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DVD REVIEW : BATMAN SPECIAL EDITION
Saturday, October 8, 2005, 12:00 AM CENTRAL TIME
Author:
Jett

© Copyright 2005 William E. Ramey and ON-FILM Entertainment

In 1988, I found out that a live-action BATMAN film was in the works. Being a life-long fan of The Batman, I was ecstatic upon reading this news! And over the next year, I eagerly waited for BATMAN staring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton to hit theaters.

As the summer of 1989 approached, a huge wave of “Bat-mania” hit countries all over the world. Almost everywhere you went, you saw the familiar Bat-logo and people wearing various forms of Bat-gear. To this day, I’ve never seen anything like it. Almost 17 years later, I still have a particular fondness for the Bat-summer of '89.

BATMAN is one of my favorite films of all time and like all Batman fans, I have longed for a "Special Edition" DVD of the film. For years, it has been rumored that one would eventually be released and finally the day has arrived. And fans of The Bat, you will not be disappointed! The BATMAN 2 DISC SPECIAL EDITION is packed full of extras that all Bat-fans will relish.

I’ll start this review by describing what is found on Disc 2 which features most of the extras. I will be careful not to reveal too much, because I want all of you to watch it fresh - so there are no "spoilers," so to speak. I’ll then turn my attention to Disc 1 which contains the film itself.

LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: THE HISTORY OF BATMAN

This feature is pretty self-explanatory - it is a the history of The Batman from his 1939 debut, through the various incarnation (comic book, movies, TV, cartoons, etc.) of The Dark Knight over the years, right up to The Batman that exists today. What is great about this segment are the interviews. You’ll get to see Denny O’Neal, Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, Jeanette Khan, Paul Dini, Les Daniels, Tim Burton, Stan “The Man” Lee, and many, many others. The late, great Bob Kane is featured talking about his creation. The different looks and variations of The Batman throughout his 60 + year history are depicted - from the gun-toting vigilante of 1939, the space-traveling Batman of the ‘50s, the campy Batman of the 60s, to the dark Batman of the shadows that we all know today. They are all there.

This is a must-view whether you know everything about the Caped Crusader, or nothing at all. In fact, this is something I would show someone that doesn't understand why you dig The Batman.

SHADOWS OF THE BAT: THE CINEMATIC HISTORY OF THE DARK KNIGHT

This feature is actually broken down into 3 parts. Part 1, “THE ROAD TO GOTHAM CITY,” is a detailed history of the10 year plus process of bringing Batman to the big screen. In “THE GATHERING STORM,” we get an inside look at the production of BATMAN and the hype - better known as Bat mania - over the film that began brewing prior to the June ‘89 release. And in “THE LEGEND REBORN,” the release of the film and its legacy is depicted.

The interviews that are included in all three parts are absolutely fantastic. Making appearances are Tim Burton, Michael Uslan, Peter Guber, Sam Hamm, Michael Keaton, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Bob Kane, Robert Wuhl, Pate Hingle, Michael Gough, and many others. All share their experiences in making BATMAN and discuss the affect that the film had on them personally, the entertainment world, and the world itself.

There are also many behind the scenes shots made prior to and after filming that I assume have never been seen publicly.

This was my favorite part of the “extras” and I’m sure that many of you will feel the same way.

BEYOND BATMAN DOCUMENTARY GALLERY

This part of the special features is made up of several segments that give the viewer a behind the scenes view of what went into making BATMAN.

In “VISUALIZING GOTHAM,“ we get to see how the look of the Gotham City found in BATMAN was created. “THOSE WONDERFUL TOYS” how The Batman’s gadgets - and The Joker’s - were produced for the film. “BUILDING THE BATMOBILE” tells the story of how Batman’s ride was created. The story of Batman’s threads - the Bat suit - is told in “DESIGNING THE BATSUIT.” The story of getting Jack Nicholson to play The Joker - and how much cash he bank from the role - is revealed in “FROM JACK TO THE JOKER.” And finally, we get the skinny on how and why Danny Elfman was hired to score BATMAN in “NOCTURNAL OVERTUNES.”

Each one of these segments includes interviews with all individuals involved, behind the scenes photos, and rarely seen video that gives the viewer the inside story.

OTHER EXTRAS

There are several other extras found on Disc 2. “ON THE SET WITH BOB KANE” is a short feature of Batman’s creator on the set of the first film. This looks to be a dated piece from c. 1989.

A rundown of the film’s good guys - The Batman, Commissioner Gordon, Alexander Knox, Harvey Dent, Alfred and Vicki Vale - are part of the feature “THE HEROS.” “THE VILLAINS” does the same for The Joker and Bob the Goon. Each again features various pictures, movie clips, and interviews.

The one and only extra scene that was included finds Batman rescuing a small girl who says, "Is it Halloween?" to a smiling Batman.

Three music videos by Prince are included as well: “PARTYMAN,” “SCANDALOUS,” and “BATDANCE.” Even though I thought the inclusion of Prince songs in the film was pointless, it was a part of the film’s hype. As a result, they should be included in and “Special Edition” package of BATMAN and they are indeed.

One of the best extras on this particular DVD is “THE COMPLETE ROBIN STORYBOARD SEQUENCE.” If you were not aware, Robin was going to be included in the film at one point. As filming progressed, the character was cut from the film. This segment shows the storyboard of the scene that would have included Robin. What’s great about it is that it is set to music, sound effects are added in, and Batman and The Joker are voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil respectively.

DISC 1 - THE MOVIE

As stated, this is the film itself. It includes a commentary track by director Tim Burton. Listening to Mr. Burton during the film, one gets the feeling that you are watching along with him. You Bat-fans will certainly enjoy this feature. (Although I’m not completely sure that Burton was actually watching the film while delivering his commentary.)

The original BATMAN theatrical trailer that caused quite a stir back in early 1989 is also included on Disc 1. What is interesting about the trailer from a historical point of view, was the motivation behind releasing it. If you were old enough to remember - and I certainly do being 23 at the time - there was a HUGE outrage at the news of Michael Keaton’s casting as The Batman. A big reason why a trailer was slapped together quickly and sent to theaters was to help quell all the backlash. Anyway, it is on Disc 1 and is a nice addition - especially for those who have never seen it.

This SE of BATMAN is a very well put together DVD package. The sound quality is excellent as is the picture. I can’t think of anything that should have been included but was omitted. If one forced me to come up with something, I would have liked to see screentests of the actors. I was also disappointed that Michael Keaton did not conduct a recent interview to be included along with Burton and the others. But that is about it. This is the complete package.

It didn’t change my mind about the film - I didn't like it any more or less that I did previously. But I did find my appreciation for it greater than I realized. While it is has its faults (My take on this can be found in my BATMAN ‘89 RETROSPECTIVE), it is still one of my favorite films of all time. As I have said before, I am of the opinion that BATMAN's greatest achievement was showing the world that Batman was not a comedy and there was more to the character than "POW, BIF, and Bam!"

This DVD should be a part of every self-respecting Bat-fan’s collection.

BUY IT TODAY!

NEXT: BATMAN RETURNS

"Jett" is the creator and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and ON-FILM.NET.

SYNOPSIS: Jack Nicholson is the Joker, who emerged from a horrible accident as a maniacal criminal. Michael Keaton is the Caped Crusader, who emerged from a childhood trauma to become a masked crimefighter. Kim Basinger is Vicki Vale, the talented photojournalist desired by both men. And Batman is the movie, the all-out spectacular directed by Tim Burton, set to songs by Prince and a music score by Danny Elfman, and an Academy Award winner for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Anton Furst and Peter Young).

DVD SPECS:
MPAA: PG-13
Run Time: 126 minutes
Closed Captioning: Yes
Sound Track Language: English
Subtitles: English, Francais, Espanol
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78
Standard (4:3 Transfer)
Widescreen (16:9 Transfer)
English: Dolby Surround 5.1
Francais: Dolby Surround Stereo 2.0
English: Dolby Surround 5.1
English: Stereo 2S

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