In 2022, fans and movie audiences were asked to embrace yet another interpretation of a live-action version of DC Comics’ venerable Dark Knight.
Considering its now blockbuster status, director Matt Reeves’ noirish crime thriller has apparently struck a pop culture chord as The Batman (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 115 minutes, $39.99) continues to ascend the ranks of worldwide domination and saturation as it moves from theaters and HBO Max to now the ultra-high definition disc format.
In the bleak tale, a Halloween night murder introduces the Batman (Robert Pattinson) to audiences. Two years into his suicidal vigilante spree to clean up a festering crime plague in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego works closely and often side-by-side with police Detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright).
And, he’s not just the Batman, he’s “vengeance.”
After a mysterious killer nicknamed the Riddler (Paul Dano at his most unstable) begins slaughtering public officials, even boldly leaving notes for the Batman at crime scenes, our gritty hero goes on a hunt to unravel a conspiracy at the highest levels, even touching his family, that has kept Gotham in a cesspool of corruption.
Mr. Pattinson does no harm to the cultural icon and offers the most brooding of all. He’s not a muscle-bound, growling brute but lithe, almost sickly, and wearing the latest version of the urban combat-style suit. Hiding in the shadows, he is a sullen, bruised and hardened young man, speaking with fists, despite his keen investigative intellect.
Mr. Reeve’s interpretation of the mythos also allows for the villains to equal the Batman in psychotic charm.
The Riddler dressed in fatigues and an olive-green leather combat mask, and not green leotards and mask, is a serial-killing, torture-loving sadist obsessed with uncovering the sins of Gotham and inspired by the Batman.
The Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell) acts as premier stooge to crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), hardened by a life on the streets, he’s a wise guy of the Sopranos variety and stupidly fearing nothing.
And, Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) has more to do than steal as she obsessively looks to avenge the murder of a friend while finding an unusual attraction to the Caped Crusader.
All glued together with hard-boiled grit, “The Batman” is a crime thriller as much as a mystery packed with emotional angst and drama. It nearly ascends to Christopher Nolan’s urban trilogy of the hero while gloriously embracing some of the darker elements of the Bat’s 80-year history.
4K in action: The 4K source medium transfer with high dynamic range enhancements brings Mr. Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser’s murky and sometimes dreamlike visual presentation to potent life.
Scenes and action that often run in darkness and dissolve into the shadows with a skyline lit by the ominous bat signal stay true to the artist’s gloomy vision but remain detailed throughout.
Rain, fog and misted windows obscure but artistically enhance scenes while the visual pops are relegated to the fiery explosions from gunfire, bombs and crashing vehicles.
Moments to visually relish find the Batman escaping the entire police force by jumping off a building and flying like a fruit bat and then crumpling down to the streets of the city, or the hero using a red flare to lead a pack of people to safety.
One quality moment has the silhouettes of Batman and Catwoman on the roof of a building under construction as they stand in front of a Gotham sunset.
Best extras: First, viewers get an almost hourlong production diary starting with the early shooting in January 2020 that has Mr. Reeves and the crew discussing how to make this Batman different — ultimately tapping into Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s 1930s-style hero and Frank Miller’s Year One mini-series — to end up with a detective story plunged into multi-flavored noir styles.
Mixed between specific days on the set coverage are topics such as using comic book examples for visual references; exploring the design of the latest Batsuit and its weapons; villains’ motivations; dealing with the COVID-19 shutdown; shooting in Liverpool; designing a virtual Gotham City; and flooding a city.
Next, an additional nine featurettes (an almost an hour’s worth of content) cover building from the ground up a super-powered street rod version of the Batmobile; the realistic make-up design that transformed Mr. Farrell as the Penguin; creating the Batsuit and gadgets; and spotlights on Catwoman and the Riddler. All segments are supplemented with Mr. Reeves’ insight and words from key cast and crew.
Finally, the disc offers a pair of deleted scenes with commentary by the director. The most important being the introduction of the criminally insane individual who would become the Joker.
Mr. Reeve describes his Clown Prince of Crime as a man with a degenerative skin disease distorting his face and view of life while adding a permanent maniacal smile, loosely based on actor Conrad Veidt’s performance in “The Man Who Laughs.”