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Blu-ray Review: The Dark Knight

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 7:48 PM. Last Updated on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 9:08 PM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkThe Dark Knight
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video
153 Minutes

List Price: $35.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

Available 12/9/2008

Rated PG-13

Click here for additional movie details, including the full plot summary, cast listing, trailers and videos, photos, reviews of the movie, and links to the official movie web site and more.

  TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
35mm
and IMAX 65mm (see notes)
1080p VC-1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 2.35:1
and 1.78:1 (see notes)
Audio:

Dolby Digital
DTS Digital
SDDS

 Dolby TrueHD
Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital 5.1

Other:  

Movie: BD-50 (x1) BD-J
Bonus Disc: BD-25 (x1)
Digital Copy: Data DVD (x1)

Disc 1 Contents

  • No Upfront Ads!
  • Movie
  • Focus Points
  • BD-Live Features
    • Extras
    • Trailers
    • WB Shop
    • My Library
    • Featured Content
    • Express Yourself
      • Create a Live Community Screening
      • My WB Commentary (watch/record commentaries for others to view)
    • My Profile

Disc 2 Contents

  • Behind the Story
    • Batman Tech (HD, 45:59)
    • Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight (HD, 46:02)
  • Gotham Tonight (HD, 46:41)
  • The Galleries
  • 3 Trailers, 6 TV Spots (HD, 8:48))

Disc 3 Contents

  • Digital Copy of Movie

About the Movie

In this sequel to the highly successful Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan picks up the story where the former movie ended, with the Joker and his attack of chaos on the city of Gotham and its citizens. A very well-done six minute bank robbery scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and gives us a very good introduction to a very non-Jack Nicholson styled Joker.

This movie was unique from a technical aspect in that the director chose to shoot the aforementioned bank robbery and certain other scenes using 65mm IMAX cameras. This provided him with source material that held much more visual information than traditional 35mm film and it also provided native source material for the IMAX release of the movie.

Since the aspect ratio of IMAX (1.44:1) is different from what was used for the rest of the movie (2.35:1), viewers in IMAX theaters saw full-screen imagery during the IMAX scenes and letterboxed imagery during the rest of the movie. Viewers in traditional theaters saw cropped versions of the IMAX sequences. These different experiences will come into play in a most interesting way on the Blu-ray release, as you will see later.

How Does it Look?

Still from the movie (not an actual screenshot)

This is a very dark, foreboding movie, and many shots are either at night or in darkened environments. Not all shots were in the dark, however, and those include the top of a bank building at mid-day and a boat full of Russian ballet dancers working on their tans! This large range of lighting requires a transfer that can keep up, and fortunately, this title does not disappoint. I did not see any noise in low-light situations, nor were there any artifacts like banding in the daylight scenes.

The only problem I did notice was some edge enhancement that caused a halo effect in a few scenes. If I hadn't read about it from others who had received advance copies, I don't know that I would have noticed it myself, but it was most noticeable when we first meet the mayor. A visible line appears over his shoulders where there shouldn't be one. This is minor, though, and it was the only problem I found while watching the movie.

One final note about the picture, which is the reason for the note about the aspect ratio in the table above. The theatrical aspect ratio of this movie when shown in traditional theaters was 2.35:1 and 1.44:1 in IMAX theaters. and this release has the picture at its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the related scenes, and 1.78:1 for the IMAX sequences.

This unique approach to the dual aspect ratios of the source material works quite well in a traditional home theater setup, where the display is 1.78:1. Similar to my experience watching the movie in an IMAX theater, the transition between them is very smooth, and you find yourself noticing it well after the change has happened.

Those with 2.35:1 screen setups will have an issue dealing with the aspect ratio changes, however. It's unfortunate that Warner Bros. didn't use the technology available on the Blu-ray format to provide us with the ability to choose between the approach they chose here and a 2.35:1 only option so both camps could have the best experience for their situations. Perhaps with the feedback they receive on this release, they will offer the option in a future release of this movie and on any other movies like this that come in the future.

How Does it Sound?

Movies like this make me wish I could decode the lossless audio soundtracks on Blu-ray discs! The source sound on the disc is Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless audio, and even when our PlayStation 3 plays the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack instead, the sound mix is very active and very immersive. Definitely no complaints whatsoever!

Extras

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was very happy to see not one, not two, but three trailers on the Bonus Disc! I was disappointed, however, to note that the sound was only 2-channel instead of multi-channel Dolby Digital. I'm not quite sure why that is, especially given that the six TV spots that were included featured multi-channel Dolby Digital sound. The trailers and TV spots had good quality HD VC-1-encoded video, averaging around 10-15Mbps on the PlayStation 3's bitrate display.

The Focus Points extra was very interesting to use, as it added to the enjoyment of the movie. Little snippets of background information are treasures to those who want as much as possible from a movie.

This is the first BD-Live title from Warner Bros., and they certainly were ambitious in their freshman effort! As you can see in the bullet list above, there are plenty of sections to the BD-Live section, each with quite a bit of content on release day. Since BD-Live is dynamic by nature, I expect that the amount and type of content will change as time goes on. Time will tell how many updates the studio will do in the future, or if it will be like so many other online efforts by other studios and be left to languish after the initial release push is over.

Since the BD-Live features must access an external server, I would like to see a progress indicator, or at least an hourglass-type indicator that it's doing something and/or waiting for a response from the server. There were times when I was accessing content that everything seemed to stall, but it was just taking a while to download the content. Another irritation was the difficulty in seeing which item in the BD-Live section was selected. I think that an outline or obvious glow would help usability quite a bit and keep the fumbling around to a minimum.

The online trailers for download loaded quickly, but they were small window-boxed videos with 2-channel sound. I realize that this is probably a tradeoff between download speed and quality, but I'm watching an HD title on an HD player on an HD display. I would like to have the choice of downloading higher quality video, even if it means a longer wait to see them. Sony does this with their BD-Live features, so hopefully, Warner Bros. will do better in the future.

One last note about the trailers was that the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer offered was the older version that still had the November 2008 release date mentioned. I haven't checked back to see if that has been updated, but it's something that Warner Bros. should have caught, and should correct as soon as possible.

Another interesting feature within the BD-Live section was the ability to record your own commentary for the movie and upload it for others to watch. On launch day, there were 8 commentaries available to view. Initial playback stalled often, but the video was cached so restarting the commentary was smoother. This may have been related to launch-day traffic, so it will be interesting to see if download speeds improve in the future. One last note about the online commentaries is that the movie audio sometimes made the commentary hard to hear.

A few days after registering for the Warner Bros. BD-Live account, I received an invitation to take part in a live BD-Live chat with director Christopher Nolan on Thursday, December 18, 2008. As part of the RSVP, I was able to submit three questions for him ahead of time. It will be interesting to see how this is handled, and how many questions he's going to answer during the session.

This package features something else that is gaining traction among Blu-ray releases, which is a digital copy of the movie. One of the challenges of the Blu-ray format is that its discs cannot be played on DVD players that people have throughout their homes, portable units, and vehicles. A data DVD in this package contains a digital copy of the movie in both Windows Media and iTunes formats, presumably for downloading to your PC, iPod/iPhone, and Zune portable devices. I inserted the disc into a Windows XP computer and a welcome screen came up and offered to install either the Windows Media or iTunes format and then asked for the access code provided in the printed materials. I didn't install the movie to see if it worked, as I have no desire to watch movies on a tiny iPod screen, or even my PC.

Personally, given the DRM aspects and compatibility issues of digital copies, I'd prefer if the studios copied Disney's approach with Sleeping Beauty and just included the DVD version of the movie in the Blu-ray package.

Other Aspects

This disc is BD-J formatted, which means that our PlayStation 3 is not able to support auto-resuming the movie. This isn't a big deal, however, since this title supports bookmarking, which allows you to mark particular scenes for future reference. This feature is also convenient when watching a movie in multiple sittings, so that you can come back to where you left off. Bookmarking/auto-resume is a feature that should be standard on all Blu-ray releases.

Conclusion

If you liked the movie, you will enjoy this Blu-ray disc! The quality of the sound and picture is very good and the extras add to the enjoyment of the movie. One look at the length of this review will give you an idea of how much there is to peruse in addition to watching the movie! The BD-Live features that Warner Bros. have created for their first effort bodes well for future Blu-ray releases from the studio. I'm sure that the surface of what's possible has just been scratched, and it stands as a great example of why BD-Live capability is a must-have when buying a Blu-ray player.

These aspects make this a sure bet for purchasing as opposed to simply renting it. Attractive pricing from places like Amazon.com makes it an easy choice!

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.

RentBuy


Check Prices on Amazon.com



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