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Warner Home Video presents
Batman: Gotham Knight (Blu-Ray) (2008)

"I'm willing to put my life on the line to do what I have to. But it has to be mine, no one else's."
- Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy)

Review By: Matt Serafini   
Published: July 17, 2008

Stars: Kevin Conroy
Other Stars: Gary Dourdan, David McCallum, Corey Burton, Will Friedle, Jason Marsden
Director: Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Shoujirou Nishimi

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:15m:59s
Release Date: July 08, 2008
UPC: 085391179511
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B+B- A

DVD Review

Batman: Gotham Knight is the third title to come from Warner Bros. Animation, following Superman Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier. Having been underwhelmed by the aforementioned titles, I approached this one with much trepidation. While Superman and Justice League were enjoyable superhero adventures, there wasnít much substance to the stories and the needlessly short lengths (75 minutes each, approximately) were almost directly to blame.

Sadly, Batman: Gotham Knight succumbs to a similar detriment. Running a brisk 76 minutes, itís not simply the length that prevents the film from hitting its stride, but itís also the segmented nature in which this story is told. The premise here is six short (very short) stories nestled firmly into the continuity of Christopher Nolanís big screen Batman films (set in between parts 1 and 2). The success of each story varies but Gotham Knight as a whole underwhelms insofar as no one story is given enough time to unfold while some of them end before they have a chance to leave a lasting impression.

Thankfully we get the worst out of the way with the first vignette, Have I Got a Story for You. A 12 minute short where Batman is interpreted by three youths, each of whom have seen Batman on the streets of Gotham City. Penned by Josh Olsen (A History of Violence), the opening story examines the mythos of Batman, displaying three very different variations on the character: a ghostly specter that stalks the shadows, a sleek and efficient iron man and a massive mutation of man and bat. Itís essentially a rehash of a Batman animated series episode (Legends of the Dark Knightówhich, incidentally, is included on this Blu-Ray as a supplement) that breaks no new ground. The children are fairly annoying, the animation is rigid and unpleasant and the action is insipid. Itís a story weíve seen done better elsewhere and really sets the project off on a sour note.

The bar is raised (admittedly not a very difficult feat) with the second story, Crossfire. Here we see how the city of Gotham is still reeling from the events in Batman Begins: the Narrows are still out of control and home to a cadre of escaped lunatics. When two detectives are assigned to transport a criminal back to Arkham Asylum, they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a brutal mob gang war. Thankfully, Batman intervenes. The animation is far more fluid and moody in this piece, reflecting the spooky uncertainty of Gothamís Narrows. The action is stylish and while the story doesnít break any new ground itís still a satisfying Batman adventure.

The rollercoaster that is Gotham Knight continues with Field Test, a so-so story which finds Bruce Wayne troubleshooting one of Wayne Corpís most preventative pieces of technology, as designed by Lucius Fox. The biggest problem with Field Test is the way in which itís animated. Firstly, Hiroshi Moriokaís character design for Bruce Wayne is incredibly poor. Using the most generic of anime characters designs imaginable, the long, flowing locks of hair and overly flamboyant dress donít benefit Bruce in the least, and the design of Batman is even worse, recalling an old Speed Racer villain more than The Dark Knight. The story is interesting in that it shows Batman solidifying his footing regarding battlefield tactics, but as a whole itís one of the weaker packed into this collection. With a different animation team, this might have succeeded, but the wacked out visuals are simply far too distracting.

In Darkness Dwells is the best story of the bunch. A tightly written, old school Batman piece written by David Goyer, itís a simple story that finds Batman heading into the sewers of Gotham to find fabled cannibal psychopath, Killer Croc. The animated design of Batman and his rogues gallery are spot-on here. Killer Croc is hulking and intimidating; his confrontation with Batman brutal and ugly. Additionally, we get to see Batman flex a bit of his intellectual muscle in this episode, giving us fans a taste of the classic Dark Knight Detective. The substance couples with a gritty atmosphere to produce a story good enough to sustain its own feature.

Tying into the previous episode (with nods to all the others as well) is Working Through Pain, a meaty piece which finds Bruce Wayne in India in the midst of his pre-Batman training where he learns how to subdue mental and physical pain while in battle. This is the most character-driven of all the stories, juxtaposing Bruce Wayneís training with the bloody aftermath of In Darkness Dwells. The piggybacking of one story to another gives us insight into Batmanís psyche, showing us how heís able to retain his relentless determination at all times.

Finally, Deadshot is a tightly written story which pits Batman against the title assassin whose crosshairs are set on Commissioner Gordon. The artwork in this piece, while still anime styled, is also the most traditional representation of the comic book artwork. The straightforward nature of the story allows for a satisfying crescendo of suspense and tension that paves way for a rousing climactic battle atop of speeding subway. Like In Darkness Dwells, Deadshot is a conventional take on Batman and, unsurprisingly, one of the most satisfying of the bunch.

Itís obvious that children are not the target audience for this film. It earns its PG-13 rating with salty language and some surprisingly bloody violence. Why, then, is Warner Bros. consistently worried about getting their animated DC films in under 80 minutes? Each of their comic book titles are brimming with more potential than realized and a longer, more developed storyline would go a great way towards repairing that detriment in each instance thus far. With a little more length and meat, Gotham Knight couldíve been something special. As it stands though, itís little more than a way to whet your appetite before The Dark Knight graces theaters beginning on July 18.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what to make of Gotham Knight's high definition transfer at first. Having never seen an animated film in high def., I found myself going back to the image quality several times over the past week to try and decide if this was worthy of a passing grade.

The VC-1 encode (my new PS 3 actually provides this information whereas my prior Sony Blu-Ray player did not) for Gotham Knight may not be anyone's choice for demo material, but Warner gives us a clean and crisp image that fully details the varying animation on display throughout the film. Quality varies from story to story, proving that the biggest issue here lies within the style implemented by each filmmaker. Details are more pronounced in some stories, but there's never any question that the image quality isn't solid.


Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0German, Spanishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Japaneseno


Audio Transfer Review: Warner's Dolby Digital 5.1 track (no True HD?) is an adequate presentation. Disappointingly, Gotham never comes alive in glorious surround sound as I'd hoped. The rear channels spring to life during the more action-oriented bits, with some heavy bass workout during explosions and the most dramatic swells of the musical score.

This track could've been better, no question. It's an average mix that compliments the action well enough, but really lacks any sense of pop.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanses, German, Spanish
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by DC Comics Senior VP, Gregory Noveck, Former Batman editor Dennis O' Neil and Voice of Batman Kevin Conroy.
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Exclusive Sneak Peek at DC Universe's Wonder Woman animated film.
  2. Batman: The Animated Series (4 episodes)
Extras Review: Warner Bros. has packed their Blu Ray release of Gotham Knight with a terrific set of bonus features. First up is the documentary: A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City (35m:45s). Here is an entertaining look at Batman's classic rogue's gallery, explored from the perspective of comic industry insiders. The hardcore fans wont' learn anything new, but this feature is still a nicely produced and enjoyable package.

The second documentary, Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story (38m:25s), is an insightful look at the creator of Batman. Exploring his childhood, his early motivations to break into comics and, of course, his post-Batman success, this is a superb piece of programming. Participants range from Kane's widow Elisabeth, to Stan Lee and Mark Hamill, each of whom have lots to contribute to the discussion.

The audio commentary probably won't blow anybody away, but it's no slouch, either. In fact, camaraderie between the three participants Gregory Noveck, Dennis O' Neil and Kevin Conroy is so relaxed that it's a joy to listen to. Conroy tells some interesting stories, from his initial unfamiliarity with the character before getting the role of Batman for the animated series in the early 90s, to his thoughts on stepping back into the proverbial cowl for this project. Again, fans won't learn anything new here, but it's still worth a listen.

The Wonder Woman Sneak Peek (10m:32s) drums up enough interest in the project even though we won't see it until 2009. It's basically a chat with the filmmakers and cast about what attracted them to the project, and theories on why Wonder Woman as a character endures. Nothing special, but still a nifty little extra.

The inclusion of four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series isn't necessary, but a tremendous bonus for anyone who hasn't bought the individual box sets. The episodes are: Heart of Ice, Over the Edge, I Am the Night and Legends of the Dark Knight. All four are strong episodes and, truth be told, are probably better than the feature presentation on this disc.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Looking to get a quick Batman fix? Gotham Knight is an interesting piece of lore for fans of The Dark Knight, though the drastically different animation styles of each vignette give the film a jarring feel that lacks cohesion. That said, Warner Bros. have packed this Blu-Ray with lots of worthwhile goodies, so should the film disappoint, the treasure trove of supplemental material should not.

 


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