Batman Beyond appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. Though the episodes showed their age and TV origins, they largely offered appealing visuals.
Within the boundaries of the source animation, sharpness looked good. Due to that inexpensive art, some shots could seem a bit on the soft side, but the episodes usually boasted fairly nice clarity.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and edge haloes remained absent. The shows lacked any signs of source defects as well.
Beyond opted for a fairly natural palette that didn’t seem to favor any particular hues. While the colors didn’t usually appear dynamic, they showed pretty good range.
Blacks were dark and tight, whereas shadows seemed clear and appropriately opaque. The Blu-rays reproduced the source about as well as I could expect.
Presumably with a bigger budget, Return of the Joker offered superior visuals when compared to the TV episodes. Sharpness excelled, as the movie consistently looked tight and concise, and it came with brighter, bolder colors.
No source flaws materialized, and blacks seemed deep and rich. Shadows also looked smooth, and this became a very nice presentation. On their own, I’d give the Beyond episodes a “B” for picture and Joker an “A-“, so that balanced out to an overall “B+” for the whole package.
Note that two DVD versions of Joker came out back in the day. The first offered an edited version and it went with a 1.33:1 ratio, whereas the second brought an unrated cut that opted for 1.78:1.
Though the Blu-ray brought the unrated edition, it also went with 1.33:1. From what I understand, the filmmakers intended 1.78:1 but dud the project “open matte”, so the 1.33:1 version adds art and doesn’t crop anything.
I feel surprised that the Blu-ray opted for the 1.33:1 ratio, but since the direct-to-video film originally used those dimensions, I can’t complain too much. It would’ve been nice to get both on the disc, though.
In addition, the series came with perfectly decent DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio that stayed true to its TV series origins. That meant soundscapes with limited breadth.
Not that the shows failed to display any spread, as music showed reasonable stereo presence. Effects also broadened out to the side and rear speakers at times, though they could veer monaural more often than I might like. Still, the soundscapes felt appropriate for late 1990s/early 2000s TV.
Audio quality worked fine, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Music demonstrated reasonable range, as the score seemed fairly vivid, though not tremendously dynamic.
The same went for effects, as those elements became reasonably accurate, with adequate low-end. Nothing here impressed, but the audio suited the shows given the series’ vintage.
Return of the Joker boasted a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack that fared a bit better than its 2.0 counterparts, though it still didn’t reach feature film quality. That said, the soundfield seemed fairly engaging and aggressive.
All five channels presented an active environment in which the audio blended together naturally and it seemed to pan cleanly from speaker to speaker. The directional qualities were realistic and convincing, and they helped make the film more effective than it otherwise might have been.
Audio quality seemed positive as well. Dialogue sounded crisp and distinct and lacked any signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
Music was bright and dynamic and showed nice range, whereas effects were clean and rich, with no evidence of distortion or harshness. Bass response seemed positive as well, and this turned into a pleasing soundtrack.
On their own, I went with a “B-“ for the audio of the TV episodes, whereas Joker nabbed a “B+”. That meant a “B” for the set overall.
We find audio commentaries for four episodes. Here’s who pops up:
“Rebirth Part 1”: director Curt Geda and producers Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Glen Murakami.
“Shriek”: Timm, Burnett, Dini, Murakami, Geda and writer Stan Berkowitz.
“Splicers”: Timm, Murakami, storyboard artist James Tucker, voice director Andrea Romano, and actor Will Friedle.
“The Eggbaby”: Timm, Tucker, Murakami, Romano and Friedle.
In these, we hear about story/character domains, cast and performances, visual design and color choices, set design and music, animation and related domains.
At times, the commentaries lean toward excessive praise, especially when those involved discuss the actors. Still, we find enough good notes to make the chats useful.
On Disc One, we get two featurettes. Music of the Knight spans 15 minutes and features Timm. He gives us some notes about the series’ theme and we then get a demo version of it.
“Knight” then presents a few short scenes that let us watch snippets with just the score. This turns into a fairly forgettable compilation.
Inside Batman Beyond fills nine minutes, 42 seconds. Along with moderator Jason Hillhouse, we hear from Timm, Burnett, Dini and Murakami.
They chat about the series’ origins and development, the title, story/character choices. Some of this repeats from the commentaries, but “Inside” gives us a decent little summary.
Disc One opens with ads for Batman: Hush and Wonder Woman: Bloodlines. Trailers contributes promos for The Death and Return of Superman and Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans.
Disc Three/Season Two presents another chapter of Inside Batman Beyond. Also hosted by Hillhouse, this one goes for 11 minutes, 51 seconds and features the same crew as the Disc One chat.
This reel looks at challenges in Season Two and story/character choices. It becomes another good overview.
Perhaps inevitably, on Disc Four, we get a Season Three installment of Inside Batman Beyond. With Hillhouse again at the fore, the nine-minute, 30-second reel includes the same array as the earlier programs.
“Inside” touches on more character/story domains as well as the series’ conclusion. These make it a fun, informative piece.
Under Close-Up On…, Disc Four provides four segments, each of which looks at an episode. These cover “Out of the Past” (4:32), “The Call” (6:19), “The Call Part II” (4:12) and “Curse of the Kobra Part I” (4:48).
Across these, we hear from Timm, Friedle, Dini and director Butch Lukic. They give us specifics about the episodes cited above and make these reels useful and engaging.
When we shift to Return of the Joker, we get “A Word From the Creators”, a running audio commentary. In it we hear from producer Bruce Timm, producer/writer Paul Dini, producer Glen Murakami, and director Curt Geda.
All four sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the movie’s roots and development, story/characters, cast and performances, visual design and animation, issues related to violence/rating, and related notes.
Timm dominates the chat and helps make this a worthwhile discussion. We find a nice mix of insights and learn a lot about the film here.
Next we get a featurette called Beyond Batman Beyond. The program lasts 11 minutes, 59 seconds and provides a general overview of the movie and the TV series along with some production notes.
We get notes from Timm, Friedle, Geda, Dini, Murakami, composers Kristopher Carter and Mephisto Odyssey, musician Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and actor Kevin Conroy. This fluffy piece brings general notes about the movie but it mainly exists as a promotional device.
In Animatics, we find three minutes, 20 seconds of material. Animatics are filmed storyboards accompanied by music and speech that are used to give an early approximation of the film’s pacing and timing.
The ones shown here are mildly interesting but nothing special. None of them display unused material for the movie, so they just repeat shots included in the final product.
The Video Character Biographies show listings for six different characters. We find entries for Bruce Wayne, Terry McGinnis, the Joker, the Dee-Dee Twins, and Woof. What we observe is running text with some graphics and animation plus background music.
Despite the extra pizzazz, it remains a fairly static presentation. As a whole, the biographies offer a little primer for those who haven’t followed the “Batman Beyond” universe. However, don’t watch this five-minute, three-second piece if you haven’t already watched the movie, as it reveals a lot of plot information.
Listed on the menu under “Confidential Batman Footage - For Your Eyes Only”, we get a Deleted Scenes. Presented through animatics, the clip lasts five minutes, 19 seconds and is moderately interesting. However, I didn’t think the extra material would have added much to the film.
Next up is the music video for “Crash” from Mephisto Odyssey Featuring Static-X. It’s a stylish lip-synch party at the Batcave, with only a few movie clips stuck into it at times. As a whole, it’s an interesting video that isn’t great but it’s more fun than most.
On the Joker disc, we open with ads for All-Star Superman and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. We also find a trailer for Young Justice.
A separate disc devotes itself entirely to Beyond “Special Features”, and six segments appear. Nostalgic Tomorrow runs 53 minutes, 19 seconds and includes Timm, Dini, Romano, Tucker, Conroy, Friedle, Murakami, and writers Stan Berkowitz and Bob Goodman.
With “Tomorrow”, we hear about the series’ origins and development, stories, characters and themes, cast and performances, music, the series’ legacy and connected topics.
Inevitably, some of the remarks echo material from prior bonus features, but we get a good array of new information. We also find a more “historical” perspective, since “Tomorrow” comes many years after the series’ finale.
With Knight Immortal, we find a 34-minute, 50-second program that involves Timm, Tucker, Murakami, Conroy, comics artists Jim Lee, Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil, DC Comics publisher Dan DiDio, Batman creator Bob Kane, comics legend Stan Lee, Joker creator Jerry Robinson, former DC publisher Jenette Khan, producer Michael Uslan, writer/artist Frank Miller, and actors Mark Hamill, Julie Newmar and Adam West.
“Immortal” provides a look at Batman’s origins and development over the decades as well as supporting cast and story topics. It becomes a bit loose – and it annoys me that we don’t get credits for the speakers until the end – but “Immortal” brings a fairly interesting summary.
Next comes Tomorrow Knight, a 10-minute, 31-second sequence that features Timm, Burnett, Dini, Berkowitz, Romano, Tucker, writers Rich Fogel and Dwayne McDuffie and director Dan Riba.
“Tomorrow” largely contrasts the Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis versions of Batman. Some useful insights emerge.
City of the Future spans five minutes, 34 seconds and brings remarks from Timm, Fogel, Berkowitz, Burnett, Tucker, Riba, and Dini. We get a look at the series’ depiction of Gotham City in this engaging featurette.
After this, we find The High Tech Hero, a five-minute, 44-second reel with Dini, McDuffie, Berkowitz, Timm, Riba, Tucker, Fogel, and Burnett. “Hero” examines the new Bat-suit and other Bat-gadgets. Expect another solid little piece.
Finally, Secret Origin fills one hour, 30 minutes, 26 seconds. Previously available on its own, you can read a detailed examination if you click right here.
To summarize: as a documentary, Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics proves to be competent and not much better. It delivers a reasonable history of the company but it lacks depth and feels incomplete.
Also included in the package, we get a Funko Pop Batman Figure. It’s not a great addition but it adds a little value.
A futuristic expansion of the franchise, Batman Beyond offers a fun alternate version of the character and situations. This “Complete Series” package boasts a lot of fun and entertainment. The Blu-rays offer positive picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. Bat-fans will dig this fine boxed set.