Yesterday afternoon I sat down at my local Vue cinema for a Batman movie marathon: Batman ’89, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. The Batman Anthology was back on the big screen to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Caped Crusader (as well as the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman), and I was there to enjoy the event.
Running from midday until around 9pm, the films were screened back-to-back (bat-to-bat), starting with Batman ’89 and concluding with Batman & Robin. But this wasn’t just any old Batman movie marathon – all four Bat-films were screened in 4K.
Warner Bros. has given the Batman Anthology a 4K UHD makeover for a new Blu-ray release set to make its debut in June. Yesterday’s screening was effectively a preview of those movies, to highlight the enhanced picture and sound quality the Blu-rays will deliver.
Before I talk about the restoration, I have to say just how much I adored yesterday’s Bat-marathon at Vue. This was a fantastic event and one I was so glad I attended.
The Batman Anthology is my all-time favourite movie series – I’ve watched these films more times than I’ve watched any other film/film series. Never did I imagine I’d get to watch all four of them on the big screen as part of a marathon.
Earlier in the year I attended Bat Con UK, where I got to watch Batman ’89 and Batman Returns back-to-back. At the time, I figured this was about as much big screen Bat-action as I was ever likely to get, because Batman Forever and Batman & Robin do not have a great reputation.
In fact, I believe the last time Batman Forever and Batman & Robin received the cinema treatment was back during their original theatrical runs – 1995 and 1997 respectively. That was over 20 years ago!
After yesterday’s screening I doubt these two movies will return to cinemas for at least another 20 years when the Caped Crusader turns 100 (and Batman ’89 celebrates its 50th anniversary). So, the Batman Anthology marathon was a truly momentous occasion for me.
So, how did the screenings shape up?
In terms of turn out, I’ll be honest, I expected more people to attend. I did a rough head count and there was around 35-40 people at the marathon.
Vue upgraded the event to a bigger screen (moving it from Screen 5 to Screen 18), but unfortunately the number of people in attendance didn’t quite match their expectations. I would have expected this event to be more popular, but then, this was a nine hour screening!
Of the 35-40 people that did attend, the majority sat through all four films. A few stepped out after Batman Returns, with a couple more dropping off after Batman Forever, but most made it to the end of the day.
And for those of us who sat through the marathon, we got to enjoy some 4K goodness – and what ‘goodness’ it was. The restoration presented the Batman films at their best, with great picture and great sound too.
Batman Forever and Batman & Robin benefited the most from the 4K upgrade, because they have the most vibrant colour palette. Forever in particular was a joy to see up on the big screen, with colours just popping at every opportunity.
I appreciate that not everyone is a fan of Forever, but certainly from a visual standpoint this film was the star of yesterday’s screening. The sight of Jim Carrey in a bright green leotard thrusting about the screen was truly magical.
Batman & Robin followed suit, with the garish tones of Poison Ivy, Bane and Mr. Freeze looking simply divine. This was pure comic book imagery brought to life.
Batman ’89 and Batman Returns have a more muted tone, so they weren’t as visually striking, but they still retained their unique appeal. The restoration has preserved these films to maintain their legacy and this is especially fantastic for ’89 which launched this entire series.
I could tell just how good the 4K upgrade was when I started to see and hear things that had previously been missed in other screenings. From slightly garbled lines to beads of sweat, this screening gave me everything to help me feel truly immersed in Gotham City.
Of course, not every aspect of a makeover such as this is a good thing. By enhancing the picture it also means shining a brighter light on some of the things that filmmakers don’t want audiences to see.
The film that suffered the most for this was Batman & Robin. For the first time in 22 years I could clearly see when the stunt people stepped in for the actors and by the end of the movie I felt as if Chris O’Donnell’s stunt double had been in the movie more than he was!
There were also one or two shots in all four movies that looked out of focus. I doubt this was due to the digital projector, so this may have been down to the upgrade – trying to enhance snippets of film that can’t be enhanced any more.
However, very minor quibbles aside, this whole experience was fantastic and I’d love to see more screenings like this, where a studio puts effort into restoration through timed theatrical/Blu-ray re-releases. The Batman Anthology has never looked so good.