The Dark Knight Blu-ray review

We review an imported copy of Batman’s latest high definition Blu-ray adventure. Stunning doesn’t begin to cover it…

The Dark Knight

There’s not much more we can write about The Dark Knight that you don’t already know. From its huge collection of five star reviews, through to its incredible box office performance, it’s achieved the rare feat of being both a sizeable commercial and critical success.

Rewatching the film again on Blu-ray, months after seeing it for the first time, it really is some piece of work. It’s hard to remember a major Hollywood blockbuster in recent times that’s had anywhere near this much to say, and whichever Warner executive mooted the idea of Christopher Nolan as the man to reboot the Batman franchise must be the owner of a damn nice desk right about now.

Described, really quite accurately, as the Godfather Part II of superhero movies, The Dark Knight has an enormous amount in its corner. Heath Ledger’s surely-soon-to-be-award-winning turn as The Joker inevitably continues to reap the headlines, but credit too should surely be given to the likes of Gary Oldman too, who here holds the film in place in a beefed up, pivotal role as Gordon.

Morgan Freeman gets the comedy and chews it up, Aaron Eckhart finds space to develop his Harvey Dent character, and Christian Bale – aside from going a little over the top with the gruff Batman voice – is outstanding. Plus Michael Caine’s Alfred again gets some important material to work with, and happily makes the most of it.

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Maggie Gylenhaal as Rachel Dawes gets a lot less to play with, although she proves she’s a wise replacement for Katie Holmes with what she does get.

But the main credit should go to the Nolans, Christopher and Jonathan. Their screenplay makes for quite a complex film, in a troubled Gotham full of fleshed out characters and very real problems. For this reviewer, though, it got no better than the ending.

Without the option of revealing their villain for the next film – that made for an ultra-exciting end to Batman Begins – they nonetheless crafted a brilliant, downbeat and intricate end, that surely was one of the reasons why the audience at the IMAX screening I was at burst into applause. That just doesn’t happen in Britain.

Tied into Christopher Nolan’s direction, his reluctance to overdo the special effects and the sheer ambition and scale of his film, the production simply oozes five star quality.

So onto the Blu-ray. The clear highlight here is the absolutely stunning transfer of the film. It’s hard to find the right superlatives to describe the 1080p image here, because it’s simply brilliant. The sheer detail on offer here, the clarity of the picture and the sharpness of it makes The Dark Knight flat-out demo disc material. It manages the jump into the film’s six IMAX sequences by changing the aspect ratio from 2.40:1 to 1.78:1, and you may find that a little bit of an irritant, but we had no problems with the way it was done at all. It’s matched toe-to-toe by the TrueHD 5.1 surround sound track, which is utterly immersive, making for a soundstage that matches anything we’ve enjoyed with Blu-ray to date.

The only facet of the package that lets the side down slightly though is the extra features collection. There’s a fair bit here, but it feels like too much bread and not enough filling. The lack of an audio commentary, for instance, is a real pity, and the closest we get to it harks back to the days of following the white rabbit across The Matrix DVD. There are, basically, focus points in the film that you can choose to access as the film runs, or watch all in one go. These are good, solid, making of featurettes, adding up to just over an hour. Our favourites were the bits where they talked through filming the IMAX sequences, and you get voiceover from the filmmakers as they talk about their work.

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The rest of the extras package can be found on the second disc. Batman Tech is the first feature you’ll find, and it’s pulled straight off the most sycophantic TV channel in the whole wide world, with enthusiastic voiceover man along for the ride. It takes a look at the plausibility of some of the gadgets and gizmos featured in the film. It has the likes of Christopher Nolan, producer Emma Thomas and Christian Bale in the line-up of talking heads, and they’re joined by several DC Comics high-ups, Lois Gresh (the author of The Science of Superheroes), a physics professor, a man from Motor Trend magazine

It’s actually a really interesting way to spend 45 minutes, if you can deafen yourself to the aforementioned voiceover man trying to dumb everything down for you.

Sadly, a different voiceover man pops up again on Batman Unmasked: The Psychology Of The Dark Knight, which looks at what drives Bruce Wayne to become Batman. That, to our knowledge, was what Batman Begins covered, but they wring another 45 minutes out of it here, as a collection of further talking heads try to dig into what makes the Caped Crusader tick. It’s all very well packaged, but it’s a bit dull, truth be told. There’s consideration of the villains too, with Nolan arguing that The Joker is “the logical response” to Batman.

Then there are six Gotham Tonight segments, which are full length news bulletins that total around 45 minutes in all. The idea of these is fun, but we soon got a bit bored with sitting through them, and we suspect not too many people will get to the end.

Then there’s the galleries, which are far more interesting to flip through. There are separate galleries for the poster art, concept art, production stills and joker cards. And then there are three theatrical trailers for the film, and an assortment of TV spots. We distinctly remember in the build up to the film devouring every single one of these, and it’s good to meet up with them again.

Warner Bros also includes a third disc in the package, which allows you to write a digital copy to a computer or portable device. It’s in standard definition online and requires broadband activation. Yet in spite of declaring it’s for US and Canadian customers only, it worked fine in our UK test PC.

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Ultimately, you’ll get The Dark Knight for the film and for the quality of the transfer, which is good, because anyone hunting for terrific extra features is in the wrong place.

Yet the film really is that good, the transfer is reference quality, and you only hope now that Nolan and his team can find some way to match what they’ve done with The Dark Knight in a few years’ time. They’ll have a job…

This is a review of the important US release of The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, which we picked up at www.movietyme.com. It’s a region-free disc. The UK release, which is believed to be identical, will be on sale from 9th December.

The Film:

5 stars
The Transfer:
5 stars
The Extras:
3 stars

The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk

Rating:

5 out of 5