The Dark Knight Trilogy Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Why You Shouldn’t Buy It

By July 11, 2013
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I have to admit, I’m a sucker for DVD and Blu-ray releases that are “double dips.” I had the Superman films, but I had to buy the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” for the first five theatrical films when it was released. I had all of The Matrix Trilogy, but when my teenage self stared in awe at a commercial promising a staggering ten discs in The Ultimate Matrix Collection, I knew I needed it. I’m not exactly sure about how many times I bought the Star Wars Trilogy across VHS and DVD.

Then, of course, when the format jumped from DVD to Blu-ray, I bought practically all that stuff again (and likely will again, since that Star Wars “Complete Saga” set isn’t so complete anymore). I always describe myself as an enormous Batman fan, and last year when they announced that an “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” version of The Dark Knight Trilogy was forthcoming, I was extremely excited. Warner Bros. has released at least two awesome previous “Ultimate Collector’s Editions,” and I figured that they’d be pulling out all of the stops for arguably their most enduringly popular franchise.

The series wasn’t completely beyond needing work in home releases, anyway. Although Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had received previous Blu-ray releases, the transfers of the films to the prevailing high definition media format had noticeable problems in their releases. Batman Begins, for instance, moved the lesser-capacity HD-DVD transfer directly to the format that won that war, and as a result, the image and sound are of lesser quality than video and audio transfers specifically catered to new Blu-ray releases. Most video and audiophiles will likely notice a substantial increase in quality on both fronts if watching Blu-rays of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises back-to-back.

With The Dark Knight, the transfer there seems to have some problematic deficiencies that a film of it’s stature shouldn’t have. In an interview with Blu-ray.com, a film restoration and preservation expert named Torsten Kaiser brought up the subject of that film’s HD home release. He said,

“On The Dark Knight Blu-ray transfer, the biggest error – by far the biggest error – its producers committed was the complete change of the film’s original color timing. The Dark Knight was not copied with an optical printer. The original material – I held it in my hands – it was gorgeous. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was… I fell flat off my chair. (Laughs) The colors are so different compared to those that appear in the Blu-ray transfer. I’ve seen the Blu-ray once, and I’ve never looked at it again. It’s very unfortunate too because it makes the Blu-ray image exactly what it is. And this is something that is hugely important.”

My assumption was that Warner Bros. would rectify this mistake on what might be considered one of their most important films of the last decade, since they put a significant amount of effort into a new digital transfer of the first Matrix film in order to have more distinct and vibrant color timing to match the efforts of the sequels. Previous “Ultimate” editions also usually boast significantly more special features material, with the Ultimate Superman Collection boasting 20+ hours of new content, and the Ultimate Matrix Collection boasting an impressive and comprehensive 35+ hours. Would my prayers be answered with the new Dark Knight set? Do we get the collector’s edition that we deserve?

No. We get the one we don’t need right now.

Warner Bros. recently announced the entire lineup of content in The Dark Knight Trilogy Ultimate Collector’s Edition, and here it is:

  • Disc 1 – “Batman Begins” (2005) Feature and Special Features
  • Disc 2 – “The Dark Knight” (2008) Feature
  • Disc 3 – “The Dark Knight” Special Features
  • Disc 4 – “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) Feature
  • Disc 5 – “The Dark Knight Rises” Special Features
  • Disc 6 – Bonus Disc of New Special Features

So…those first five discs? The same thing we already had. There is ONE new disc of bonus content, and all the previous releases have been repackaged in “premium packaging.” Oh, but I forgot one new addition that the Dark Knight UCE is giving us!

Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler

Little toys! Because that’s what every serious collector of film sets needs on their shelves, right? Something more befitting a happy meal than a collector of one of the best film trilogies ever made? I have to say, it gives me a slight amount of pain to say it since I own literally every released cinematic and television Batman adventure, but really: don’t buy this set. It’s not on par with previous Warner Bros. “Ultimate” editions, it does nothing to address the technical shortcomings of the first two films’ home releases, and it has a rather shameful lack of new bonus material (many fans were really hoping for some sort of commentary track on one or all of the films by director Christopher Nolan).

Between the Superman and Matrix sets and my love for Batman, my expectations were, admittedly, astronomically high. I felt, though, that those expectations were so high due to the previous efforts in the other sets. I double dipped both the Ultimate Matrix and Superman sets for their Blu-ray releases because they were – and still are – extremely comprehensive and have a lot of great material.

Let me explain in more specific terms. Just for the sake of comparison, The Ultimate Matrix Collection added 35 hours of new bonus features (including two new feature-length documentaries), every single bit of promotional material (from all the trailers and TV spots for all three films, to the Powerade, Samsung, and LG commercials, even to the cinematics for the Enter the Matrix video game and POD’s “Sleeping Awake” music video), and new digital transfers for both the original film and The Matrix Reloaded (and Reloaded was released barely a year before that new set came out).

The Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition had three versions of the original 1978 film, two versions of Superman II (theatrical and the “Donner Cut”), new commentaries on films II-IV, new comprehensive documentaries about the creation of the first four films AND of Superman’s mythological history, the Kevin Burns-directed Look, Up In The Sky documentary, and all of the material for Superman Returns.

With that comparison alone, The Dark Knight Trilogy Ultimate Collector’s Edition already falls very short, and it hasn’t even been released yet. The most apt term I would use as a fan of the films to describe that is too impolite to type into this blog post, but for the reasons above, especially if you’re a big Batman fan, then you know we deserve better. If WB announced tomorrow that they’d be pushing the release date back a few months in order to bring it up to “the exacting standards of our loyal fanbase,” I’d be more than happy to see what else they can do.

Until then, though, I’d really encourage you to avoid this set, especially if you have all three films already. In the best case scenario, a double dip release will have significantly more material than the original, easily justifying spending more money on the same films. With The Dark Knight Trilogy set that’s being proposed here, this is definitely not the case.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.