Returns 4K (1992)/Batman
Forever 4K (1995)/Batman
& Robin 4K (1997/all
Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Sets)
Ultra HD Picture: B+ (1989: B) Picture: B- Sound: B/B+/B+/B+
Extras: C+/B-/B-/C- Films: C+/B-/B-/D
two movie serials, several animated TV shows, the classic 1960s TV
series and the feature film that was made between the first two
seasons of that show, Warner Bros. finally decided to relaunch a
Batman that would be its own and not like the iconic, comical TV show
made by another studio. Ironically, the first film would do
everything it could to not be that series, only for the last of the
four films to be sillier than anything the Adam West show could have
imagined. Now issued on 4K Ultra HD discs following the Christopher
Nolan Trilogy, these four films have aged in odd ways and we'll get
into specifics with each film.
first Tim Burton film is still one of the most extremely promoted
feature films of all time, a hit that split critics and fans alike
for all kinds of reasons. Looking now at Batman
(1989) long after all the hype and the more recent trilogy, it has
not aged well, complaints that it was very angry and violent have a
degree of validity that still rings true and its remarkable how it
has been forgotten (despite the talent involved) in a new era of
superhero genre films. Michael Keaton's take on Batman and Bruce
Wayne does hold up and is fine, while despite the scenery-chewing,
Jack Nicholson's Joker remains appropriately creepy and out of
control, et al. There is still no doubt one of the greatest actors of
all time knew exactly what he was doing.
of the unspoken heroes of this film and this series is Anton Furst,
the late Production Designer who created the look of this film as
much as anyone, while the film still thinks of newspapers as if they
were in the 1930s and TV as if it were still the 1960s (lots of dated
analog television) in a strange sense of glee that carried over to
the sequels and to Batman:
The Animated Series,
whose better episodes are at least the equal of the best of anything
among these four films.
points include fight scenes where Keaton (and stunt men) in the
Batman suit are obviously having limits moving around, dated
animation for the shields on the Batmobile since they decided not to
actually build them, obvious strings in more than a few battle scenes
involving people and model work that will shock some, generic
gangsters, generic fighters and the awkward, off pace of the film
also remains. On the better side include Michael Gough as a better
Alfred The Butler than you might remember, the money and detail in
The Joker's wardrobe you cannot see unless you see it in 4K (or saw
it in 70mm or a better 35mm print back in the day), Kim Basinger more
striking than you might remember, Billy Dee Williams a better Harvey
Dent than anyone remembers and some solid set decoration that also
holds up to go with the production design.
the film remains the mixed bag it always was and while it will always
have very loyal fans, it will also have those who felt it was one of
the biggest disappointments in big screen blockbuster history. It
also has tech issues we'll address below, but if you have not seen it
in a while, expect the unexpected because some of this plays more
like a package deal than an ambitious commercial narrative film.
It's also striking the opposite approach it has to superhero films
versus the 1978 Superman
Keaton and company were back for a sequel that managed to be darker
in many ways. Batman
(1992) was actually the first film ever released theatrically with
Dolby Digital sound so the studio and Dolby Labs were determined that
this would be as much a sonic demo as DTS was in its debut with the
(reviewed on 4K elsewhere on this site) and since there were no
dinosaurs, they went all out to match the wild visuals with all kinds
DeVito shows up as a gross, revisionist Penguin who no longer loves
money and wants to rob every bank in town, but has a near-horror
movie backstory (Moses angle notwithstanding) and goes as
over-the-top as Nicholson did in the previous film. They try
something different, but its results are not perfect and Christopher
Walker shows up as a corporate villain a little too reminiscent of
his Zorin character from the James Bond film A
View To A Kill
(1985), but holds his own. Then Michele Pfeiffer (replacing a
pregnant Annette Benning) shows up as Catwoman and she both steals
the film, makes the film and as it gets darker than its predecessor,
pushes the film past its predecessor.
more money, better effects and a better pace, the film has more
energy, though it also has some moments that do not work, especially
when repeating now-cliched parts of the first film, including some
fight scenes. The same Batmobile is back and it is OK, but it has
dated a bit and we also get more chemistry among the cast. You can
appreciate more in the 4K version and see how much of this holds up.
companies involved in toy tie-ins and other tie-ins (food included)
was too dark and not 'consumer friendly' enough, while Keaton saw the
big bucks the two films made and asked for more money and a
percentage. Warner said no to him and more dark-for-the-time
sequels, so Burton and Keaton left, though the supporting cast mostly
stayed. Joel Schumacher became the new director (Burton was still a
producer) and Val Kilmer became the next caped crusader. Batman
(1995) decided not to totally reject the 1960s series, with a few
nods to it throughout and the use of color was markedly increased.
time, Tommy Lee Jones (replacing Billy Dee Williams) would be Harvey
'Two Face' Dent and Jim Carrey (taking the role from Robin Williams,
who held out too long) became The Riddler and eventually team up, but
not before we get a new Robin (Chris O'Donnell) in the midst of
Face's obsession to destroy Batman at the very beginning. Smart
psychoanalyst and writer Dr. Meridian Chase (Nicole Kidman really
pushing the sexiness) gets involved early and
it is a stage-bound as the first two films, the new cast has the
energy to make this work enough with some surprisingly good moments
that hold up and others that have not dated as well. There are some
odd intertextual references to the 1960s series, but it also has some
of what some fans were expecting from the first two films, so it was
a bigger hit than anyone wanted to admit at the time. Cheers to the
cast for giving it their best, worthy of the last two films, but
there were issues behind the scenes, so this would be a one-off
affair, just like the follow up for its lead actor.
and Schumacher did not gel too well on the film and despite the money
it made, so when Kilmer signed on to a revival of The
Schumacher had zero objections and had to find yet another Batman.
The solution was George Clooney, or so all thought. Clooney does his
best, but not even Batman could overcome an extremely silly script
meant to push toys and tie-ins, forgetting the characters. Batman
& Robin 4K
(1997) was rightly a huge bomb with Arnold Schwarzenegger (towards
the end of his big box office run, replacing Patrick Stewart, who
Paramount would not allow out of his Star
work to do the film).
color lighting and bad jokes all over the place, Kilmer may not have
been good as The Saint, but it was not the glaring disaster this was,
so he dodged a bullet (as did Stewart) and even Uma Thurman could
only repeat some of Pfeiffer's Catwoman as Poison Ivy, but again, it
is primarily the fault of the condescending script and formula the
series decided on as if comic fans were all pre-teens who would
accept and buy anything. How times change.
music and fights were tired by this time and very often, I cannot
tell what anyone was thinking here when they were making this mess,
who were they making it for and looking at it now, the lack of
ambition or energy is more obvious than ever. Adam West and Burt
Ward suddenly looked like they were ready for a Robert Altman film.
It is actually painful to watch this as much as it was when it
arrived, but much worse now because it is a package deal in its own
way and goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.
Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl is a revised version that falls flat
quickly, the script is childish (Robin is acting much younger than he
did in the last film!) and this film killed the franchise for a while
(with several revivals falling through before Nolan picked things up)
so watch this one at your own peril.
the films were shot in the flat 35mm format and all four 4K editions
are presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1 HDR (10; Ultra HD
Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image playback, all shot on
Kodak negative film stocks. The sequels used film with refined
grain, but the first film is very grainy, some of it being Kodak film
intentionally picked by Burton and company for its look, but it still
looks a bit grainier than I remembered and I wondered if maybe some
of it did not age in the vault like it was supposed to. Otherwise,
the 4K sequels look good, but expect a little softness in some shots.
1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on
all four films are a little softer than I expected and look like
older transfers, despite having the new sound mixes, so one can only
take them so seriously. Better off with the 4K versions.
four films have been upgraded to Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1
for older systems) lossless sound, with all three sequels originally
being 5.1 digital sound releases, but Batman
was only issued in older Dolby A-type analog noise reduction and 4.1
sound for its 70mm blow-up prints (what few ere apparently made) with
6-track magnetic sound, but the better SR (Spectral Recording) system
had just been introduced and too bad the film did not use that
instead. The result is that the film has not aged well sonically
from Danny Elfman's mixed score to Prince's songs, which in fairness
to him are usually background music.
the sequels take advantage of better sonics and hold up well in their
expansion. They may not be perfect or as state of the art as the
better 12-track films now, but they hold up enough and were worth
include feature length audio commentary tracks on every single disc,
meaning each film duplicates its audio commentary twice, but that is
it for extras on the 4K versions. Now for the extras on each film:
(1989) includes a Tim Burton commentary, On The Set with Batman
creator Bob Kane, Legend Of The Dark Knight: The History Of
Batman, Shadows Of The Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark
Knight Parts 1, 2 & 3, Beyond Batman documentary
gallery, 3 Music Videos of the 5 songs Prince made for the film, The
Heroes & Villains Profile Gallery, Batman: The Complete Robin
Storyboard Sequence and an Original Theatrical Trailer.
Returns includes another Tim Burton commentary, The Bat, The
Cat & The Penguin making of featurette, Shadows Of The
Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark Knight Part 4,
documentary gallery, Siouxie & The Banshee's ''Face To Face''
music video, The Heroes & Villains Profile Gallery and an
Original Theatrical Trailer.
Forever includes Joel Schumacher audio commentary, Riddle Me
This: Why Is Batman Forever?, additional scenes, Shadows Of
The Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark Knight Part 5,
documentary gallery, Seal's ''Kiss From A Rose'' music video, The
Heroes & Villains Profile Gallery and an Original Theatrical
Trailer. (The animated U2 music video is NOT here).
Batman & Robin includes another Joel Schumacher audio
commentary, Shadows Of The Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark
Knight Part 6, Addition Scene:
Alfred's Lost Love, Beyond Batman
documentary gallery, 3 music videos, The Heroes & Villains
Profile Gallery and an Original Theatrical Trailer.
films arrive as singles for the summer in June, then the box set
follows in September to add to the big celebration of the 80th
Anniversary of Batman's first appearance, In Detective
Comics issue number 27.
This series had enough going in each film for people to still talk
about each film, including all the negative downsides, but it is
certain that they changed blockbuster filmmaking for better and
worse. Three actors in four films just made this Batman too
interchangeable (just add armor suit?) and reflects thinking of
masculinity at the time in all kinds of ways. They may not be great
overall, but they also serve as a time capsule of a Hollywood that is
already gone. Warner did well to get them onto the 4K format.