Batman Gotham KnightWarner Bros. (Blu-ray)
Acclaimed screenwriters join forces with revered animation filmmakers on six spellbinding chapters chronicling Batman’s transition from novice crime fighter to Dark Knight. These globe-spanning adventures pit Batman against the fearsome Scarecrow, the freakish Killer Croc and the unerring marksman Deadshot. Using an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry from Wayne Industries, Batman’s ethical boundaries exist only where he chooses to place them leaving some fearful of his power. The sharp storytelling complemented by stylish art from some of the world’s most visionary animators masterfully depicts the blurred lines of Batman as man myth and legend.
When I got this in I was hoping for something more along the lines of The Animatrix in terms of scope and relevance to the upcoming The Dark Knight and previous Batman film. Instead this collection of short stories is essentially a random collection of Batman adventures that are short and completely independent of each other. Each feature is done by a different animator and production group and is completely different from the other works in the piece. The stories have varying levels of entertainment, but I thought all of them were fun in their own way. What I enjoyed the most was the differing animation styles and tones. It is always interesting to see how different animation studios are handling their projects and this collection does a great job of showing you different styles in use today. While I didn’t find the project as entertaining as the recent Batman films, it was still a nice collection of short stories.
Animation is always hit or miss when it comes to video encoding. One of the biggest issues that normally pops up is banding, and it is clearly an issue throughout most of this presentation. Large areas of solid color show obvious banding and even some minor blocking. The image is also a bit softer than I would expect, even with the animation styles employed. Line twitter was rarely an issue which is refreshing since most anime has a little bit here and there. Contrast is good for the most part but blacks appear slightly elevated from time to time. Depth of image can be quite good in some of the segments and dimensionality varies as well. Overall this wasn’t a disappointing transfer, but I thought it could have been a lot better.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and unfortunately no lossless option is available. Judging from the animation English was not the original dub for some of these episodes and it is unfortunate that the original dub is not included. Aside from that the sound designs of these features are on the tame side for this type of material. Dynamic range is average overall and the low end isn’t nearly as active or aggressive as I would expect given the action on display. The surround environment is a bit underused and the tracks are pretty front heavy overall.
Extras are geared toward Batman the character and include some features on the story and its evolution and some of the villains made famous through the series. A feature commentary and a peek at another animated series for Wonder Woman are also included. Last up are a few Batman The Animated Series episodes in standard definition.
While I understand Warner wanting to tie this in with the release of the new movie and the Blu-ray release of Batman Begins I was disappointed overall with the quality of the release. The A/V presentation left me wanting in both areas and the stories, while displaying accomplished animation, didn’t have the cohesion I was hoping for. Serious fans of the Dark Knight will probably enjoy this far more than the casual fans.