Batman: Year One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the transfer usually looked good, it suffered from some issues.
For the most part, sharpness was fine. Some wider shots suffered from moderate softness, but those instances weren’t severe. Instead, most of the film demonstrated positive clarity. Only minor instances of shimmering and jaggies appeared, but I noticed some light edge enhancement. Source flaws remained absent.
Year One came with a subdued palette, which is what I would expect from a Batman story. Nonetheless, the colors were fine, as all seemed full and clear. Blacks were dark and deep, but shadows became the movie’s weakest link. Low-light scenes tended to seem somewhat dense and tough to discern. These weren’t severe, but given how many nighttime/interior shots the film included, the lack of strong clarity turned into an issue. In the end, I thought the DVD offered a good but not great image.
At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Year One opened up the comic book material well. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious piece, but it added pizzazz to the program. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended well.
The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during bigger action scenes and some weather-related elements. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.
Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B+”.
We get a mix of extras in this two-disc set. On DVD One, we start with DC Showcase: Catwoman. The 14-minute, 47-second animated short shows Catwoman (voiced by Eliza Dushku) as she goes after a diamond smuggling thug named Rough Cut (John DiMaggio). It’s not a deep story, but it packs a lot of good action and turns into a fun piece.
Three previews follow. We get these for Justice League: Doom (10:14), All-Star Superman (10:46) and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (11:37). Across these, we hear from a mix of personnel. Doom provides remarks from co-producer Alan Burnett, executive producer Bruce Timm, voice director Andrea Romano, director Lauren Montgomery, lead character designer Phil Bourassa, storyboard artist Mel Zwyer, and actors Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Carlos Alazraqui, Carl Lumbly, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rosenbaum, while Superman provides comments from Romano, Timm, director Sam Liu, DCE SVP Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, and actors James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, and Christina Hendricks. Finally, Knights features Burnett, Montgomery, Romano, Timm, Fillion, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio, animation director Jay Oliva, and actor Henry Rollins.
All three exist as little more than promotion, and they’re fairly effective in that regard. Nonetheless, they remain long ads, so don’t expect more from them.
Disc One opens with ads for Smallville: The Complete Series, the Arkham City video game, Aim High and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. DVD One also includes Trailers for Thundercats, Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, MAD, Young Justice and the “DCU” application.
Over on DVD Two, we find a featurette called Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots. In this 23-minute, 24-second program, we hear from Alan Burnett, Detective Comics writer Greg Rucka, writer/former editor Denny O’Neil, Dark Knight Rises executive producer Michael Uslan, Detective Comics writer/former editor Len Wein, and DC Entertainment Creative Director Mike Carlin. The piece looks at Batman’s development over the years and what Frank Miller brought to the character in the 1980s. We get a decent overview here, but much of the show feels like little more than a love letter to Miller, so don’t expect much from it.
Under Bruce Timm’s Picks, we locate two TV episodes. These include “Catwalk” from Batman: The Animated Series (21:14) and “Cult of the Cat” from The New Batman Adventures (21:20).
Since she straddles the line between hero and villain - and also seeks to straddle Batman - the Catwoman remains arguably Batman’s most intriguing nemesis. She shows both sides well in the entertaining “Catwalk”. A good use of the Ventriloquist helps make this episode solid; he works better in a secondary position than in the starring role, which allows him to be effective here.
As for “Cult”, it suffers from a weak villain and overall plot, as the notion of the gang that worships felines feels pretty lame. However, the interactions between Batman and Catwoman crackle. Those add more than enough pizzazz to turn this into an enjoyable show.
Adapted from a much praised comic book, Batman: Year One has its moments, but it doesn’t provide a lot of satisfaction. At a mere 64 minutes, it simply lacks the breathing room to develop its characters and give us a vivid tale. The DVD offers erratic but generally good picture along with high-quality audio and a smattering of decent supplements. Bat-fans will want to give this one a look, but they shouldn’t expect greatness from it.