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Blu-ray Review: The Dark Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition)

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Second on the all-time U.S. box-office total (if you pay no attention to adjusted values), The Dark Knight will be returning to theaters on Jan. 23. Yet, if would like to see it, or see it again, you don’t have to wait that long because not only is December 9th the official date of the home video debut of both the single- and two-disc DVD sets as well as Blu-ray, but it’s in some stores already. If you get it before December 18th, director/co-writer Christopher Nolan is doing a live commentary with TDK Blu-ray owners, answering questions throughout the film.

The Blu-ray package comes with two discs and a digital copy. I previously gave The Dark Knight high marks in my review last summer, and upon rewatching it, my opinion remains the same. It’s a top-notch action film elevated by a clever script containing compelling characters and themes that make the consequences matter. Before getting to the discs, the Blu-ray packaging continues the marketing campaign of the film as The Joker mocks Batman by defacing the jacket insert of the disc case.

Accompanying the film on Disc One are "Focus Points" about the making of the film. Together, they provide over 80 minutes of in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage about elements such as music, costumes, stunts, and shooting in IMAX with commentary from Christopher Nolan and the crew. They can be viewed on their own, or the viewer can be alerted when a specific Focus Point applies to the scene being viewed and access them. However, this disrupts the flow of watching the film; I would recommend the former choice.

The video is presented in 1080p High Definition with ratios of 2.4:1 and also 1.78:1 for the IMAX sequences. The transition between formats is noticeable, going from letterbox to fullscreen, but doesn’t draw undue attention to itself. The images look great. There is a lot of very fine detail from the textures on clothing, especially the new Batsuit, to the pores on people’s faces. The colors are rendered well, especially the blacks.

Although available in TrueHD 5.1, the disc default is set to Dolby Digital 5.1. Rather than going to a menu, the film starts immediately, so make sure to change the audio choice. Although the audio has a good dynamic range, I find the mix lower in comparison to other Blu-rays. The surround of the action sequences immerses the viewer with the effects and the brilliant score. The dialogue is a bit low. It gets lost in some of the action and even in quiet settings some of Gary Oldman’s lines were muffled.

Disc Two contains the Special Features and are broken into submenus. “Behind the Story” features two programs that likely could have aired on the History Channel. “Batman Tech” examines Batman’s gadgets and tools, which are inspired by state of the art military technology. “Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight” looks at Bruce Wayne and other characters from both the Nolan films and the comics. Under “Extras” there are six episodes of the fictional news program Gotham Tonight, but they aren’t the spots from the film.  There is also a "Galleries" section covering artwork from the production: Joker cards, concept and poster art, and production stills. “Trailers” offers the trailers and TV spots. The audio levels fluctuate between the trailers.

BD-Live allows viewers to create and share their own video commentary to accompany the film.  This should make for a few gems in the hands of the right people and plenty of amazingly bad offerings that would make even the Joker frown. 

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS