We here at Comics Bulletin have a long, love/hate relationship with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. We were pretty fond of Batman Begins right from the beginning, and I even had nice things to say about it later in my Building the Bat: Batman Begins column. The Dark Knight blew almost all of us away, and I also found it to be the best in the series in Building the Bat: The Dark Knight. However, The Dark Knight Rises was a decidedly mixed bag and I disliked it so much I couldn't even be bothered to write about it (let's just say I found it tedious and self-important with Bale's Batman voice becoming self-parody, and be done with it).
Please check out the above links for individual reviews and commentary on all the films.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get on to why we're all here. On September 24, Warner Bros. released The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray box set and great googly moogly is it a doozy. The set is loaded with extras and retails for $99.97 ($80.49 via Amazon). Whether or not that's a deal is going to depend on what you already own and how desperate you are to get your grubby mitts on the extras.
The films are the exact same Blu-ray releases that are already on your shelf, and comprise the first five of this six-disc set. Batman Begins is the single disc release (with all the extras), The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are both the two-disc sets (with the second discs being extras). These films are all pretty affordable (as you can see from the included links), with all three totaling less than $30 bucks.
Which means you need to decide if a sixth disc of extras, original Mondo art prints featuring illustrations of Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra's al Ghul by the amazing Jock, a 48-page hardcover book The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy (which is a pared down in size and page-count version of the 300+ page coffee table book we reviewed glowingly here), and a set of three Hot Wheels vehicles (The Batmobile, the Batpod, and the Tumbler) are worth the additional $50 odd dollars.
I have to admit to being torn on the matter. With the original art book clocking in at under $30 bucks, I kind of fell ripped off with the abbreviated version included here. The toys are cute, but I'm not into them. The art prints by Jock are beautiful and sincerely up the value of this box set, and the extras disc has a couple of nice bits.
Basically the sixth disc is broken down into the feature-length documentary The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation, and the IMAX sequences from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in their original aspect ratios.
I don't know about you, but the IMAX scenes don't hold a lot of interest for me. And while the Nolan and Donner discussion is entertaining, there aren't a lot of surprises there — plus it clocks in at just around a half hour, so it's not a lot of bang for your buck. The Fire Rises, however, is worth your time.
It's a comprehensive (mostly) look at the creation of the trilogy and its impact on the genre. It takes a look at the screenwriting process and the marketing, examining how Nolan chose to "fix" the franchise after the abysmal Batman & Robin (1997) nearly murdered the entire superhero genre. His decision to approach the material as though they were not necessarily based on a comic book, but as already established film genres (Batman Begins was a heroic quest film, The Dark Knight was a crime film, and The Dark Knight Rises was a disaster film), allowed for a fresh take that was both realistic and familiar at the same time.
The Casting chapter is the longest chapter and is a highlight of the documentary, with plenty of great information and stories, but it is surprisingly short on Heath Ledger. What's included is insightful, but it's kind of disappointing to not get more about the iconic performance. As far as the rest of the documentary, there's a who's who of genre filmmaking interviews, including Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Zack Snyder, and others.
So as far as quality goes, this is an amazing set — if you don't already own the Blu-ray releases of the films. If you've managed to hold out this long on dropping some coin on what has become the biggest superhero film franchise in history (although Iron Man gives it a run for its money), then you should probably go ahead and take the plunge.
For the rest of you, it's really going to depend on how much you want that documentary, Jock's fantastic art prints, the miniaturized book, and the toys. I'd be hard pressed to justify the investment except maybe to buy and stash away for resale somewhere in the future. These things are limited editions after all, with each set numbered out of 141,500.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, al
ong with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.