Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10 (average of all films)
Extras Rating:
10 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Batman
Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Jack Nicholson as Joker/Jack Napier
Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale
Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox
Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
Michael Gough as Alfred
Jack Palance as Grissom
Jerry Hall as Alicia
Tracey Walter as Bob the Goon
Lee Wallace as The Mayor
William Hootkins as Lt. Eckhardt

Batman Returns
Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Danny DeVito as Penguin
Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman/Selina Kyle
Christopher Walken as Max Shreck
Michael Gough as Alfred

Batman Forever
Val Kilmer as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Two-Face/Harvey Dent
Jim Carrey as Riddler/Edward Nygma
Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian
Chris O'Donnell as Robin/Dick Grayson
Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
Drew Barrymore as Sugar

Batman & Robin
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze/Dr. Victor Fries
George Clooney as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Chris O'Donnell as Robin/Dick Grayson
Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy/Dr. Pamela Isley
Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl/Barbara Wilson
Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
John Glover as Doctor Jason Woodrue
Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison
Vivica A. Fox as Ms. B. Haven

Special Features:
Commentary by director Tim Burton on Batman and Batman Returns

Commentary by director Joel Schumacher on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin

On the Set with Bob Kane

Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman – The Batman comic book saga as reinvented and reinterpreted over nearly seven decades

The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin – Cast and crew members recall the making of the equally spectacular sequel

Additional Scenes

Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever? – How a new director and cast created a new version of Gotham's classic good and bad guys

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Parts 1-6: The Road to Gotham City, The Gathering Storm, The Legend Reborn, The Dark Side of the Knight, Reinventing a Hero, Batman Unbound

Beyond Batman Documentary Gallery:

Visualizing Gotham: The Production Design of Batman

Building the Batmobile

Those Wonderful Toys: The Props and Gadgets of Batman

Designing the Batsuit

From Jack to the Joker

Nocturnal Overtures: The Music of Batman

Gotham City Revisited: The Production Design of Batman Returns

Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of Batman Returns

Making up the Penguin

Assembling the Arctic Army

Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of Batman

Out of the Shadows: The Production Design of Batman Forever

The Many Faces of Gotham City

Knight Moves: The Stunts of Batman Forever

Imaging Forever: The Visual Effects of Batman Forever

Scoring Forever: The Music of Batman Forever

Kiss from a Rose Music Video by Seal

The Heroes and The Villains Profile Galleries

Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of Batman & Robin

Maximum Overdrive: The Vehicles of Batman & Robin

Dressed to Thrill: The Costumes of Batman & Robin

Frozen Freaks and Femme Fatales: The Makeup of Batman & Robin

Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects of Batman & Robin

Music Videos:Batdance, Partyman, and Scandalous by Prince, Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The End is the Beginning is the End by the Smashing Pumpkins, Foolish Games by Jewel, Gotham City by R. Kelly, Look into My Eyes by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence

The Heroes and The Villains Profile Galleries

New digital transfers with Both 5.1 Dolby and DTS Surround

Theatrical trailers

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: Batman: 126 Minutes, Batman Returns: 126 Minutes, Batman Forever: 121 Minutes, Batman & Robin: 125 Minutes

Synopsis:
This Batman Anthology includes Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). The following are official descriptions of the DVD:

"Batman Two-Disc Special Edition - Batman (Michael Keaton) vs. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) in the amazing first extravaganza! With Kim Basinger. Directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton as Batman, the first film captures Gotham City's sinister atmosphere and Batman's brooding nature. Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger also star. Featuring songs by Prince and a Danny Elfman score, Batman won the 1990 Oscarฎ for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.

Batman Returns Two-Disc Special Edition - The Bat (Michael Keaton), the Cat (Michelle Pfeiffer), the Penguin (Danny DeVito). And Christopher Walken, too! Batman faces The Penguin in the second installment of the Batman series directed by Tim Burton. Michael Keaton reprises his role as Batman, with Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as the mysterious Catwoman.

Batman Forever Two-Disc Special Edition - Riddle me this: The Dark Knight (Val Kilmer) bat-battles Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). With Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell. Directed by Joel Schumacher, co-produced by Tim Burton, and featuring the first appearance of Robin (Chris O'Donnell), Batman Forever pits the Dark Knight (Val Kilmer) against Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey). Nicole Kidman stars as Dr. Chase Meridian.

Batman & Robin Two-Disc Special Edition - Will Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) put the world on ice? George Clooney wears the hero's cape. Also with Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone. Assisted by Robin (Chris O'Donnell) and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), Batman (George Clooney) battles Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Joel Schumacher directs from a screenplay by Oscar ฎ winner Akiva Goldsman (Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind)."

All of the Batman films are rated PG-13.

The Movies:
If you've followed the Batman movies over the years like I have, then you know some of them are really great while others are best left as lessons on what not to do in a comic book movie. Here's a rundown on each of the films included in this set:

Batman: This is easily the best Batman film in this set and you could make a good argument that it is one of the best comic book movies ever made. It totally reinvented Batman for Hollywood and made everyone briefly forget the campy Batman TV series from the 60's. Michael Keaton was an initially controversial choice for Bruce Wayne but he ultimately proved to be a good choice for the role. Even better was Jack Nicholson as The Joker. While many complained that the movie focused more on him than the hero, Nicholson made the most of every minute he was on the screen. He had some classic lines in the film, too. Throw in a stunning score by Danny Elfman, a great supporting cast, cool special effects, and awesome action sequences and this ends up being a movie that general audiences and comic fans alike can love.

Batman Returns: Tim Burton made an effort to shake things up with Batman Returns and he was partially successful. We got the definitive Catwoman with Michelle Pfeiffer. We got more great set designs and gadgets. We got a great romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Unfortunately, Burton also led the film into the realm of the weird with a bizarre and disgusting Penguin character played by Danny DeVito. The weirdness culminates as a group of emperor penguins take the body of The Penguin for a burial at sea (of sorts). It ends up being a bit of a mixed bag that audiences weren't necessarily ready for and it started the series back on the path to the realm of camp.

Batman Forever: The Batman series got a new helmer in Joel Schumacher and it proved to be a blessing and a curse. We got a great cast including Nicole Kidman, Val Kilmer, Chris O'Donnell, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jim Carrey. We also got a great song featuring Seal singing Kiss From a Rose. Unfortunately, the series started a full running leap back into the TV series camp with this film. Jim Carrey was way over the top as the Riddler. Tommy Lee Jones was totally wasted as Two-Face, one of the more psychologically intriguing Batman villains. Plus the entire set design lost any sense of realism it once seemed to have. And need I say two words – "Bat Nipples"? Still, the film did have a few bright points and despite all initial indicators, it didn't seem like the franchise was headed towards disaster at the time. But the Titanic had a smooth ride at first, too.

Batman & Robin: This was the film that put the final nail in the coffin for the Batman franchise until it was resurrected by Batman Begins. Again, the casting was good. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a seemingly good choice for Mr. Freeze. Uma Thurman was a potentially great Poison Ivy. George Clooney was a good choice for Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, everything else went wrong in this film. The story was absolutely terrible and it attempted to juggle too many character at once. The set designs and entire look of the film was campy. (I don't need to point out that it looked more like Starlight Express at one point as bad guys skated around a set.) Thurman ended up being over he top and Arnold didn't fare any better as he yelled, "Kill da heroes!!!" At one point Bane plants a few bombs around a location and helpfully says, "Bomb. Bomb. Bomb." Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too. Batman & Robin made a lot of money, but it was a lesson on what NOT to do in a comic book film – a lesson that was well heeded by Batman Begins and every comic movie since. This movie also ended up being one of the only films that I almost walked out on because it was so bad.

So this may lead you to one question – why buy the good movies along with the crappy ones? Why not just buy Batman by itself? Well, for me there were a couple of reasons. First of all, I have young children who are Batman fans and they've never seen Batman & Robin. If they don't get a kick out of it, they may want to watch it just to say they have. The other reason I bought it was for the sake of completeness. I now have the full Batman series in one set, so it's convenient. Finally, there are the first rate bonus features that I really wanted. They alone make this worth picking up. Read on.

The Extras:
There are so many bonus features on this DVD set that I can't easily discuss them all. However, here are the highlights:

Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman – This documentary, narrated by Mark Hamill, discusses the full comic book history of Batman. It starts with his early origins and goes all the way up to his recent incarnations. And as you might expect, there's a lot of talk about The Dark Knight comics by Frank Miller. Appearing along with him in this documentary are creator Bob Kane, Alex Ross, Marvel creator Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, and a ton of other comic artists and writers. It's a fantastic documentary for comic fans.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Parts 1-6: - This documentary is the centerpiece of the Batman Anthology and it is absolutely amazing. It documents the making of the films from the early 70's all the way through Batman & Robin. There are new interviews with Tim Burton, Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Billy Dee Williams, Kim Basinger, Joel Schumacher, Val Kilmer, and more. Jack Nicholson is particularly fun to hear talk as he was, and is, so enthusiastic about the film (with good reason since he made a percentage of the film profits and making him insanely rich). There are also vintage interviews with Michelle Pfeiffer, George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, and others. In the end every major (and many of the minor) characters are interviewed. There's lots of behind the scenes footage, very candid discussion about the trials and tribulations of making the movie, and more. They even interview Sean Young about her crazy stunts to try and get back in the Batman movies after losing the role of Vicki Vale due to a horse riding injury. All in all, this is one of the best "making of" features ever put on DVD.

Beyond Batman Documentary Gallery – There are a series of short featurettes included along with each Batman film. They get into the costumes, the special effects, the music, production design, props, the Batmobile, and more. You see how Nicholson was turned into the Joker, how Pfeiffer got into the Catwoman suit, how Danny Elfman scored the first two movies, and other cool stuff. This elaborates on everything not covered in the main documentary.

Music Videos – Many people forget that the Batman movies also generated a lot of great music from some very well known artists. Music videos from the songs are included here. They include Batdance, Partyman, and Scandalous by Prince, Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The End is the Beginning is the End by the Smashing Pumpkins, Foolish Games by Jewel, Gotham City by R. Kelly, Look into My Eyes by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Kiss from a Rose by Seal.

The Heroes and The Villains Profile Galleries – There are actually a number of short featurettes highlighting the heroes and villains from each Batman film. They contain interviews with the actors, behind the scenes footage, production art, and other cool stuff focusing exclusively on individual characters. They cover everyone from Mr. Freeze to Bob The Goon. If you have a favorite character, you'll enjoy this.

Also on the DVD you'll find "Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence". It turns out that Robin was scheduled to make an appearance in the first Batman movie and this was the set of storyboards used to plot it out. In it Mark Hamill voices The Joker and Kevin Conroy voices Batman. Then there's a tour of the first Batman set with creator Bob Kane, the vintage TV special "The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin", another vintage special "Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?", and some deleted scenes. Also look for Commentary by director Tim Burton on Batman and Batman Returns as well as Commentary by director Joel Schumacher on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. I'm particularly impressed by Joel Schumacher who knows full well that he led the Batman franchise into disaster and he apologizes for it.

The Bottom Line:
Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology is a great addition to the collections of comic fans and general audiences alike. Though it contains some stinkers like Batman & Robin, it features classics like the first Batman as well as some of the best bonus features you'll find on any DVD.

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