Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. No issues emerged across this appealing transfer.
Sharpness excelled. The movie always came across as tight and well-defined, so don’t expect any signs of softness. Jaggies and moiré effects also remained absent, and the image lacked edge haloes or artifacts. In addition, print flaws were a non-factor and didn’t appear at any point.
In terms of colors, Returns went with a dark palette that favored blues and subdued hues. The tones looked solid, as they showed positive richness and vivacity. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed nice clarity. Across the board, the image worked well.
I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Returns opened up the comic book material well. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material, but the entire package added a lot to the movie. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended smoothly.
The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.
Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B+”.
When we shift to extras, we start with a few promotional pieces. A First Look at Superman/Batman: Public Enemies fills seven minutes, 52 seconds and provides notes from DC Comics Senior VP/Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, casting director Andrea Romano, executive producer Bruce Timm, script writer Stan Berkowitz, director Sam Liu, and actors Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Xander Berkeley, LeVar Burton, John C. McGinley and Clancy Brown. They tell us a little about the production and performances, but mostly they just tell us about the story and how great it’ll be. This program remains nothing more than promotional material.
We also take A Sneak Peek at The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. It lasts six minutes, 53 seconds and delivers info from Timm, Romano, director Jay Oliva, screenwriter Bob Goodman, co-producer Alan Burnett, DC Entertainment Animation Creative Director Mike Carlin, and actors Michael Emerson and Mark Valley. We get notes about story and characters as well as cast and performances. It’s basic advertisement and not much more.
Two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series appear. Taken from 1992’s Season One, we get “Two-Face, Part 1” (22:26) and “Two-Face, Part 2” (22:25). The shows presented a good introduction to this major villain. They also remind us how well the series did darkness. From the extremely moody visuals to the startling vision in Bruce’s dream, this sure didn’t feel like the standard kiddie cartoon.
Two programs follow. Her Name Is Carrie… Her Role Is Robin runs 12 minutes, 23 seconds and includes Timm, Goodman, Carlin, Dark Knight Rises executive producer Michael Uslan, comic book writer Grant Morrison, and UCLA Department of Classics lecturer Richard Rader. The piece looks at the status of comics in the mid-1980s as well as elements of the Carrie/Robin character. We get a decent overview of relevant topics here in which the glimpses of Carrie’s antecedents work best.
Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story goes for 38 minutes, 26 seconds and offers notes from Uslan, Batman and Me author Tom Andrae, Batman artist Jerry Robinson, Kane’s widow Elizabeth, photographer/friend Jonathan Exley, comic book legend Stan Lee, DC Comics president/publisher Paul Levitz, friend Dr. Myron Shapiro, and actor Mark Hamill. We also get archival comments from Kane, who died in 1998. “Story” tells us of Kane’s life story, with an emphasis on his connection to Batman.
“Story” certainly isn’t “warts and all”, but it offers a less shiny portrayal of its subject than expected. No, it doesn’t really challenge the notion that Kane was the sole creator of Batman – Bill Finger seems to deserve a lot of credit – but it doesn’t stick with the standard fluffy tone, either; honestly, the show makes Kane sound like an arrogant self-promoter. “Story” can be more superficial than I’d like, but it’s still an interesting look at Kane.
We get a digital comic for Dark Knight Returns - or at least part of it. When these “digital comics” appear on DVDs or Blu-rays, they’re always severely abbreviated, and that’s the case here.
The disc opens with ads for H+: The Digital Series and various DC Comics animated series. We also get trailers for DCU Application, Thundercats, The Dark Knight Rises and Before Watchmen.
A second disc delivers a DVD Copy of Returns. This provides a standard issue of the film along with a few extras.
After 26 years, Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns finally gets a cinematic adaptation. Unfortunately, it suffers from some poor choices and lacks the depth/darkness to make it really succeed. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals along with very good audio and a generally useful set of supplements. While I look forward to seeing if Part 2 improves on this one, Part 1 creates a disappointment.