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The Dark Knight cover

Blu-ray Reviews: The Dark Knight

Originally published in Sound and Image, Feb/March 2009, v.22#4
Last updated 11 October 2009

The Dark Knight
2008 - Warner Bros Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Curnen, Ron Dean and Cillian Murphy

Movie: 4.5 Picture: 5 Sound: 5 Extras: 4

This is one movie about which I need write very little. The Dark Knight is, of course, the sequel to the Batman series restart: Batman Begins. That it is a good movie isn't just my opinion, but also that of the movie-goers who have so far spent a little short of a billion dollars at the international box office, and the more than 300,000 voters on the Internet Movie Database who have placed it in 4th position on the 'best ever' list.

Warner Bros hasn't stinted -- too much, anyway -- in the Blu-ray release. So let me quickly dispose of the bit on which it has stinted: the US version comes with three discs, not two. The missing one is a DVD carrying a so-called 'Digital Copy', a standard definition version suitable for loading onto a portable video player for on-the-road viewing. We don't get that.

But we do get everything else, including top notch picture and sound quality.

The director, Christopher Nolan, had always wanted to play with IMAX filming, so he used that for a few segments of the movie, the first such use for a feature film. IMAX was developed for the enormous projection screens in IMAX theatres, so the film is also enormous. It fact, it is 70mm film stock run sideways, providing film frames with more than eight times the number of pixels of standard 35mm film. The movie mostly is in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but at least three sections, which were shot in IMAX, are presented on the Blu-ray in 1.78:1 (ie. they use the full resolution of the format). These sections are the heist at the start, the truck chase half way through, and six or so seconds introducing Bruce Wayne's journey to Hong Kong.

For those enthusiasts of Constant Image Height projection, this will be a drawback because fiddling with anamorphic lenses and projector settings several times through the course of the movie isn't really a very enjoyable way of watching it. So they will probably prefer to accept the black bars above and below the picture for its bulk.

The 2.35:1 sections which were filmed conventionally are nicely presented, but the heist at the start hints at what IMAX has to offer, with the greatest clarity of any filmed scenes (as opposed to computer generated ones) I have yet seen. Because of the narrow depth of field of the format, they also deliver an extraordinary sense of depth.

The sound, presented in Dolby TrueHD is easily referance quality as well. But for some reason Warner also includes a quite unnecessary Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, to which the disc defaults. Since Warner Bros movies don't commence via a menu screen, you will find yourself having to change the sound after the movie has started.

Still, that is a small price to pay for one of the best movies ever made, presented with one of the best picture and sound qualities available, complete with a second disc to hold the more than three hours of high definition special extras.

Running time: 152 minutes
Picture: 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 anamorphic, 1080p24, VC1 @ 23.99Mbps
Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 16/48, 3/2.1 @ 1505kbps (Core: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps); English: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps; French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps; English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 (with Pro Logic flag) @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English, French, German, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian, Italian for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazillian), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
Extras: Bookmarks; Pop-up progress bar; 18 Jump to during movie 'Focus Points' (1080i60, VC1, DD 2.0 @ 192kbps - 64 mins); Two Featurettes (1080p24, VC1, DD 5.1 @ 448kbps - 92 mins); Six 'Gotham Tonight' simulated news show segments (1080i60, VC1, DD 2.0 @ 192kbps - 47 mins); Four photos galleries (230 stills, 1080p24, VC1, no sound); Three theatrical trailers (1080p24, VC1, DD 2.0 @ 192kbps - 6 mins); Six TV Spots (1080p24, VC1, DD 5.1 @ 448kbps - 3 mins); One Easter Egg trailer (1080p24, VC1, DD 2.0 @ 192kbps - 3 mins)
Restrictions: Rated M (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.2:

The Dark Knight video bitrate graph

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