Fresh on 4K: ‘BATMAN’ turns 30, ages well with sharp clarity and moody colors

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

BATMAN

Rated PG-13, 126 minutes.
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Michael KeatonJack NicholsonKim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Tracey Walter and Jack Palance

It’s hard to think of a time when superhero films weren’t so ingrained into the fabric of society, but rest assured it’s true. Before Tim Burton got his hands on the caped crusader, the only version of Batman mainstream audiences was familiar with was the camp-soaked Adam West television show. 

So what better time could there be to release all four of the original Batman films on 4K UHD to a brand new audience? 

This will be the first of four reviews for these films to be released this week. First up is BATMAN (1989), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Movie Grade: A-

Set in the fictional Gotham City, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) lives a double life. By day he is a business mogul with a house filled with everything a man can buy other than human company. By night he roams the city as the one and only Batman, a symbol of justice for the innocent and fear for the guilty. But it appears the bat has met his match in the form of The Joker (Jack Nicholson), a certifiably insane crime boss who’s hellbent on putting a deadly smile on the face of every citizen in Gotham City.

BATMAN is undoubtedly a product of its time. Burton’s signature campiness paired with dark, visceral humor is proudly displayed throughout this masterpiece of a film. Fans who grew up with the Christopher Nolan films might find this one to be a little too silly for their tastes. Although, if that’s the case, they had better buckle up! To put it lightly, this franchise gets weird. 

Courtesy of Blu-ray.com

Video/Audio Grade: A+

BATMAN was captured on a 35mm negative and given a native 4K Digital Intermediate for this re-release, and the visual quality is simply spectacular. Film grain is heavily present in multiple shots, but this can be attributed to artistic vision. Skin tones and costume textures are wonderfully vibrant, with Joker’s makeup being a clear standout. Matte painting sets are indeed more noticeable, but whether or not that is a problem comes down to the viewer’s preference. I only caught one instance where the increased resolution revealed a little too much detail as an overhead shot of Gotham City shows an animated Batman walking along a rooftop. Why on earth this was not shot using an actual actor over a matte painting is simply baffling.

While there may not be Dolby Vision, the inclusion of HDR10 is what makes this a must-buy. So much of Burton’s film relies on dark shots, and the black levels never feel crushed or distracting. Batman’s suit, in particular, is perfectly visible against a clear black night sky with just the slightest bit of light. 

The Dolby Atmos audio track is the stuff of legends. The mix of gunshots, punches, and the Batmobile’s squealing tires all give off the appropriate sense of space and creates about as immersive an experience one could only expect from a theater. Danny Elfman’s iconic score fills the room with as it accompanies action sequences as well as more dialogue-driven scenes with excellent balance.

Extras Grade: B+

Other than the director’s commentary track, no extra features are included on the 4K disc. All bonus content can be found on the included Blu-ray Disc. Unfortunately, there is no new content you haven’t already seen if you already own the Blu-ray version of the film. 

All Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary: Director Tim Burton. 
  • On the Set with Bob Kane
  • Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman
  • Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight
  • Batman: The Heroes
  • Batman: The Villains
  • Beyond Batman
  • Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence
  • Music Videos
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Grade: A-

BATMAN is arguably the film that proved comic book characters could find a home on the big screen and this is hands down the best way return to Gotham City. 

BATMAN is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

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