Blu-ray: BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2011)
Visually this is one of the better looking DC Direct animated titles. The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer contains a muted color palette that sets the somber mood. Neon signs pop, while not creating digital interference. Banding issues that have been on all of the DC Direct titles are reduced and are only visible if you're really looking for them. The 2D animation is cleanly presented, but the integration of cel-painted CG does stick out because of the sharpest (and movement). Other digital problems are minor and like I said of the banding, you really have to be looking for it.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is a solid mix of dialogue, music and sound effects. These direct-to-DVD features never have the cinematic score of a theatrical feature, but this one used the entire soundscape pretty well. City ambience is brought into the rear speakers, which helps create a realistic setting, an important element of the film. Gun shots, heavy fist smashes and explosions utilize the LFE track in dynamic fashion. It makes you pay attention. The only real disappointment came in an iconic moment where a swarm of bats flies over Batman and take over the screen. The swoosh of the creatures doesn't wash over the viewer as much as it could by keeping the back speakers focused on the score.
Warners always provides a solid collection of special features on these titles and they don't disappoint here. Voice director Andrea Romano, creative director of animation for DC Entertainment Mike Carlin, co-producer Alan Burnett and co-director Sam Liu provide a nice audio commentary that covers how they approached bringing Frank Miller's seminal Batman story to the screen. For fans it gives an idea of their mind frame in keeping so true to the comic and why certain things needed to be changed.
"Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots" and "Conversations with DC Comics: Featuring the 2011 Batman Creative Team" are two mini-docs that cover the mythos of the Dark Knight and how it has changed over time. A great deal is focused on Miller's contribution to that mythos via BATMAN: YEAR ONE. The first works as a nice overview of the character's history and the second a great follow-up to get more in depth and personal.
The disc also includes the CATWOMAN short. Written by Dan DiDio, the story is thin, but the action is thick. It serves as an interesting companion to Miller's take on the character, playing up the fetishistic undertones. She does a pole dance.
Other features include: sneak peeks at the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, as well as the previously released ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS; Batman: Year One, Chapter One Digital Comic; episodes of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES; and trailers.