Blu-ray Review: Batman: Year One Commemorative Edition
Directed by: Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
Written by: Tab Murphy
Starring: Ben McKenzie, Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Katee Sackhoff
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Thanks to WB for the free review copy.
Originally released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2011, Batman: Year One is based on the landmark 1987 DC titles from 12-time Eisner Award winner and Eisner Award Hall of Fame member Frank Miller and illustrator David Mazzucchelli. The film depicts young Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City in his first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed Super Hero. The playboy billionaire chooses the guise of a giant bat to combat crime, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon (who is already battling corruption from inside the police department), inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a crooked political system that infests Gotham City.
Taking into account how this Commemorative Edition is a souped-up version of a ten-year-old movie, it’s probably best not to go into detail about the feature presentation itself. Still, I’m going to give my two cents to an extent.
For those unfamiliar, Batman: Year One adapts the legendary comic book story arc of the same name. In fact, it’s one of the most literal page-to-screen translations you’ll ever see, similar to Watchmen or Sin City – only animated. David Mazzucchelli’s artwork and Frank Miller’s words are brought to brilliant life by the filmmakers, and to be honest, I loved watching it again today every bit as much as I did a decade ago.
It’s actually kind of strange hearing Ben McKenzie voicing a young Dark Knight after having seen him play Jim Gordon on the live-action Gotham series. Sometimes life just works out that way, so major kudos and bragging rights go to him. McKenzie does do a good job, but this Batman somehow ages into Peter Weller in The Dark Knight Returns. I guess we must judge those as two different works. I digress.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say that the only version of this film I’d previously owned was that of the single-disc DVD edition. Therefore, all of the bonus features are new to me, nor had I ever seen this flick in HD. Having said that, it looks downright gorgeous on Blu-ray, so it was nice revisiting this dirty version of Gotham City in greater resolution.
So, if you’re in the same boat and the HD treatment doesn’t provide enough incentive, let’s move on to discussing those bonus features, shall we?
Let’s be honest in saying that bonus content is one of the biggest reasons for anyone to double-dip. This Commemorative Edition contains only one all-new featurette – “Reinventing Gordon” – and it delves into the evolution of Jim Gordon from the two-dimensional character that rolled out in 1939 to the complicated cop he became in the 1970s and beyond. Furthermore, his live-action counterparts are briefly examined – including Jeffrey Wright’s interpretation in The Batman. In case you’re wondering, we also get some behind-the-scenes footage taken from the upcoming blockbuster. That might be worth the price of admission alone.
In addition to that, both “Conversations with DC Comics” and “Heart of Vengeance” have been brought over from the original release. As I said, both are new to me, so I enjoyed them immensely. The former is a roundtable discussion involving Michael Uslan, Denny O’Neil, Dan DiDio, and Scott Snyder, while the latter details Batman’s return to his darker roots in the ’70s and ’80s. Oh yeah, the infamous DC Showcase Short: Catwoman is also along for the ride, so be sure to check out that as well.
The only minor negative to discuss is somewhat subjective, but it’s the double-edged sword that comes along with closely adapting the material. You see, the format taken from the comic retains the element of setting scenes on specific dates. For example, you’ll see something like “April 4” on screen, followed by “April 10” in the next. While this does help tell a story that spans a year in comics, it means some of the scenes come off as being too brief on film. I guess it’s something that’s become more apparent to me on repeated viewings, but I didn’t love the movie any less.
If you don’t own this film in any capacity, then buy it. Or, if you were in need of an upgrade and/or enjoy more bonus content like myself, then do likewise. The Batman: Year One Commemorative Edition makes for the perfect companion to the recently released The Long Halloween – and perhaps even 2022’s The Batman.