The Dark Knight appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 - usually. The filmmakers shot about 20 percent of the movie with IMAX cameras, and that used a ratio around 1.33:1. For those scenes, the 4K UHD expands to 1.78:1; it’s not the full IMAX image, but it’s closer than 2.40:1.
And the half-hour or so of IMAX shots looked spectacular. They excelled in virtually every way, as they showed great definition and vivacity. These sequences provided such stellar visuals that I wished the whole film had been shot that way.
Though not as strong, the 2.40:1 scenes were very good as well. Sharpness seemed strong, with nice accuracy and delineation – it wasn’t up to the immaculate levels of the IMAX material, but the 2.40:1 shots still looked solid.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent.
Colors worked fine. The movie showed the usual orange and teal tones that appeared appropriately rendered.
Blacks were dark and deep, and shadows seemed smooth and clear. From start to finish, this became an excellent visual presentation.
I found no reason whatsoever to complain about the stellar DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Dark Knight. From the opening bank heist to the concluding drama, the movie displayed an active, powerful mix.
The mix worked the various speakers well, as each channel offered lots of unique audio. The whole package blended together smoothly to present a wild ride through Gotham.
Audio quality supported matters well. Speech was consistently natural and concise. Actually, that side of things may’ve sounded better at home than in the theaters, as Batman’s bass-heavy dialogue didn’t seem as over the top in this mix. Music was quite full and dynamic, as the score showed great clarity and range.
Effects were terrific. The movie boasted excellent fidelity and allowed the gunshots, explosions and other elements to shine. Low-end was absolutely top-notch, as the bass kicked the track to a higher gear. This was a simply fantastic soundtrack.
How did this 4K UHD disc compare to those of the Blu-ray version? Audio remained very similar – if not identical. The 4K went with DTS-HD MA instead of Dolby TrueHD, but I’d be hard-pressed to identify any changes between the two mixes.
Visuals became a different story. Though mostly very good, the Blu-ray had some “trouble spots”, as the 2.40:1 footage could be a little soft and a few other issues appeared. I gave it a “B+” but that may have been overly generous – and mainly a reaction to the ugliness of the DVD edition.
No extras appear on the 4K UHD itself, but a Blu-ray copy adds features, and on Blu-ray One, we find 18 Focus Points. You can watch these as the film runs, individually, or as one long running program.
If you take the last approach, they fill a total of one hour, four minutes and ten seconds. They range in length from 39 seconds (“Mob Car Flip”) to eight minutes, 48 seconds (“The Prologue”).
The “Focus Points” feature behind the scenes elements and interviews. We hear from co-writer/producer/director Christopher Nolan, director of photography Wally Pfister, IMAX consultant David Keighley, producers Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Kevin De La Noy, stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, editor Lee Smith, “A” camera operator/steadicam operator Bob Gorelick, “A” camera first assistant Bob Hall, special effects coordinator Chris Corbould, composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, sound designer Richard King, costume designer Lindy Hemming, costume FX supervisor Graham Churchyard, production designer Nathan Crowley, stunt performer Buster Reeves, visual effects supervisor Nick Davis, first assistant editor John Lee, stunt performer George Cottle, special effects prep supervisor Ian Lowe, and actor Christian Bale.
The “Points” look at cinematography and the use of IMAX cameras for the film’s prologue, stunts and effects, music and audio, costumes, vehicles and props, and editing. That’s a whole lot of technical material, but I don’t mind, as we learn quite a few cool facts about that side of things.
The “Points” never feature shots of the participants, so we always see movie shots or – usually – behind the scenes bits. These flesh out the material well and make this a good collection of clips.
(Note that the “Focus Points” replace two “Gotham Uncovered” featurettes on the original DVD. The “Points” offer all the same information and more, so the inclusion of the two DVD featurettes would’ve been redundant.)
Over on Blu-ray Two, we start with two programs under “Behind the Story”. Batman Tech lasts 45 minutes, 59 seconds and includes remarks from Nolan, Bale, Roven, Thomas, Hemming, Churchyard, Corbould, The Science of Superheroes co-author Lois H. Gresh, former DC Comics senior editor/writer Len Wein, Motor Trend Magazine editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine, DC Comics senior VP/executive editor Dan DiDio, UC Irvine professor of physics Michael Dennin, CIA Museum curator Toni Hiley, DC Comics publisher/president Paul Levitz, Ceradyne Inc. founder/CEO Joel Moskowitz, Chapman University professor of biological sciences Frank Frisch, base jumper Shane McConkey, LA Times motorcycle journalist Laura Carpenter, and Atlas Devices co-founder/CTO Nathan Ball.
“Tech” looks at the scientific facts behind the various vehicles, costumes and gadgets featured in the film. It examines the evolution of the comic book Batman’s arsenal and then discusses the feasibility of the movie character’s equipment.
The program moves at a peppy pace and tends toward a glossy approach, but that doesn’t make it insubstantial. It throws out a lot of interesting facts about the technology involved in the movie, so it’s a fun addition to the package.
Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight goes for 46 minutes, two seconds and features Bale, Levitz, Roven, Nolan, O’Neil, DiDio, Wein, Thomas, The Psychology of Superheroes editor Robin S. Rosenberg, Wisdom from the Batcave author Rabbi Cary A. Friedman, Columbia University Chairman of Psychiatry Jeffrey Lieberman, UCLA professor of social psychology Benjamin R. Karney, Forensic Consultation Associates’ Dr. Robert TM Phillips, and Superman on the Couch author Danny Fingeroth.
The program views Batman among other vigilantes and digs into Bruce Wayne’s psyche to discuss why he does what he does. It also looks at some of Batman’s villains.
The show tends to ramble somewhat, so it doesn’t provide the tightest view of its subject. Nonetheless, it’s certainly more ambitious than the usual bonus feature, and it includes intriguing insights.
Two components appear under “Extras”. Gotham Tonight lets us see “cable news programs” related to the film. All together, these six episodes run a total of 46 minutes, 41 seconds.
We see news specials that cover Harvey Dent’s election, biographies of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon, crime in Gotham, and an interview with Dent. Dark Knight featured a terrific Internet ad campaign that set up viewers for various parts of the movie’s story and characters.
The “Gotham Tonight” segments were part of that, and they’re quite fun to see. They include appearances by a number of the movie’s actors, and they do set up film elements quite well. Indeed, it’s probably a good idea to watch them before you first see the flick, as they help fill out the different aspects of the tale.
In a clever move, they literally end with the movie’s opening; the last report shows the Joker’s heist as breaking news. The “Gotham Tonight” pieces are the best supplement in this package.
Two subsections appear under The Galleries. We find “Joker Cards” (72 images), “Concept Art” (58), “Poster Art” (12) and “Production Stills” (88).
I like all of these, but I think the posters are the most interesting. The movie boasted some great ad designs, so it’s good to see them here.
We finish up with three Dark Knight trailers and five TV spots.
Fans need to put The Dark Knight on the short list of the best superhero movies ever made. Heck, I could argue it’s the best of its genre, as the film provides a thoroughly dramatic and exciting experience that dazzles from start to finish. The 4K UHD offers excellent picture and audio along with a mostly positive package of supplements. A terrific movie, Dark Knight looks better than ever on 4K.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of THE DARK KNIGHT