Blu-ray Review: The Dark Knight (2-Disc Special Edition)

The movie remains fantastic, but the special features don’t really live up to expectation

No matter what film wins the Oscar for Best Picture in February 2009, The Dark Knight will always be the movie of 2008. So, when the Blu-ray shows up in my mailbox on the last day of a long week you bet it was a treat. Offered in a 2-disc set, including a third disc with a digital copy of the film, you get a small assortment of special features as well as a pristine look at the best superhero film I have ever seen.

The story of The Dark Knight ranges from a hotly marketed build up to the film’s July 2008 release, the unexpected death of Heath Ledger and a slew of box-office records. Here are just a few:

  • Largest midnight opening
  • Largest opening weekend ($158.4M)
  • Largest single day ($67.1M)
  • Largest opening day ($67.1M)
  • Largest Friday ($67.1M)
  • Largest Sunday ($43.5M)
  • Largest Opening Week ($238.6M)
  • Largest 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10-Day Grosses
  • Fastest to $100-$500 million

Now, that’s a lot of records and The Dark Knight is slowly approaching $1 billion worldwide and you can believe this disc will be in the hot hands of many fans across the globe. I guess the question is whether or not you are buying it simply for the film or if you should expect something extra from the features included? I can tell you the first disc includes the impressive high-definition transfer of the film along with 64 minutes of special features, but once you move to the second disc I expect, like me, you will be sorely disappointed.

The disc one feature I mention is called “Gotham Uncovered: Creation of Science” and in my opinion it is the only feature worth watching. It covers several aspects of the making of the film broken up into 18 separate episode. The highlight of the feature is the only deleted glimpse from the movie you are going to get. The deleted scene shows a slightly extended version of the hospital bombing where at the end of the scene in the theatrical version The Joker jumps into the back of the school bus as it drives away and you can see him sit down. This extended sequence shows The Joker sitting in the bus as Chris Nolan’s voice over explains how impressed he was with Ledger’s performance at this moment as he never turns to look at the massive explosion happening all around him. This point is made because, as you see it in the film, Heath was actually there when those explosions occurred and walked out of the building as it was happening. Unfortunately, that is as close to anything extra involving The Joker you are going to get.

In all honesty I was sadly disappointed in the special features overall. As impressive as the disc one’s “Gotham Uncovered” feature is, the second disc only offers two highly produced features taking a look at the gadgets of the film and the “psychology” of the film. Too bad both 45 minute features feel as if they are made-for-TV promotional features with cheesy voice over and all. Neither feature add any in-depth look at the actual making of The Dark Knight, at least not in any satisfying way. There’s nothing involving a behind-the-scenes look at Ledger’s work as The Joker, which is what I really wanted to see. I wanted to see alternate takes of scenes. Perhaps some costume tests, rehearsals, anything highlighting the magnificent performance Ledger turned in on this film and what he did to prepare for it. To be completely denied is truly a disappointment even though circumstance surely limit what is available.

The second disc also offers a trailer gallery as well as a look at some concept art, production stills, Joker cards, poster art and six faux Gotham Cable News reports featuring Anthony Michael Hall as news anchor Mike Engel. All boring if you ask me, the poster section doesn’t even include anything we haven’t seen, which was one of the cool features on the Batman Begins release. The other feature is Warner Home Video’s recently launched BD-Live section, which offers a little bit in terms of extras, but it is slow going.

The Warner Bros. Dark Knight BD Live section currently offers two sections for Media Content in the form of “Extras” and “Trailers”. The “Extras” section is currently offering the Batman animated features “Mad Love” and “The Shadow of Ra’s al Ghul” in episodic installments while in the “Trailers” section you get just that, a bunch of trailers for recently released and upcoming Warner Bros. films coming to theaters and DVD ranging from Gran Torino to Blade Runner: The Final Cut and even a trailer for Tomb Raider Underworld PC videogame. Loading a trailer or extra feature does take a little time (sometimes a LONG time) as it streams it straight from the network to your Blu-ray player. The lack of a fullscreen function really does make it pretty much worthless considering I have a 42″ plasma and the video ends up taking up maybe one-ninth of my screen. Hardly worth it if you ask me.

There is a community section that is actually quite interesting where you can record a commentary of your own for a movie or actually listen to other people’s submitted commentaries. As of right now there were only test commentaries and one other user submitted commentary from an unnamed user, but I gave unknown one a test drive. It does take a considerable amount of time for it to load and it cut out a lot (and even froze on me), but there is potential in the feature should glitches get cleared up.

While I am sure this is only step one in the releasing of The Dark Knight, it is well known that Chris Nolan rarely offers up deleted scenes so I won’t be holding my breath for any of those. I do hope that someday we will get to see at least some of the work Ledger put in behind-the-scenes and in preparation for the role. Of course, the movie is enough for me and I won’t lose any sleep over the lack of interesting special features since I am always more of an “it’s the movie that matters” kind of guy, but I am sure fans are hoping, and expecting more.

Take solace in knowing the Blu-ray picture looks phenomenal and sounds equally impressive. For those wondering, the picture does shift as it bounces between 2.4:1 and 1.78:1 to compensate for the scenes shot in IMAX. Of course the picture is still cropped due to the sheer height of an IMAX screen, but it’s still nice to know your widescreen televisions will be completely filled for those IMAX moments we all came to love in theaters and once that score begins you just sit back and enjoy.

I have added a gallery of images giving you a look at the box art for the Blu-ray release as well as the limited edition Bat-pod release.


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