We think it's fair to say the Batman franchise hit an all-time low with the so-bad-it's-funny Batman and Robin -- a movie so horrendous that even the collective nipples of George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone couldn't save it. We'd argue that the series peaked with Blu-ray release., a much-needed reboot for Gotham's finest. Now its sequel, The Dark Knight, has flapped its way to our desks with its
Christopher Nolan's second outing in the big chair had plenty to live up to, and he went to some effort to ensure it didn't disappoint. The Dark Knight boasts outstanding performances from Aaron Eckhart, Christian Bale and the late, great Heath Ledger, who will no doubt be troubling the Academy next year.
Certain key scenes were shot on the 70mm IMAX format. If you didn't see the film on an IMAX cinema's gargantuan screen, you won't have enjoyed their spectacular visual impact. For the Blu-ray release, Warner has opted to include the IMAX sequences as 1.78:1, with the rest of the film in the more standard 2.4:1. This means that when you encounter an IMAX scene, the black bars at the top and bottom of the movie disappear, and you see a full-height image.
Although changing aspect ratios mid-movie sounds distracting, it isn't at all. And the scenes that feature the IMAX footage look stunning -- the opening bank robbery is a great example of how good the 70mm footage looks. Overall, the whole movie is a showcase for how awesome Blu-ray can look and sound. If we had one complaint, it's that the sound mix totally ignores people who watch movies in stereo, with the action sequences twice as loud as the more dialogue-heavy ones. As Crave discovered to its cost, this can lead to inter-spousal arguments that run almost as long as the movie's 153 minutes.
The two-disc Blu-ray set also packs in plenty of other special features to keep you busy. Disc one has a series of behind-the-scenes insights about the production, especially the IMAX stuff, which was particularly challenging to shoot. These can be viewed on their own, or optionally viewed as the movie plays -- seriously though, does anyone watch a film like this?
On disc two, there's a smart documentary about the science of Batman. It's a little long, and dry in places, but it gives some insight into how Batman's technology is grounded (for the most part) in reality. You also get full versions of Gotham Tonight, the news show that appears throughout the movie. All of these extras are presented in 1080i HD, which is fantastic.
The Dark Knight is out on Blu-ray (£15) and DVD (£12) today.