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Warner Home Video presents
The Dark Knight (Blu-ray) (2008)

"Do you wanna know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the ... little ... emotions. In ... you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?"
- The Joker (Heath Ledger)

Review By: Matt Serafini  
Published: December 08, 2008

Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman
Other Stars: Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Jai White, Cillian Murphy, Ron Dean
Director: Christopher Nolan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Violence
Run Time: 02h:32m:13s
Release Date: December 09, 2008
UPC: 085391176572
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

While other directors have approached comic book material with a strict sense of realism, none have produced anything as masterful as Christopher Nolanís take on Gotham Cityís most prolific citizen. The Dark Knight, like Batman Begins before it, is a starkly serious take on comic book material done without any semblance of the genreís usual trappings. Thereís no excessive CGI or over-the-top nonsense. Heck, there used to be a time in Hollywood when even the greatest comic book films were adapted with a strong sense of camp. Not here. Many people have observed that The Dark Knight feels more like a crime thriller than a comic adaptation, and itís easy to see why: even the most implausible elements are tackled with pragmatism, and the end result is a bona fide Gotham City with a superhero who is nothing if not believable.

And thatís also why Heath Ledgerís take on The Joker resonates so well. Letís look past his untimely passing to focus on the character he so effortlessly vanished into. His Joker rolls into town without as much as a throwaway reason for his arrival. We can only presume that heís attracted to the theatrical heroics of Gothamís Dark Knight and takes the Caped Crusaderís presence as the ultimate challenge. The film certainly adheres to this theory, as the storyline centers on The Jokerís attempts to discredit the Batman by challenging his heroics. He targets innocent people and makes short work of Gothamís remaining mob families. This Joker is a terrorist, addicted to chaos and capable of anything. And thatís what Ledger sells us on. Weíre never entirely sure whatís going on behind those dark eyes of his, but weíre not surprised when we find out. Best of all: Ledger factors multiple layers into his performance. There are occasional insecurities laced throughout his voice (particularly after being branded insane by a roundtable of dismissive mobsters) that help ground this potentially over-the-top character. The result is a surprisingly believable and chilling villain. One for the ages.

Ledger aside, everything else is just as perfectly done. I was in awe of Batman Begins when I saw it on opening day in 2005, partly because I wasnít sure how Tim Burtonís film could be topped (and say what you will, I still think Michael Keaton was a fantastic Batman, but I suppose thatís a different story entirely) and partly because the franchise had previously been run into the ground. But when the lights came up after 140 blissful minutes, I was honestly shocked that the film had gone by so quickly. Everything had been done right. Perfect, even. So did Nolan avoid the typical traps that have riddled the majority of comic sequels—more villains, more spectacle, but less story and substance? Thankfully the man skirts the issue, delivering a deeper story that satisfies on multiple levels.

And speaking of multiple levels, I would argue the most effective element is how Nolan ties his villains into the theme. Unlike Spider-Man 3, which simply felt overstuffed and far too busy, The Dark Knight uses The Joker to illustrate Batmanís necessity and, of course, the old adage that good will ultimatly triumph over evil. By that token, Harvey "Two-Face" Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is a juxtaposition of the titular character. Beginning the film as the charismatic golden boy of Gotham, the district attorneyís war on the organized crime front is one of the driving sources of narrative, culminating in his tragic fall from grace. In Gotham, it takes more than the pureblooded white knight to eliminate the criminal element
Much of the story (co-conceived by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan) explores such grey areas in meticulous detail. Christian Baleís Bruce Wayne/Batman must adapt and resort to unscrupulous tactics in order to successfully battle The Joker and his escalating crime wave. Bale is excellent in his portrayal of a greatly conflicted Caped Crusader, particularly once his character finds himself pushed passed the proverbial point of no return. And say what you will about his Batman voice; I think itís awesome. I might have grown up with Michael Keaton, but Christian Bale is now my Batman of choice. He owns the part (both Bruce and Bats) and effortlessly blends into Nolanís textured universe.

There are a lot of elements that come together to make this the best comic book adaptation of all time (and 2008ís best film). I hesitate to say this is a better film than Batman Begins, but itís on the same level. If The Dark Knight does have a discernible edge over its predecessor, it's in terms of the action sequences. Nolan isnít as edit-heavy with the fight scenes this time out, actually allowing us to see Batman kick some ass. His hesitance toward showing Batman doing his thing worked to enhance to mystery of the character in Begins, but to repeat the same approach wouldíve been a tired redundancy here.

The Dark Knight has become one of the biggest box office successes of all time, and I couldnít be happier. Itís not every day that a film of this nature manages to transcend its own genre. Over the past several months Iíve read favorable comparisons between Nolanís film and Michael Mannís Heat. That assessment is not unfounded. This is a thrilling movie, one you can take at face value as the grand action-adventure it is, or dissect for days. Whatever your approach, The Dark Knight delivers in spades.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: Controversy! As soon as the first news of this disc hit the internet and reported on the shifting aspect ratios (from 2.40:1 to 1.78:1 for the IMAX sequences), there was a faction of home theater enthusiasts who were more than vocal in their disappointment. I viewed the disc twice, each time with different parties. The first time I found myself so immersed in the film that I didn't notice the shift after the first time (just after the opening bank robbery sequence). My girlfriend didn't notice it once. I was caught up in the film again during my second viewing of and of the three people who watched with me, nobody noticed the alternating ratios until I pointed it out. I'm sure there are those who will be annoyed by Christopher Nolan's decision to present the Blu-ray in this fashion, but it sounds far more jarring than it really is.

As far as the image itself, Warner Bros. have knocked this title out of the park. While Nolan's interpretation of Gotham City isn't quite as stylized as Burton's world, these new Batman films are still very dark. Only with Blu-ray can you see the color popping out from within the strong blacks to deliver a richly textured environment. Black levels are rock solid, illustrating a brilliant contrast against the film's color palate. The Joker's purple suit, for example, stands out brilliantly against the shadowy landscape of downtown Gotham during the duel sequence. Detail is prevalent everywhere, making this the optimal way to watch the film.

Furthermore, the IMAX sequences offer additional crispness that I hadn't previously thought possible with a Blu-ray disc. Even if you think you're going to be distracted by the flopping ratios, these bits are absolutely eye-popping.

I am obligated to mention a minimal amount of haloing that pops up from time to time. It's nothing to get discouraged about, but it does appear as though edge enhancement has been applied to the image. That said, you're not likely to see it unless you're intently looking, as I didn't catch it until I went through it for a second time with a particular focus on the image. It's largely inconsequential and the only flaw in an otherwise blinding transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Standard 5.1: English, French Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: This 5.1 True HD track is another crowd pleaser. It's a powerful, bass-heavy mix that will keep yourr subwoofer working hard for the entire duration. Oddly enough, the rear-channels do not receive very much action as the majority of the mix is front-loaded. It's not necessarily a detraction, though, as the track remains aggressive. My only qualm would be with the occasional softness of some of the dialogue (limited almost exclusively to Gary Oldman). It seems just a little unbalanced in this respect, but a minor drawback, all things considered. What really makes this track pass with high marks is that it proves to be an accurate representation of the film's sound mix. There isn't a sound effect, explosion, punch, or gunshot that isn't accurately represented here.

If I had to poise another gripe it would be with Warner Bros. and their lack of a menu screen. Most of their Blu-ray titles these days have blessed with True HD tracks (as they should be), and yet the user has to manually bring up the menu and select the True HD option. What makes this really frustrating is that Warner discs do not have main menus, meaning you have to do this AS the film is beginning. It's not a huge issue, but it warrants mentioning.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 39 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
8 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Documentaries
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Gotham Tonight - Six short episodes of the Gotham news show as hosted by Anthony Michael Hall and seen briefly in the film.
  2. Still Galleries
Extras Review: The Dark Knight's collection of extra material isn't quite as satisfying as one might have hoped for, but it's still a generous batch of worthwhile supplements. On Disc 1 we get the 64-minute documentary Gotham Uncovered, a fragmented collection of cast and crew interviews that explores the making of the film. This is akin to the Universal U-Control feature, in that you access it from various points throughout playback of the film. The good thing however (please take note, Universal), is that you can ALSO access it from the extras menu. There's some good material throughout this documentary (presented in HD), so don't skip it.

Disc 2 features the rest of the material. First is another documentary called Batman Tech (44m:56s) that takes a look at all of Batman's wonderful toys. This is a nifty documentary for the gadget freaks among you. Now if James Bond could only learn a thing or two and bring Q branch back into the mix—our Caped Crusader is wielding more gadgetry than 007. It just doesn't seem right!

Batman Unmasked runs just under 45 minutes and is my favorite piece of supplemental material. Unfortunately, it's not new—I saw it on television over the summer. It's an examination of Batman's psyche that proves to be worth a watch, even if it's not exactly 'original' material.

Six segments of Gotham Tonight are included (running just about 45 minutes) and feature Anthony Michael Hall as his character, Mike Engel. I had a good time with these and it's pretty cool to be able to watch them in their entirety. This is nothing that you're likely to go back to, but I'm glad it's here.

The Gallery feature offers five subsets: trailer gallery, production stills, concept art, poster art, and Joker cards. This film had a terrific marketing campaign and it's neat to have all of this stuff housed in one segment. You can manually navigate the galleries or automate it and sit back and enjoy.

Exclusive to BD is Warner Bros., BD Live. While there isn't much content on the web right now, this is a spot worth checking out. You can currently catch two episodes of Batman's animated series, as well as view trailers for recent Warner Bros. movies and games. More is reportedly to come. This could become something very cool, but as it stands, it's fairly forgettable.

A digital copy of the film is included on a third disc. I'm taking a business trip at the end of the month—I just might actually use this sucker!

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Warner Bros. has delivered The Dark Knight in a beautiful Blu-ray, just in time for the holidays. And it's awesome. From the stunning picture quality and powerful True HD track to the satisfying assortment of extra material, this is a sublime release for one of the year's best films. There may be some controversy regarding the alternating aspect ratio, but believe me, it's hardly a distraction. I'm thrilled with this disc and it's hard to imagine any bat buff feeling differently.


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