Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Is there any reason to expect the visuals and audio of Part 2 to differ from those of Part 1? None whatsoever, so enjoy the following cut and paste comments!
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 well.
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+”.
As we move to the set’s extras, we launch with two short features. We find “Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide” (9:24) and “The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death” (14:05). The first includes comments from screenwriter Bob Goodman, executive producers Bruce Timm and Michael Uslan, DC Entertainment animation creative director Mike Carlin, editor Denny O’Neil, UCLA Department of Classics lecturer Richard Rader, comic writer Grant Morrison, while the second features Timm, Morrison, Rader, O’Neil, Uslan, Goodman, writer/artist Jerry Robinson, and actor Michael Emerson.
Both look at the nature and mythological connections of the Batman, Superman and the Joker, with some emphasis on their use in Returns. The featurettes offer interesting observations, though “Death” works better just because it involves Robinson, the character’s creator.
Another program called From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Oliva fills 43 minutes, 30 seconds and provides a kind of commentary from the film’s director. We see a mix of storyboards, final movie footage and graphic novel panels as Oliva talks about adaptation issues, animation and stylistic choices. I’d have preferred a traditional commentary along with the whole flick, but Oliva provides a good collection of thoughts here.
Next we find three bonus cartoons. We locate two episodes from Batman: The Animated Series and also get one program from Batman: The Brave and the Bold. These include “The Last Laugh” (22:20), “The Man Who Killed Batman” (22:19) and “Battle of the Superheroes!” (22:57).
In “Laugh”, the Joker uses a gas to turn the citizens of Gotham into laughing idiots. Batman escapes this, but it gets to his butler Alfred (Efram Zimbalist). That wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, but extended exposure to the gas leads to madness, so Batman needs to stop the Joker before it’s too late. “Laugh” boasts decent entertainment value, and I like the focus on Alfred, but it falls short of greatness.
With “Killed”, a low-level hood gets unwanted fame when he apparently offs the Dark Knight. Obviously, we know that Bats will eventually turn up alive, but “Killed” provides a fun tale nonetheless. It’s a cool look at the notoriety that a nobody gets for events not in his control, and it becomes quite interesting as the noose tightens. Some of the most entertaining moments occur as the Joker deals with his sense of emptiness without Bats to kick around any longer.
Finally, “Battle” shows how Red Kryptonite necklaces turn Superman into a Superjerk; Batman works to bring his pal back to normalcy. I’d not seen much Brave and the Bold so I didn’t realize it went with a much more comedic tone than Animated Series. Indeed, it can feel like a 21st century update on the Adam West 1960s Batman, as it veers toward camp and silliness.
That means I should hate it, but darned if Brave isn’t pretty entertaining – at least for this one episode. The second half drags a bit, but the show still moves at a brisk pace and throws out some self-referential wackiness. “Bad Superman” is always a hoot – even in the awful Superman III, the sight of selfish Supes amused – and “Battle” gives us a fairly fun episode.
We get a digital comic excerpt for Dark Knight Returns. When these “digital comics” appear on DVDs or Blu-rays, they’re always severely abbreviated, and that’s the case here. At least this one admits up front it’s an “excerpt”; past digital comics didn’t let us know that in advance.
The disc opens with ads for Man of Steel and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Under trailers, we get “sneak peeks” at Superman: Unbound and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 as well as promos for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the DCU app, “More from DC Comics” and Before Watchmen.
A second disc delivers a DVD Copy of Returns. This provides a standard issue of the film along with a few previews.
While I admit I wasn’t wild about the first half of the story, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 offers a pretty solid conclusion to the tale. It seems truer to the tone of the source comic and provides a good punch. The Blu-ray brings us terrific visuals as well as engaging audio and a decent roster of bonus materials. It might not compare to the graphic novel, but Returns works well in its own right.