Batman (1989) – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Batman 4K Blu-ray Cover

Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman ushered in the modern day superhero film—and for good reason too. Tim Burton was tailor-made to adapt Batman. His dark and Gothic style just fits in with the noir look of the comics. Needless to say, it’s a stark contrast to the goofy campy Adam West television series.

Yet the most interesting thing about the film is that Batman is primarily a Joker origin story—not Bruce Wayne’s. However, his origin story is a hot topic of debate among Bat-fans. There are a lot of Batman fans that do love the movie but hate the changes that were made to the Joker. Particularly the part where Joker is the one that killed Batman’s parents instead of Joe Chill. In today’s society where fandoms are very vocal about their frustrations, one can only imagine the outcry about The Joker if the film came out today.

Either way, although not a true Batman origin story, Vale and Knox’s story arc does delve into the origins of the Bat. It’s a nice cliff notes version of his back story for those unfamiliar with the character. This is 1989 after all. Thus, all of these various storylines mix well alongside the Batman and Joker conflict.

But what makes Batman so spectacular is the performances by both Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. To this day, many consider them to be the epitome of Batman and the Joker, respectively. With Nicholson, he taps into a bunch of his old roles in order to make the Joker into a happy-go-lucky psychopath.

With Michael Keaton, he brings a charm and wit to the role. Yet Keaton is able to show his dramatic chops as well. In the 80s, Keaton was primarily a comedic actor. Batman gave him a chance to show he isn’t just a comedic actor.

Overall, Batman is one of the best superhero films ever made. Yes, it’s a very bold statement considering we’re living in the golden age of superhero films. Yet, if it weren’t for Batman, we wouldn’t be introduced to the modern day superhero film. It set the bar really high and that bar was never beat until Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy two decades later. That’s why the ’89 Batman is still one of the best comic book films ever made.

Movie Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Batman - Michael Keaton

Batman hits Ultra HD Blu-ray (see it on Amazon) with an HDR transfer and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Although the video transfer is impressive for an 80s film, there are still some issues with the video—primarily coming from the bright areas. The brightness is vivid and there’s zero bloom in these areas. However, there are several instances where these areas are a tinted a little too orange. Fortunately, the black levels are great—especially since half the film takes place in the dark. The black levels are inky and the smooth grayscale gives the video transfer zero instances of crushed blacks.

What the most amazing thing is the color. You don’t realize it until you watch it but there is a lot of colors in the film. The HDR is able to make these colors pop and come alive. Thankfully, the colors simply pop and not look too saturated. There is a great amount of detail clarity as well. The clothing textures, grime, hair, and wrinkles can easily be seen. But there is a slight softness in the edges of these objects though. In addition, there’s also the film grain is noticeable. Overall, this is a pretty good video transfer.

Video Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Batman - Micheal Keaton and Jack Nicholson

Batman hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos and a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track. This review will reflect Batman‘s Dolby Atmos track. For a film that came out 30 years ago, it’s no surprise that the Dolby Atmos mix is a little lackluster. For one thing, there isn’t much playfulness or dynamic effects panning in this mix. There are a few instances where the soundstage comes alive and when it does it’s a beautiful thing. Sadly, one can only hear these moments during the film’s three action-heavy scenes: The Axis chemical factory shootout, the Batmobile chase, and the climactic battle at the end. Most of the time the sound does come strictly from the front channels and this also affects the overheads as well.

That being said, there are times during the quieter moments where you can hear the subtle city sounds permeate the soundstage. At the same time, you can hear Danny Elfman’s score layered in the mix too. It’s subtle but it’s there. Clearly, most of the mix’s emphasis is on the dialogue, where dialogue can be heard even in the loudest of scenes. Overall, this is a mix that can be really great at times but other times it’s a bit disappointing.

Audio Rating: 4/5 atoms

Special Features
Batman - Michael Keaton

Batman‘s Ultra HD Blu-ray disc has Tim Burton’s audio commentary on it. The regular Blu-ray disc has the following special features on it:

  • 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
    • Pt. 1 – The Road to Gotham City
    • Pt. 2 – The Gathering Storm
    • Pt. 3 – The Legend Reborn
  • Batman: The Heroes
    • Batman
    • Vicki Vale
    • Alexander Knox
    • Commissioner Gordon
    • Harvey Dent
  • Batman: The Villains
    • The Joker
    • Bob the Goon
  • Beyond Batman
    • Visualizing Gotham: The Production Design of Batman
    • Building the Batmobile
    • Those Wonderful Toys: The Props & Gadgets of Batman
    • Designing the Batsuit
    • From Jack to Joker
    • Nocturnal Overtures: The Music of Batman
  • Batman: The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence
  • Music Videos
    • “Batdance” by Prince
    • “Partyman” by Prince
    • “Scandalous” by Prince
  • Theatrical Trailer

The special features on the Blu-ray may have nothing but vintage featurettes but the featurettes are all very informative. You just have to get past the fact that you’re watching these featurettes in a 4:3 format.

“On Set With Bob Kane” is a vintage sneak preview of Batman as told by Bob Kane. It’s short and pointless since this isn’t exactly a behind-the-scenes look at the film.

“Legends of the Dark Knight” is a massively in-depth 40-minute documentary which covers the entire history of Batman. Yes, it’s vintage but you know the documentary goes in-depth when they mention Bill Finger in it. In addition, it does slightly cover the history of comic books as well. It’s a great documentary.

Unfortunately, “The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight” isn’t a documentary about the entire cinematic history of Batman. Instead, the film focuses on the film’s difficult road to getting made. In addition, this is also an in-depth behind-the-scenes featurette too.

“The Heroes” and “The Villains” has comic book writers, actors, and comic book experts break down the heroes and villains of the Batman universe.

“Beyond Batman” is another lengthy inside and informative look at ALL the various filmmaking aspect of Batman. Trust me there are a lot of things to go through and these string of featurettes are almost an hour long altogether. Yet each featurette is so engaging that you’re glued for the entire 50-minutes.

“The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence” gives a look at a sequence where the film would first introduce Robin in the film. The sequence features the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, so it’s definitely worth a watch.

Special Features Rating: 4/5 atoms

Overall, Batman was a step in the right direction for getting Hollywood and the general public to understand that comic book films CAN be taken seriously. It took a while before he could shed the campy look of the Adam West days but we’re totally here for it. The video transfer is superb but unfortunately, the audio mix is a bit lackluster. The special features, albeit old, are still really good to watch.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1621 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.