Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray Review
The pinnacle of the early Batman films
Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray Review
I believe the word you're looking for is... Aaahh!After the monumental success of Batman it was not surprising that there was a sequel commissioned. By bringing back Tim Burton to direct and giving him even more sway on the design aspects - as well as bringing in more recognisable names for the acting talent, in the guises of Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken, while building on the success but broadening the scope - Batman Returns manages to surpass the original and becomes the pinnacle of the early Batman films.
Taking the lead from the first film, the story centres around the villains, in this case, the Penguin – a grotesque creation drawn straight from Burton’s own imagination, Catwoman – wonderfully seductive and a standout performance from Pfeiffer, and Max Schreck - an industrialist who uses money and influence to get his own way. The interweaving story threads draw inspiration from the comics but win out on design and performance. There is a lot more Batman this time around and whilst there isn’t much for him to do - he is far more reactive - when on screen, he is suitably invincible. The film is just as violent: Penguin, his henchmen, Catwoman and Batman all take turns at killing.
There is also a nice attempt at the duality of the character, the dark and the light struggling for dominance; the wonderfully realised ballroom scene really forcing this home, helped by the terrific chemistry between Keaton and Pfeiffer. It’s not all great though; the filming was moved from UK to America this time, and it shows in the size of the sets, which all appear cramped and small in comparison, so whilst the film is larger in scope and budget, it plays far more compact. That doesn’t take away from the immediacy of the film though, which starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up until the credits.
Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray Picture QualityBatman Returns was shot using Panavision Panaflex Gold II cameras on 35mm film and has recently been cleaned-up and scanned at 4K, the result of which has been used for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range (HDR10), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Batman Returns on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The new scan has really opened up the image, adding depth and immediacy. Detail has a nice up-turn: from skin texture to clothing weaves, from office equipment to instrumentation panels, from ‘snow edges’ to building fascias. There are keen edges throughout giving some nice pop to the visuals. Check out the Christmas tree, the Batmobile’s instruments or the texture to Catwoman’s suit.
The WCG and HDR really boost the picture, colours are richer, vibrant and bold; check out how warm the opening is in the Cobblepot household, how deep flesh tomes now are. Marvel at the reds and greens of the various Christmas presents, the lights on the tree, how deep the orange is in the explosions and how pink Selina’s room is.
Black level is tremendous, giving huge depth to the frame, there is plenty of shadow detail and so much more to the density of the blacks, be that Batman or Catwoman’s suits, the shadows in Penguin’s lair or the feathers of the penguins in the same. The white level is held firm, sparks from explosions are blinding, while the ‘snow’ has texture.
Digitally, there are no compression issues and the source is clean and bright, and there is a nice filmic sheen of grain giving a wonderful organic look. A stunning image.
Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray Sound QualityThe Dolby Atmos track is another real winner, giving depth and height to the surround environment. Right from the off, with the baby cries echoing through the Cobblepot household and then on to the credits with Elman’s iconic score taking over the whole room, you know this is going to be a deep and resonating track. The separation and layering are incredible, particularly with the score, which makes full use of all the speakers, it is bombastic and percussive and really hits the right notes.
Effects are well integrated, with gunshots and explosions zipping around and above when required. When the circus gang initially attack the Christmas square, there are some terrific accompaniments, from the crowd's screaming, to gunshots, to spring-boarding to the Batmobile’s engine revs. Indeed, all the action scenes fare very well. Dialogue is clean, precise and prioritised to the frontal array. Bass is tremendous, being tight, deep and giving full impact to the LF effects. Check out the explosion after Catwoman's iconic ‘meow’ or the destruction of the zoo.
Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray ExtrasUHD
Audio Commentary – With director Tim Burton, who discusses the film’s production both anecdotally and technically even though it’s a bit of a slog to get through.
Audio Commentary – As above.
The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin – 22 minute EPK feature, awful back slapping nonsense.
Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Pt. 4 - Dark Side of the Knight – Of much better value is this 30 minute feature which delves into the production of this celebrated film.
Batman Returns: The Heroes and The Villains – Video profiles of Batman, Alfred, The Penguin, Catwoman, and Max Shreck.
Beyond Batman – Six featurettes concentrating on a specific aspect of the production: Gotham City soundstage, Make-up applications, Special effects, Costumes, Animatronic puppets, and Musical cues.
Music Video - Face to Face by Soiuxsie and the Banshees.
Nothing new to the set, all having been available before.
Batman Returns 4K Blu-ray VerdictThe success of Batman ensured the sequel, by reuniting the creative process and giving director Burton a larger stake in the design, Batman Returns, actually surpasses the original. Bringing together Catwoman and The Penguin, and giving more screen time to Batman, the interweaving storylines never run out of steam, combining action, intrigue and intelligence and making for a superior sequel that remains not only the best of the 90’s Batman films, but is a strong contender for one of the best Batman films ever.
This 4K UHD set from Warner is another winner; the native 4K picture is awash with detail, has tremendous colouring and a black level to die for. The newly mixed Dolby Atmos track engulfs the room in a dynamic layered mix that never lets up, it's bass heavy and an effects extravaganza. The extras package may be recycled, and do show their age, but at least go well with the film.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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