Batman: The Movie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an acceptable transfer but not anything special.
Sharpness became one of the issues involved, as the film lacked great precision. While it showed decent delineation, the movie remained a little on the soft side. I saw no signs of jaggies or shimmering and the movie lacked edge haloes. Print flaws stayed minor; I noticed a few small specks but nothing else.
Despite the movie’s broad palette, colors looked strangely dull. While I didn’t think the hues looked bad, they lacked the vivacity I expected. Blacks seemed fairly dark, and shadows were decent; they suffered from some of the movie’s softness but presented no issues of their own. Given the film’s age and low budget, I didn’t expect greatness from the image, but I thought it’d look better than it did.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it came with its own ups and downs. Remixed from the original monaural source – which also appeared on the disc – the soundscape opened up in erratic fashion.
This meant loose localization much of the time. Sometimes elements came from the logical spots, and the mix occasionally offered decent movement. However, much of the time I felt the material emanated from non-specific spots and just created a general sense of “atmosphere” without much specificity.
This applied to the music as well. While the score broadened across the channels, I couldn’t claim it offered real stereo imaging. For the most part, I heard effects and music around the room but not in a fashion that created a realistic environment.
Audio showed its age but seemed decent. Speech occasionally appeared edgy, but the lines were intelligible and largely without problems. Like the speech, music and effects could be one-dimensional, but they lacked obvious concerns. Bass response sometimes kicked into life during explosions and other loud moments. The soundtrack was passable for its age.
This is where I’d usually compare the Blu-ray to the original DVD. However, I won’t do so because a) I’ve not seen the DVD in almost 14 years and b) I don’t own a copy now. I felt pretty impressed by the visuals at that time, but standards have changed since then, so I’m pretty sure what looked great for a 2001 DVD wouldn’t hold up in 2015.
Because of that, I’d bet the Blu-ray offered stronger visuals than the 2001 DVD. The Blu-ray disappointed me in a lot of ways, but I’d imagine it still topped the DVD.
Audio standards haven’t changed as much as visual demands, so I can say that the Blu-ray’s 5.1 mix worked better than the DVD’s lossy 2.0 track. Again, I had issues with some aspects of the 5.1 sound, but I had bigger concerns with the lackluster 2.0 edition, so the Blu-ray worked better in that regard.
The Blu-ray repeats most of the DVD’s extras and adds new ones. We find two audio commentaries, the first of which comes from actors Adam West and Burt Ward. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Although it provides some fun moments, I must admit that I find this piece to be a disappointment.
This is a spotty commentary, as many empty gaps appear. When the pair do speak, West dominates the proceedings, which probably is a good thing. Ward seems to stick mainly with small remarks that appear to have been honed over years of Batman discussions; I get the feeling that his material is mostly well-rehearsed, so his statements lack a great deal of spark or spontaneity.
West seems to be more natural, and he adds some interesting notes about the series and the movie. However, both men spend much of the commentary simply making bland comments about the film. They often go with a mildly-mocking tone, and they also relate a fair amount of praise toward others involved in it. Ultimately, I think the commentary remains generally listenable, but it isn’t as compelling and revealing as it should have been.
New to the Blu-ray, the second commentary features screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Junior. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, aspects of his work on the film and TV series, cast and performances, sets and locations, and other reflections on the Batman franchise and his career.
Semple starts out well and offers a good chat for a while, but he becomes less interesting as the track goes. More dead air occurs, and Semple tends toward tangential topics. We still get a decent look at the project, but it's an inconsistent commentary.
Another new audio feature, we locate an isolated score track. This presents the movie’s music on its own in DTS-HD MA 5.1 splendor.
Batman: A Dynamic Legacy runs 28 minutes, 39 seconds and offers notes from Semple, Batman historians Michael Uslan and Mark Cotta Vaz, comic book writers Geoff Johns and Mark Waid, cartoon historian Jerry Beck, Batman: The Animated Series writer/producer Paul Dini, comic book artist Alex Ross, The Official Batman Batbook writer Joel Eisner, director Leslie Martinson, film critic Richard Holliss, film historian Kim Newman, and actor Lee Meriweather.
“Legacy” looks at the participants’ thoughts about the TV series as well as aspects of the movie’s creation and changes in Batman over the years. The show acts as little more than an appreciation for the movie and series without a whole lot of facts behind it. A little of this goes a long way, so “Legacy” becomes tedious after a while.
During the 12-minute, 29-second Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute, we hear from Ross, Beck, Johns, Newman, Eisner, Meriweather, Uslan, Waid, Holliss, Cotta Vaz and film historian Bill Burns. We get basic notes about the “hero” actors and their roles. “Tribute” suffers from some of the happy talk of “Legacy” but it manages to give us a reasonable number of insights.
After this we get Gotham City’s Most Wanted. In the 15-minute, 51-second featurette, we discover info from Uslan, Newman, Johns, Eisner, Beck, Cotta Vaz, Meriweather, Ross, Waid, and Dini. “Wanted” works the same as “Tribute” except it concentrates on the villains. It’s another good but not great show.
Next we find a piece with the creative title of 2001 Featurette. Created for the original DVD, this 16-minute and 47-second piece is little more than more interview footage of West and Ward. We hear from them alongside some nice production stills and footage from the film.
The two provide a slew of fun and informative notes. Their topics range from their overall experiences on the show to movie-specific details to general anecdotes, and both consistently seem engaging and entertaining. This featurette succeeds because it offers much of the information found in the commentary but it lacks the latter piece’s lulls.
Another featurette focuses on one of the show’s most popular elements. The Batmobile Revealed offers a five-minute, 47-second look at the car.
Essentially we get an interview with Batmobile designer George Barris; he stands before the vehicle and tells us about how he created it. He also provides a little info about the machine, and he includes some anecdotes that surround its activity. By the way, he touts the Batmobile as the world’s most famous car, but the James Bond folks claim that title for his Aston-Martin DB7 - who’s right?
Two interactive pieces appear next. The Batmobile Interactive Tour lets us check out the car from a variety of angles. It becomes a decent little way to explore the famous vehicle, especially because text explains many of its operations.
As the film runs, you can activate Batman on Location: Mapping the Movie. When this runs, we see a map of Los Angeles on the left side of the screen. The primary goal of the piece is to show us the film’s locations and tell us how to get to those places from LAX.
In addition, we occasionally get “Factoids” and “Photos”. Those appear fairly infrequently and add little to the experience. This is an odd feature but kind of a cool one. I have to wonder how many fans copied the directions, flew to LA and then drove to the locations. (Most of the shoot took place on soundstages, so these “tours” wouldn’t be all that interesting.)
Another running feature comes via a trivia track. This gives us info about the movie, the comics and the TV series. The “Trivia Track” offers a nice mix of notes and becomes a useful addition to the set.
Under Galleries, we get six subdomains. These cover “From the Vaults Of Adam West” (68 screens), “Interactive Pressbook” (8), “Posters” (13), “Production Stills” (42), Behind the Scenes” (157) and “Premiere” (45). We find a solid mix of production shots, publicity elements and candid photos, and I think they’re more enjoyable than most.
The disc opens with ads for Jumper, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day. We also see the teaser, theatrical and Spanish trailers for Batman.
Before I got Batman: The Movie, I expected to loathe it. However, I was able to put my preference for the serious side of the character on hold long enough to enjoy this wildly comic and campy exploration of the genre. The Blu-ray provides mediocre picture and audio along with a long roster of bonus materials. This isn’t a great release of the film, but it’s likely the best version we’ve seen.