Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £17.99
PictureThe disc presents a widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer with the VC-1 codec. Typical of animation this is a gloriously bold and solid transfer, full of stylised colour, deep blacks and detail. Each episode is stylistically very different, but the overall picture is one of excellence. Detail is pin sharp picking out all the animators features with absolute clarity both backgrounds and close up characteristics, when the artists pen allows.
Colours are lush and vibrant, greens and blues are striking with wonderful gradients. Reds shine out when called for, look at the flames in Crossfire. Brightness is set to give some deep and foreboding blacks, depth of frame and shadow detail are limited to when the artist details such elements in and are best shown in the tunnels in Deadshot or the shootout in Crossfire. Contrast too is set to give good whites, showcased by the Bat-signal lights which are suitably bright in all the episodes that includes them. But the prize must go go to Crossfire again for some bright clear and shining whites from headlights to gunfire flashes.
The original print is, obviously, pristine and digitally there is no compression artefacts or edge enhancement.
Now, to address In Darkness Dwells which has the oddest picture imaginable and incredibly is completely intentional; it is very grainy and all edges are tinged with red/green halos, imagine watching an old fashioned 3D picture without the coloured spectacles; that's the kind of image; I've included a screen grab (4) that illustrates it. Sandwiched between the quality pictures either side of this particular instalment it does stand out like a sore thumb, however, we do have to conclude this is how it is meant to look and thus mark it as such.
Clearly this is fine example of BD animation and is a crisp and bright image, however when compared to something like Pixar's releases (different form of animation, I know) it is not quite as bright nor as defined, as such I am awarding a near reference mark.
SoundThree sound tracks to choose from English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish and German Dolby Digital 2.0, I concentrate on the English. Despite being a 640 Kbps Dolby Digital track it's actually pretty good although not particularly immersive the spread over the front three is reasonably wide. Dialogue is crisp and clear sounds nice and natural but rooted firmly to the front. Tonally there is a full range and some steady enough bass. LF effects are somewhat less then dynamic than one might think compared to the visuals; explosions don't resonate quite as deep as they might, the swoop and rumble of the jet pack in Have I Got a Story For You is satisfying but not special, although the train in Deadshot was enjoyable, with the explosions and gunshots in Crossfire are suitable aggressive.
The score is suitably full though, making use of all the speakers with decent enough separation. Effects are a little limited and concentrate left to right further emphasising the frontal weighting, though when the surrounds do pick up, such as the rocket man flybys or helicopter blades or the occasional gun shot, does have the effect of opening up the stage and gives glimpses to what might have been a terrific track. In all the track is a decent presentation that whilst it won't light up your system will still bring a smile.
Contributors are DC Comics Senior Vice President/Creative Affairs Greg Noveck, former Batman editor and writer Denny O'Neil and the voice actor of Batman Kevin Conroy. Quite an engaging and jovial affair with the three obviously getting on very well producing a light and reasonably entertaining commentary. Sadly it is not too deep and never really explores the darker themes inherent in the character nor this particular film and this I feel is one of two balls dropped in this extras section.
Batman And Me: A Devotion To Destiny - 0.38.25
Of far greater value is the exploration of Bob Kane's life as told by his biographer Tom Andrae and those nearest and dearest to him including Elizabeth Kane and his original co-artist Jerry Robinson. This is terrific stuff, the frank and un-glorified story of a man who saw himself as near to his own creation as one could possibly imagine. Discussions about his impoverished early life, his decidedly weak schooling and the desire for money being the greatest catalyst for his construction of an icon; this is a man whose whole life was lived in near fantasy, wine, women and more women, whose finding a kind of spirituality lead him to embrace his fame and embrace it he did. “Hi, I'm Bob Kane, creator of Batman”. Whist the character is most undeniably an icon a series of fortuitous events helped shape its life for over sixty years, and Kane embraced them all. There are plenty of photographs TV and radio interviews with the man himself, clearly the best extra on the disc.
Mirror For The Bat: The Evil Denizens Of Gotham City - 0.35.47
A feature that sees a number of writers, artists and DC executives talk about how a hero is only as good as the villains he faces with a countdown of the most formidable to the slightly lesser known. It's a discussion on how facets of Batman's fractured psyche enable such diverse and fractured villains, each driven by personal tragedy, with the possible exception of Joker. There is a fair exploration and plenty of information, however not much is new here to fans but as an introductory piece it works quite well. The little amount of filler contains scenes from the main feature, the animated series but best of all plenty of artwork from the comics themselves.
Wonder Woman Sneak Peek - 0.10.29
A series of interviews with the creators and actors of this new origins story for one of the most capable women superheroes. Contains plenty of rough artwork and information and praise, but not one frame of finished product.
Batman, The Animated Series; Four Classic Episodes - 1.26.33
Another fantastic little extra this, episodes are Legends of the Dark Knight, Heart of Ice, Over the Edge and I Am the Night playable individually or with a play all function. This was ground breaking animation in that it was the first to embrace the 'Burton' style of Batman, dark and brooding. Even after all this time, I still found these terrific episodes.
Exclusive Full Colour Booklet
Not an actual extra for the disc, but the UK release gains a 12 page full colour booklet that goes into the characters, weapons and 'wheels' of the Batman universe with particular concentration on everything seen and used within this film. It's pretty informative and colourful, although the font used is very small, I've included a couple of scans in the image page.
Quite a nice selection of extras here, reasonably good information and depth with the jewel being the Kane's biography. However none are in HD and there has been no attempt at any clean up of the Animated episodes, this is a rather poor show from Warner as such a thing is becoming more and more common place and really would have made these extras something special. A real lost opportunity.
VerdictBatman: Gotham Knight is another bold attempt that follows in the footsteps of The Animatrix in bring together a bunch of weakly related stories each endeavouring to bring a new angle to the Bat. Most of it works, the stories are concise enough to get their message across but unfortunately remain largely individual, the whole coming over as rather disjointed. The sharp stylised nature of some episodes is difficult to come to terms with, especially when considering the definition available with Blu-ray. Watched as a whole there is some merit and it is a bold move to put together such bodies of work; it may not work for everyone, but those with a passion for animation and the Bat should find something to enjoy.
As a Blu-ray package Warner have put together a pretty good package, picture for the most part is excellent, sound, although vanilla, manages to provide some highlights and the extras package has something to get your teeth into too, the exclusive booklet is some nice icing on the cake too. I hope it finds a good home, because despite some reservations I'd like to see more of this type of release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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