Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997
Three years later, Burton returned to the director's chair for Batman Returns, with three new villains terrorizing Gotham CityCatwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), The Penguin (Danny Devito), and Max Shreck (Christopher Walkin). The sequel didn't do as well theatrically with its more adult-oriented theme (this is not a kid-friendly film), and it only raked in $160 million, a minor disappointment for the studio, but still profitable.
In 1995, the franchise took a turn for the worst when Joel Schumacher took the over the director's duties. He cast a new man behind the mask (Val Kilmer) along with a different cast of villains—Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey). Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) is the love interest for Wayne/Batman, and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) makes his big-screen comeback as the loyal sidekick. The box-office receipts improved to $183 million with the star power of Jones and Carrey, but the love affair with Schumacher's vision would be short-lived.
In 1997, Batman & Robin made its debut, and the camp aspect of the franchise returned with villains Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) as well as another new man donning the Bat Suit George Clooney in a coma-like performance. To add insult to injury, Alicia Silverstone's execution as Batgirl makes Clooney's work look Oscar worthy. The script is high on action and weak on story, making it painful to watchyes, it's really that bad. It would take another reboot by Christopher Nolan to fix the mess Shumacher created with this piece of trash.
Each film sports its own VC-1 encode on a BD50 disc, but with varying results. Batman is the roughest-looking of the four with heavy grain and inconsistent detail ranging from very sharp to pathetically soft, depending on the scene. Granted, Burton wanted a darker tone, which is certainly captured in this encode.
The second film, Batman Returns, is a marked improvement on the first with better resolution and color saturation. Blacks are more stable, shadow detail is improved, and the print is in better shape.
Batman Forever takes a step backward in picture quality with soft resolution and muted colors. Batman & Robin is chock full of vibrant neon colors and sharper resolution, but it still doesn't exude greatness.
All four films include Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks and offer different experiences. Batman has the most laid-back track with a front-loaded presentation. The surround speakers contain minor ambience and score bleed, and dynamics are hit or miss with inconsistent LFE.
Batman Returns offers a more robust soundtrack that utilizes discrete effects from both the front and back of the room. The LFE is tighter and deeper and offers a more dynamic experience. The last two films offer the most active soundstage, but also the least accurate in terms of reality. In fact, they contain a constant bombardment of discrete effects and are much louder than the previous two films. Dialog takes a back seat to all the effects, which may be considered a good thingespecially with Batman & Robin. It isn't a bad track by any means, but I found it fatiguing.
Each movie sports its own smattering of supplements that include director's commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, documentaries, music videos, deleted scenes, and theatrical trailers. The box art claims over 18 hours of bonus features, and fans will have plenty of material to keep themselves busy.
I consider myself a casual fan of the franchise, and it was fun to revisit the first three films, but I had forgotten how bad the fourth film was. The presentations are solid and a worthy upgrade over the DVDsif only Warner gave the option of a three-disc anthology.
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Batman & Robin
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector
Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics