The Dark Knight DVD and Blu-Ray( 2008) dir. Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal
The Movie: ****
The DVD: **
The timely DVD release 3 weeks before Christmas will likely ensure "The Dark Knight" to be one of the highest selling DVDs of all time. While the film (and especially the IMAX) version was arguably the movie event of the year, the DVD version doesn’t quite live up to quality of the film.
One of key innovations of the production was the extensive use of IMAX in key scenes in the film. On the big IMAX screen the effect of these scenes produced a stunning adjunct to the film. The aspect of ratio change from 2.35:1 to almost square full screen frame was startling. Widescreen televisions will experience a similar, though not as grandiose shift during these scenes. The opening of the film begins with the title credit framed in standard anamorphic 2.35:1, but when the opening bank heist begins the letterbox bars disappear revealing a full 16:9 image. Of course, since the origination medium is IMAX, the difference in visual clarity is stunning. This difference is even more evident on Blu-Ray. Though the IMAX aspect ratio still requires a small crop on the top and bottom of the frame to fit into 16x9 director Christopher Nolan admits it’s a largely unimportant screenspace - an acceptable difference to the theatrical IMAX experience.
So the aspect ratio and resolution differences are acceptable, unfortunately the special features leave much be desired. Disc one features a number of small featurettes called “Creation of a Scene” which documents the production of a number of the key scenes in the film (most often the IMAX sequences). When viewed all together, these segments make for a reasonably insightful ‘making of’ documentary. Many will be disappointed with the lack of on-camera live footage of the key creatives discussing the process. The information is largely told to us using narrated voiceover, from Nolan and the bunch.
Disc 2 contains a number of surprisingly awful featurettes. “Batman Tech” feels like it was produced by Nickelodeon. A gruff voiceover man with no connection to the series whatsoever narrates this featurette like an episode of “Frontiers of Construction” or any other average Discovery Channel program. “Batman Unmasked” features a similar ‘television’ tone and style. In “Unmasked” various ‘psychological experts’ discuss the psyche of the superhero with blockheaded intellectualism. Rabbis, historians and other ‘smart people’ proceed to breakdown and explain the historical context of the character. My favourite is Robert Phillips. identified as a forensic services consultant, who explains to me the subtext of the film.
The extensive fake news footage featuring Anthony Michael Hall’s character which is used as background TV footage in the movie serves just to ‘pad’ the disc with more useless material. This is by no means a “special” feature.
Lastly, the stills galleries are put together without any creativity whatsoever, which reminded me of those old laserdisc galleries requiring the ‘step’ function to scroll through each picture. At the very least they could have added some of the great Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard music in the background.
This special edition DVD appears to have been hastily put together with already produced material, which clearly does not look like anything which the filmmakers would have ordinarily approved of. Don't be surprised if a more definitive edition appears once the producers have time to create something worthy instead of rushing to get something out for Christmas.
“The Dark Knight” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Bros Home Video.