Fans have been waiting for Special Edition releases of the four films from 1989-1997 for years. While the demand for a two-disc of Batman & Robin may not have been there as much as for Batman Forever, Burton’s two Batman films were something fans wanted new DVDs of since the format was announced.
On October 18th, fans will get what they wanted. The Batman Anthology (1989-1997) box set contains eight discs, spanning the four films. Two discs per film. We get a commentary on each film, matching special features and a lot of new information on the makings-of and processes of all the Bat-flicks.
Is the eight-disc set worth it? It really depends on how badly you want each of the movies. If you’re planning on buying only the Burton flicks, I’d recommend just picking those up. However, if you’re planning on buying Batman Forever as well as the Burton films, it’s worth it just to get the box set. You get it in a nice box set for the same price, plus Batman & Robin. If you’re looking to only buy Batman & Robin…well, those are issues that you should work out privately.
With the first disc of each set containing the film in their new digital transfers, complete with Dolby 5.1 and Dolby DTS, the films not only look great but they sound amazing as well. There’s really no other way to watch these films. With only shoddy DVD releases to sustain us over the years, we finally get DVDs that treat these films like kings. Since you’re buying this set first and foremost for the films, there’s no possible way you can be disappointed in the visual and audio area.
Packaging for the releases is debatable. I hate the cover art and the disc art is pretty mundane as well. This is a good example of not judging a book by its cover, however. While the packaging may look a bit lazily done, the rest of the DVD is not.
The menus for the first disc of each is a series of movie clips strung together to play in the background as you make your choices. After playing through the series of clips, the menu will slowly evolve into a batsignal before starting over and repeating the clips. Menus past the main option for the film are all static with no music. Special feature menus contain music over the main menu only and are all static.
The special features are in-depth and a lot of fun to watch. Including the four commentaries, you’re looking at over sixteen hours of special features split between the four movies. It’s definitely something you’ll want to take your time wading through.
In addition to all the great special features, we get something on the first Batman film disc that fans will positively eat up. A featurette called “Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman” chronicles the beginning of Batman up until the Batman: Animated Series spin-off. Narrated by Mark Hamill, it includes interviews with Bob Kane, head honchos at DC Comics, writers and artists of the Dark Knight throughout the years, Kevin Smith, Mike Mignola, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Frank Miller, Alex Ross and many, many others. It’s all great fun to watch and really informative if you need to brush up on your Bat-lore.
Fans of Batman: The Animated Series (and who isn’t) will recognize voices from the “Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence” that never made it into production for Batman (1989). The boards are presented in animated fashion with Kevin Conroy playing the role of Batman, Jason Hillhouse voicing Dick Grayson and who else but Mark Hamill voicing The Joker. Those who complained that Joker’s last appearance in the animated series (Justice League’s “Wild Cards”) contained no maniacal laughter will be treated to a long and loud bit of laughter at the end of this storyboard sequence. Whether an intentional nod to the fans who may be watching or not, it was great to hear.
“Shadows of the Bat” and “Beyond Batman” are both areas on all four films’ second disc and delves deep into the production of each of the films, from beginning to end. There is plenty of content to watch, so I don’t think anyone can complain about the set ending too soon.
Perhaps the only complaint I can muster for this Anthology release is the lack of trailers. As I said in the individual reviews, the trailers aren’t all that necessary, but the many trailers and TV spots are always fun to watch at least once, especially when they’re decades old and contain corny ways of presenting the film. They aren’t crucial to the release so I’m not really all that upset at the lack of them, but it still would have been nice.
Deleted scenes for the Burton Films would have been nice as well, but I assume it’s up to the director whether or not to include them. We did get a few deleted scenes in the Batman (1989) featurettes: the “Is it Halloween?” one with a little girl and Batman and an extended discussion between the press and the police and DA at the end of the film. No extra scenes are shown for Batman Returns, but the trading card set released back when the film hit theaters shows there was footage cut; a shame we won’t get to see it.
The lack of the Diet Coke commercial that accompanied the VHS release of Batman is also disappointing. I assume it’s for legal reasons, but I always enjoyed watching it whenever I got the tape from the library.
Minor qualms aside, the release is awesome. Fans will love how in-depth the DVD gets, especially for films that didn’t have a whole lot of behind-the-scenes material shot for it. Archived interviews fill up all the featurettes, as well as new interviews with Burton, Schumacher, Nicholson, Basinger, Williams, DeVito, Kilmer, O’Donnel, Gough, Hingle and a few other cast and crew. As I’ve said, it’s all great fun to watch.
To the undecided fans, I urge you to pick up the box set for this release. In the end it’s really up to you and how many special features you like to watch, but the deleted scenes for Schumacher’s flicks and just the general wealth of information each disc brings is worth the price alone.