On Tuesday, September 24th Warner Bros. will release The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray box set. The six disc set includes the retail versions of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, but also comes with an exclusive new special features bonus disc. You also get Mattel Hot Wheels versions of the Batmobile, Batpod and Bat, mini posters by Mondo featuring Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra’s al Ghul. A 48-page hardcover book featuring production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies is also included. The six discs come in a large hardcover book which features art from all three movies and it’s very well put together. Check out my full review below.
The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy
In my opinion the new special features bonus disc is the most exciting piece of content that’s included. This 76 minute documentary is the “main event” and includes interviews with Christopher Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and many other Warner Bros. executives and producers. It’s split up into several chapters and there’s tons of behind-the-scenes footage. I’m going to touch on some of my favorite parts, let’s take a closer look.
It starts off by talking about how Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman after 1997’s Batman & Robin. Nolan was interested in telling a Batman origin story and pitched his idea to Warner Bros. in about 10 minutes. They were sold and shortly after that meeting the project was green lit.
Now that everyone knew what kind of story they were going to tell, it was time to execute. This was a Batman movie after all, and Nolan asked Warner Bros. what they needed in his version. The number one thing they wanted was the Batmobile, but Nolan didn’t know how he was going to make it fit into his Gotham City. He had no plans on including it in Batman Begins. Nolan sat with screenwriter David Goyer and figured out how to bring the Batmobile to life. Nolan was happy with what they came up with, and said that the “does it come in black?” line was one of the first that he wrote in his script. Nolan also had meetings with DC Comics becausee wanted to make sure it was ok if Batman didn’t have his classic yellow symbol on his chest.
This section talks about the themes that are in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. There’s terrorism, economics, politics, etc. Nolan was able to weave this into his story and for the first time in a superhero movie, leave the audience feeling emotional. The ferry sequence from The Dark Knight was brought up as an example. It raised the bar for comic book films.
In this section it’s echoed that Christopher Nolan approached each Batman movie individually, he didn’t think of it as a trilogy from day one. The DA in Batman Begins was Harvey Dent in an early draft, but Nolan changed it because he didn’t think he was going to make a sequel, and he felt that a popular character like Dent deserved more. Nolan explained that if he knew he was making a sequel to The Dark Knight, Dent probably wouldn’t have died at the end. Nolan felt that focusing on the movie at hand, and not worrying about what could happen next, allowed him to tell the best story possible. Nolan wanted each movie to feel like a different genre. He described Batman Begins as a hero’s journey, an origin story. The Dark Knight was a crime epic, which allowed him to explore more of Gotham City. He called The Dark Knight Rises a disaster movie. There’s also footage of Nolan sitting on the Batpod here, which is a must see!
This was by far my favorite part of the documentary. It’s also the longest chapter on the bonus disc. Christopher Nolan said that Christian Bale was the first actor he met with for the part of Batman. Nolan said he also met with every other young actor in Hollywood. The audition process consisted of each actor playing the part of Bruce Wayne and then Batman. As a favor to the casting director, actress Amy Adams played the role of Rachel. The actors wore Val Kilmer’s Batman Forever batsuit for their audition.
They also show Cillian Murphy’s Batman audition. He didn’t quite fit what they were looking for, but Nolan was impressed and asked him to play the Scarecrow instead. Another interesting casting note was that Nolan originally wanted Gary Oldman to play Ra’s Al Ghul. Oldman had already played many villains in his career and wasn’t interested, so Nolan was able to convince him to be Gordon.
There’s brief behind-the-scenes footage of Heath Ledger’s Joker in this section, but not as much as I would have liked. They only spend about five minutes total talking about Ledger and the Joker. And while it’s brief, it’s still very interesting. Christopher Nolan talks about when he met Ledger for the first time, and how other actors he met with for the role were intimidated by Jack Nicholson’s great performance.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies had some incredible action sequences, and this section focuses on his desire to keep the stunts as real as possible. Nolan likes to use CGI to enhance a scene, not replace it completely. Nolan explained that current summer blockbuster movies have about 2,000 CGI shots in them. The Dark Knight Rises only had 530 CGI shots. They focus on the big action scenes from each movie and the techniques used to merge in camera shots with CGI.
This section also touches on the fact that Christopher Nolan loves secrecy. Nolan explains that they’ve done a lot of things over the course of the three movies to keep things under wraps. The most extreme was the funeral scene from The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan knew that the tombstone couldn’t say “Bruce Wayne” so they put a fake name and then changed it with CGI later on. They went as far as having Christian Bale on set that day and shot the scene with him in it, which Nolan said really confused Michael Caine.
This section deals with the marketing of the movies. Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan were very proud of the first Batman Begins teaser trailer and they wanted to show the audience that this was a Batman movie that they’ve never seen before.
They also spend a good amount of time talking about the fantastic viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight.
The documentary wraps up with everyone talking about how Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies will go down in history. They didn’t just change the superhero genre, they set the bar high for all types of movies.
Christopher Nolan and Richard Donner: A Conversation
In this 25 minute segment Christopher Nolan and Richard Donner, director of the original Christopher Reeves Superman movie, have a casual conversation about their movie making process. Nolan tells Donner that his Superman movie was a huge inspiration and the two directors look back at the classic Batman and Superman movies they’ve made, and how they went about doing it. It closes with Donner insisting that Nolan do a comedy movie next, which Nolan seemed very uninterested in.
IMAX Sequences: The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises
For the first time ever, the IMAX scenes from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are available in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. When you watch them on Blu-ray, the IMAX scenes fill your screen, but they’re still being cropped to fill your 16:9 television. On the bonus disc, you get to watch them the way Christopher Nolan intended. This is achieved by placing black bars on the left and right side of the screen. There isn’t an option to watch the whole movie this way, but you can watch the major IMAX scenes individually on the bonus disc.
As soon as you open the box you’re presented with a letter from Christopher Nolan. In it, he talks about his intentions to bring Batman back better than ever and how grateful he was to Warner Bros. for being patient between each movie and giving him freedom to tell his story. There are five mini posters that feature the great villains from the movies, the Joker poster is my favorite. There’s a 48 page hardcover book that has production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies. It’s very high quality and includes images that I’ve never seen before. Perhaps the most disappointing piece of memorabilia are the Mattel Hot Wheels vehicles. They just don’t match the high quality that’s present throughout the rest of the box, and why is the Batpod gold?
There aren’t any deleted scenes here. You won’t see more than a couple of minutes of behind-the-scenes footage featuring Heath Ledger, and Christopher Nolan didn’t record commentary over each movie. However, if you’re a regular Batman News reader and you got excited over all of The Dark Knight Rises rumors, news, photos, and videos I covered here over the years, I think you’ll be happy with this collector’s item. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy truly will go down in history and the documentary on the bonus disc offers fantastic insight and behind-the-scenes footage that hasn’t been seen before. If for some reason you don’t already own Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray, then this new Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a must buy! It retails for $99.99 but as of right now it’s available on Amazon for $79.99. This is a limited edition box set — my review copy is labeled 11,594 of 141,500. For more information, check out the full press release.