Own it On DVD & Blu-ray
In preparation for what is undoubtedly the most hotly anticipated DVD & Blu-ray release of 2008, the wonderful folks at Warner Brothers have sent me an advance DVD for review of The Dark Knight to share exclusively with Film Intuition readers. Although the single disc edition boasts zero special features aside from the cool "digital copy" bonus* and some genre related trailers (along with two public service announcements including that annoying rehash of Casablanca as a warning for DVD copiers and a far superior anti-smoking ad)-- its standout-- other than the film itself is the killer preview for 2009's Watchmen.
The Dark Knight on the small screen. But before we get into the technical aspects (which may indeed change your decision on which version to buy)--I'll reprint an extended excerpt of my lengthy original theatrical review of the film for you below.
“Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?” The Joker (Jack Nicholson) memorably complained in Tim Burton’s 1989 masterpiece Batman.
Burton’s film — which took an infinitely darker yet still refreshingly humorous approach in updating the classic comic book character created by Bob Kane and later brought to brightly colored life in the popular '60s TV series and film — seemed to provide the definitive take on "the man, the myth, the bat." That was until Joel Schumacher took over the franchise and turned it into a campy, overcrowded mess in the late '90s, but that all changed when Memento director Christopher Nolan took the Batmobile out for a test drive with his Greek tragedy-tinged epic Batman Begins in 2005.
While nostalgia for Burton’s film grew each year as fans mourned the wrecked franchise, Nolan admirably avoided the temptation to try and rebuild the unstable remnants of Gotham City still left standing by Schumacher. Instead, like a master chef, he started from scratch, taking what he wanted from the comic book and earlier films and, along with his co-writers, inventing a richer, far more devastating interpretation of the Batman mythology. In stark contrast to the socially awkward, slightly bumbling and more lighthearted portrayal by Burton’s star Michael Keaton, Nolan opted to go further in depth into the origins of the tale itself. By putting a completely different spin on the character, he illuminates just how “his” Bruce Wayne came to be the existential, less than gregarious and downright arrogant man he serves up, therefore making Nolan’s Batman a genuine shock to fans, including myself, who remembered seeing Keaton's original characterization in the theatre.
Miami Vice, and Collateral) and makes Tim Burton’s ’89 venture seem downright sunny by comparison.
Releasing just in time not only for the holidays but also to remind Academy Award voters not to forget about the Bat or more precisely, The Joker's Heath Ledger-- Warner Brothers has launched a superb "For Your Consideration" campaign for industry periodicals like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety that's begun cropping up online.
However, when it comes to the DVD --and much like two of last year's Best Picture Oscar contenders, Paramount Vantage's brilliant epic There Will Be Blood and Focus Features's lush Atonement-- something is lost in the transfer to the small screen.
No Country For Old Men and Warner Brothers' own previous statue holder The Departed still packed a phenomenal punch when it arrived on DVD-- because of the scope of Nolan's Knight-- it falls a bit flat on DVD. More specifically, the contrast ratio is off and makes one squint even with the blinds closed as you really need to strain to focus in on the Michael Mann styled They "Fly" By Night-like production design.
Needless to say, it was a world of difference-- crystal clear digital sound, a better contrast to differentiate between the scenes making it seem less 2-D and decidedly more 3-D or-- as the Warner Brothers Blu-ray ad before The Dark Knight promised-- it felt as though we were damn near "inside the film."
Knight is better than the absence of Knight and fans will not let this dissuade them in picking up any version of the film-- for those who really desire to go behind the scenes of the work and explore additional features, you may want to consider skipping the single and moving to the 2-Disc Widescreen-- or at the very least venturing way past go and directly to Blu-ray which offers the most satisfying transfer of the film we all rallied around for a majority of this past summer.
"Now There's a Batman."
*Note: A tech-savvy reader hipped me to explore the criteria for Digital Copy on the DVD. FYI-- at least on the single-disc Widescreen Edition, the Digital Copy of The Dark Knight is only compatible with Windows Media and "not compatible with Apple Macintosh and iPod devices."