get a lot of fun out of, especially during the bullet/brick test. I had some complaints about the noise once that scene ended. It was also nice to be able to hear some of the sound effects and music that was sometimes muddled by other sound effects and/or music—the night club sequence in particular was a bit of an aural mess in theaters, but its cleaner sounding here. Included are DD5.1 English, French and Spanish as well as English 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

And now for the extras, which I had high hopes for after the rather disappointing original two-disc release Batman Begins received (oh the horrors of that second disc menu…it still haunts me to this day). While there is certainly plenty to dig in here, with over three hours of bonus content from start to finish (all of which is in 1080i/p), I take issue with what it covers. I’ll get into that more as we go along, but first up we have the picture-in-picture Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene “Focus Points” (1:04:10) bits that play over the film itself if you have them enabled. Thankfully you can watch them by themselves as well, although obviously if you have the film itself going on behind it you’ll get a fuller effect. This is the only extra on the first disc and for the rest we traverse over to the second disc.

There are there areas of the second disc that house extras. The first is “Behind the Story” which brings us the two History Channel features "Batman Tech" (46:00) and "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight" (46:03). To call these “Behind the Story” is a bit of a stretch, as these have nothing much to do with The Dark Knight and instead focus more on Batman Begins and a few tidbits on The Dark Knight. That’s to be expected since these were made prior to the film’s release, but tagging them as “behind the story” makes them sound like they’d actually be discussing The Dark Knight, when in fact both just talk about the character of Batman himself. Not to discredit these extras, they’re both quite entertaining to watch, but since we had access to these via History Channel before, they aren’t exactly new.

Under the next category, “Extras”, we have Gotham Tonight (46:42), six episodes of the news program in the film. These pieces are a bit hokey, but are interesting to watch nonetheless and those who followed the films impressive online marketing campaign will recognize some of these (I hesitated to watch the majority of them, so these may have actually all been online at some point, I’m not sure). Also under this category are The Galleries which include Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art, and Production Stills. Under “Trailers and More” we have three theatrical trailers and six TV spots (8:49) and that wraps up the extras.

Yee-up…you heard me. That’s it. While the absence of a commentary isn’t that surprising since Batman Begins didn’t receive one either, the complete void left on this set is astounding. This film grossed near a billion dollars, will likely be up for some Oscar gold in the coming months and this set is all but devoid of extras discussing the actual story of the film, the actors and…well, anything not related to the special effects or scene setups. As interesting as it was to learn about the IMAX shooting process, we only hear from Nolan and a handful of crew on the film. Christian Bale chimes in once to discuss something and that’s all we hear from the cast of the film. We hear a few praise Ledger’s work and we actually get a brief glimpse at an unused Joker shot, but that’s all there is. I’m not complaining about the extras we did get, mind you, as the “Creation of a Scene” extras are extremely interesting and engaging, but for a film of this caliber…I’m just disappointed as both a Batman fan as well as a movie fan.

Between the annoying aspect ratio change and the lackluster extras, I’m actually going to have to toss this one into the Rental pile, just to see and hear how the film looks and sounds on Blu-ray. I do not recommend this release to be your first viewing of the film as I feel strong enough about the aspect ratio changes that I think they would be enough to tear you out of what is an otherwise incredibly engaging and enthralling film to watch. Perhaps I’m just blowing it out of proportion, but I would genuinely recommend getting the two-disc DVD edition (although that release does not contain the History Channel specials) over this release if you want to enjoy the movie without any distractions. It’s incredibly disappointing for me that I have to designate the Blu-ray release the “lesser” of the releases, but considering the insane sales this will likely produce regardless, I doubt it will matter much if I have to drop a negative on it. I guess I just expected more from the home video release…apparently I hyped myself in reverse this time.

Review (James Harvey)
We all knew The Dark Knight was going to be big, but "second highest-grossing movie of all time" big? I don't think anyone saw that coming. Blowing away every single Batman movie that came before it, The Dark Knight is a powerhouse of a movie, driven by a great script, superlative acting, and an unbelievable amount of buzz. And, get this, the movie is going to still be in theaters when the DVD and Blu-ray hits. Unreal! Now, personally, I wish I could come up with a smashing opening paragraph, something to whet your appetite for this review, but, well, obviously I couldn't. I honestly think just about everything that could be said about this movie has been said. However, if you want an opinion on the movie and a recommendation on whether or not to pick up the home video release for the year's top movie, well, keep reading! Let's get this synopsis out of the way and then take a closer look at The Dark Knight.

The follow up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan with star Christian Bale, who returns to continue Batman's war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces the Dark Knight ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

Now, I’m going to pretend to be some poet and write a moving and genius review of one of the best films of the year, and easily the best “comic book” movie to date. Instead, what you’ll get is a simple look at the movie, a few basic thoughts on it, and that’s it. And why? Because everything that can be said has already been said about this movie, it seems. Skimming through countless reviews, The Dark Knight commanded an unbelievable critical attention, and deservedly so. Bound to be a serious Oscar contender this year, The Dark Knight is one of the best-reviewed movies of year, amazing acclaim that even non-“comic book” movies would strive to obtain. An ingenious movie and near flawless in it’s’ execution, The Dark Knight is a riveting film that surpasses expectations and labels to become a true crossover event.

So, where to begin? The solid directing? The great cast? The gripping story? The across-the-board superb acting? There are countless places where I can start here, given how creatively rich and complex this movie is. Everything about this film is so engaging and so compulsively re-watchable. Whether it’s the incredible opening bank heist, obviously inspired by Heat, the great interrogation scene, the chase sequence, or even the big climactic set-piece, there’s so much to take in and absorb here. There’s a lot to take in, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. While Batman Begins was plotted with a finite plan, getting Bruce Wayne to become Batman, this film isn’t constrained by that. So, while it may seem unwieldy, much like the Joker’s assorted schemes, it’s actually intricately planned out. And thankfully this all works because we have characters that we actually care about and a story that’s gripping and absolutely enthralling in all of its tragic glory. A great crime yarn, director Christopher Nolan is making Batman movies as they should be, in my opinion. The Dark Knight proves that not only is his vision a great one, but it’s simply one of the best incarnations of the Caped Crusader to date.

Now, instead of avoiding it, I’ll just come right out and proclaim my admiration for the completely no-holds-barred take on the Joker by Heath Ledger. An absolutely phenomenal piece of work by the late actor, the Joker is as terrifying as he’s ever been, completely unpredictable, and just frightening. We don’t know what’s going on in his head and…well…it’s frightening. Ledger is simply astounding in his role, no question. It’s no surprise either, given the heavy amount of preparation Ledger did for the role. He apparently hid away in a motel room for about six weeks to delve deep inside of the character. He devoted himself to developing The Joker's every tic and quirk, namely the voice and that sadistic-sounding laugh, and he even kept a journal of his thoughts during this endeavor. There’s also a dab of punk rocker Sid Vicious and some Alex De Large (A Clockwork Orange) in there as well, it seems. It all culminates into a horrifying and brilliant depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime. Countless things have been said about Ledger’s Joker and I’m adding nothing new. It’s just an amazing creation and probably the iconic take on the character.

Now, while Ledger’s role as The Joker is absolutely stunning, he’s not the only one who manages to do some great work for the movie. I found Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon to be a great role that’s more complex than is appears. Deceptively simple on screen, Oldman really does create a multi-layered take on Gordon, I find. Gordon is such a rounded character and Oldman melts into the role so well that it’s hard to imagine the character any other way. Gordon feels like a cop, acts like a cop, and struggles being one of the last few honest people in Gotham. Gordon becomes all the more important as movie progresses as his own belief in justice really comes to a crossroad as the movie heads into its tragic conclusion.

Naturally, stuck between the Joker and Gordon is Batman himself, Bruce Wayne. In what could be considered the “straight man” role of the movie, Wayne is played to perfection by Christian Bale, who reprises his role from Batman Begins. Bale is able to effectively pull off the dual role of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and he really shines when the characters find themselves bleeding into each other, as it does at multiple times throughout this dark movie. Bale really does capture the essence of the tragic figure of Batman. This interpretation to the character, which has roots in both Batman’s dark comic revival of the 70s and Jeph Loeb’s epic The Long Halloween, is such a multi-layered and intricate character, probably more so than he’s ever been portrayed. Pulled apart in so many directions, we see him struggle to find balance in his life as his city falls apart around him. Just stellar work.

I also want to briefly mention Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face, who I believe didn’t get the accolades he deserved for his part of the movie. A great take on Harvey Dent and a nice spin on his ultimate destiny as one of Batman’s foes. I also feel I should note that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s take on Rachel Dawes, taking over for Katie Holmes, is a great addition and recast. I’m not a fan of recasting, but Nolan made it work here.

There’s a lot more to take into account here, and a lot more that could ultimately be discussed about here. Nolan’s directing is smooth and superb, catching all the important bits on screen and leaving any possible lingering doubt to be filled in either by ourselves or through small bits subtlety released later throughout the film. Nothing is left unanswered. Everything is answered. Everything works together to great effect. At least, this is what I found. The script is solid, the directing is top-notch, and some of the cinematography here is to die for. There were shots were I was left absolutely breathless, I have to say. Everything about this movie works and deserves the recognition and acclaim it mustered up over the summer.

Of course, with all of this universal acclaim comes a few of those who feel the need to rip this movie apart, looking for the tiniest flub or the most inane reasons to decry The Dark Knight. Some found Batman to be no more than a costumed thug, which, well, if said people actually watched the movie and paid attention to what was going on, I’m sure they’d realize that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything Batman does here is on the level with his comic roots, from protecting the lives of innocents to how he unleashes justice, all of it works. Now, I will admit the movie makes a couple mistakes that become evident on repeat viewing, but nothing that isn’t cured by using some common sense and judgment. Then again, that’s something that some fanboys aren’t really accustomed or known to use, so it’s not expected that they find plot holes and mistakes where there are none.

Now, I could go on and on about this movie and, looking back a this very review, I do seem kind of all over the place and not really organized. Well, that mostly has to do with how just flat-out great this movie is in every respect. To me, this is Batman. Not those over-rated ugly Tim Burton movies, but this. This is Batman to me, and, outside of Batman: The Animated Series, this ranks as one of my favorite interpretations of the character. I could seriously go on and on about why this movie is so great, whether it’s the redesigned Batsuit, the very cool Bat-pod, the great chase sequence and subsequent showdown between Batman and and The Joker, the great portrayal of the classic Batman villain Two-Face, the superb writing and directing, the overall epic feel of it, good lord, I could seriously prattle on for so much longer.

Personally, I’m glad this film ended up being as big as it was. It’s great to see Batman take the well-deserved throne as the top movie-hero around, and I’m glad to see The Dark Knight take the rightful place as the top Batman movie to date. The Dark Knight is not only a great comic book movie, but it’s just a great film period. A film that crosses over so many boundaries and classifications, becoming something entirely its own. The writing is excellent, the directing is superb, the acting is phenomenal, and the overall movie is a great experience to behold. I know I’ve shortchanged a few aspects of the movie (I feel I could talk more about the directing, about the cinematography, the work of the supporting cast to name a few things), but there’s just so much to enjoy about this movie that I have a hard time focusing on one specific aspect.

To all you brave readers who somehow managed to make it to this point without your eyes glazing over, I commend you! To get to the point of all of this, The Dark Knight is movie-making at its finest. A brilliant, smart movie that never talks down to its audience while keeping them enthralled at the same time, Christopher Nolan and company have weaved an impressive and sense-shattering epic movie. With so many powerful visuals, so many great characters, so many tragic turns and heart-pounding moments, you can’t help but be thoroughly engulfed in this stellar film. The Dark Knight is one of those rare occurrences where everything has gone absolutely right and the end result is a film that is nearly flawless, totally engaging and just a flat-out great movie. One of the most unforgettable experiences of the year, The Dark Knight is an Absolutely Must Own movie that deserves a spot in everyone’s collection.

The Blu-ray:
With Warner Home Entertainment planning to ship over a one million Blu-ray copies of The Dark Knight, it's easy to presume Warner is going to put their money where their mouth is to assure we get a solid Blu-ray release. Thankfully, the end product is quite satisfying. Not as great as I hoped, but still a solid Blu-ray release that should please fans of the Batman movie franchise.

So, let’s start on the outside and work our way in. First off is the packaging for the film, which boasts a reflective foil slipcover on the outside with an image of Batman on the Batpod, while underneath we have this great shot of the Joker standing in the street. Both images are from one-sheet movie posters released earlier this year for the movie. Personally, the Batpod image isn’t my favorite image. but Warner seems to be using that image for a lot of their special The Dark Knight releases, such as the Digipack Edition of the movie’s soundtrack released earlier this year. The backing of the Joker cover art is covered with graffiti which is a great nod to the character and the film’s marketing from earlier in the year. The inserts are nothing special, just information the BD-Live features and a redemption code for the Digital Copy.

So, as we dive inside, let’s take a gander at the audio and video aspects of this release. First up is the audio, and it’s a great transfer! The TrueHD audio transfer is crystal clear and boisterous. Effects are tossed around to all the speakers, giving a great, immersive quality to it. The action sequences come out particularly well. The chase scene? Sounds absolutely amazing! The score comes out loud and clear and doesn’t seem to muffle the dialogue as it appeared to do in theatres. Everything really does sound clear, especially Gordon’s climactic speech at the end of the film (which I found was really jumbled by the movie’s score during the film’s theatrical run). Also included are DD5.1 English, French and Spanish as well as English 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

And now…the video. It goes without saying that the VC-1 encoded variable 2.35:1/1.78:1 video transfer looks absolutely astonishing. It really, really does! The IMAX-framed sequences, presented in 1.78:1 are really something to behold. Whether it’s the bank heist, which looks so much better and open here, or the excellent chase sequence later on, which now looks more epic with this new framing, the level of detail on the screen is staggering. Those scenes really do pop when they come up, but, no worries, the regularly framed 2.35:1 sequences are also great. There is an obvious difference in quality between the two, and easily comparable, but both the 1.78:1 framed sequences and the regular 2:35.1 sequences look great on Blu-ray. Warner really managed to scrounge up a great video transfer here.

And, as great as it is, some fans may not like the fact that you can’t shut off the IMAX framing. The aspect ratios do change quite frequently in the movie and, with three major sequences nearly back-to-back-to-back at the end of the movie, some may find it really distracting. I think Warner should have provided those sequences in a 2:35:1 frame on top of the IMAX framing, so fans can have the option to watch both versions. I’ll come back to that, actually, a little later, so lets move ahead to the bonus content!

The first disc contains over an hour of bonus material in the form of a documentary, which can either be viewed with the movie or separately. Called “Gotham Uncovered,” it focuses on what was put into the creation of this movie, including production work, the use of IMAX camera, the difficulty in handling the Bat-pod, and more little bits here and there. It seems a little light on information, given all the work that went into this movie. It would have been nice to see more on the Bat-sonar, the CGI-work on Two-Face, and maybe even a retrospect on Ledger.

And now we hop over to the second disc, which holds the wealth of the extras for this release. First up is Batman Tech, a 46 minute documentary that looks at the weapons Batman utilizes for his war on crime. After words is another 46 minute documentary called Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight, which, as you can expect, looks at the character of Batman and the mental ramifications of his vigilante work. Both documentaries, which aired on the History Channel earlier this year, delve more into Batman Begins than The Dark Knight and seem more appropriate for the previous Batman movie than this one. Still, for fans who didn’t catch these specials, I imagine they’ll enjoy these different looks at Batman. But still, they don’t really dive in The Dark Knight and, personally, I’d rather see more behind-the-scenes production material on The Dark Knight than these documentaries. Not to knock their quality, they’re good, but I would just rather see more about the creation of the best Batman live-action film to date.

And then we move onto the Gotham Tonight, a series of six newscasts which, well, covers the news in Gotham. In particular, it plays off the events that lead up to the movie, making direct references to Batman Begins and events in-between that movie and The Dark Knight. Running over 46 minutes, they’re neat little extras that ran as part of the film’s amazing online marketing campaign, and worth at least a look.

After that, we get an assortment of galleries, including a look at all of the Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art, and Production art. TV Spots and trailers are also included, thankfully. There’s also a Digital Copy and BD-Live content which will go live around the time of the Blu-ray’s release.

And those are the extras, right there. A good collection, but not great. Much better than the bonus content from the original Batman Begins DVD release, but I found this lacking. Shouldn’t there be more about the amazing online summer marketing that literally changed how films are marketed? Why no massive documentary? Superman Returns had an amazing documentary that ran for three hours, so why doesn’t The Dark Knight get anything similar. For a film that’s a lock for at least a host of Oscar nominations, and also being the highest-grossing film of the year and second-highest grossing film of all time, shouldn’t there be more? Is Warner holding out for the inevitable double-dip (and you know there’s going to be one)? So many questions, I’ll admit, but don’t be discouraged. The content here is good and fans will enjoy it. The documentaries are interesting and the behind-the-scenes material on the first disc is a nice taste of the film’s production. I just find it disappointing that we didn’t get more on the actual story of the film, the actors, or even a nice memorial on Ledger’s work. True, we hear from Nolan a handful of times and Bale once or twice, but it’s not enough. I’m not complaining about what we got, but I believe we should have gotten more content. It’s a good package overall.

Now, remember earlier when I mentioned how I had a little more to say on the video? No? Well, I don’t blame you, but I do have one further comment on that. If you want the ability to also watch the IMAX-framed sequences on the standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio, then I’d recommend picking up the The Dark Knight: Two-Disc Special Edition release. While the scenes would be in standard definition DVD, it would give you the ability to watch the whole movie in one aspect ratio. Plus, the DVD even has the IMAX-framed sequences available as bonus content on the second disc of the special edition release. This is the likeliest way to get the full The Dark Knight experience. I know that may sound weird, but that may be the best way to go. Here, on the Blu-ray, you get a similar experience to the IMAX release of the film, while, on the DVD, you get the regular theatrical experience. It’s merely a suggestion for those who may be distracted by the shifting aspect ratio on the The Dark Knight Blu-ray release.

The highly-anticipated Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight is here and, overall, it’s a satisfying package. It’s not perfect by any means, as I feel there’s a fair amount of content left out, but most fans should find the Blu-ray release a worthy investment. The audio is top-notch, the video is stellar, and the extras are worth spending a few hours. For the top movie of the year, one sure to take home a few Oscars, I believe the Blu-ray release should have been more packed, but I’m not complaining. The The Dark Knight: Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray release comes Highly Recommended to own, despite some of it’s’ shortcomings, simply because the main feature is such a magnificent experience. Bold, uncompromising, and intelligent, The Dark Knight is a staggering masterpiece and it looks dynamic on Blu-ray!

The Dark Knight arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on December 9th.

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