Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
The Batperson

The Batman and The Untouchables – two crime fighters arrive on 4K disc

By Jim Bray
May 26, 2022

Who would you want protecting your city: the Caped Crusader or a G-Man and his team?

Well, I suppose it depends on the movie in which you find yourself, which brings up a couple of new 4K disc titles, each of which is worth seeing for mostly different reasons.

First up is The Batman, the hot new title sent to me by Warner Brothers. Yeah, they've taken another dive into the stuff whose rights they own, bringing a whole new Batman and a whole new feel to the guy.

Still no Robin, though.

The other is The Untouchables, director Brian De Palma and writer Douglas Mamet's cinematic version of the old TV series starring Robert Stack. I never saw that series, but I do like the movie – very much. In fact, between these two, I'd pick Untouchables every time. It's a tad more graphic in its depiction of violence, but overall a better story and a better movie.

Not that The Batman, directed and co-written by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes reboots), isn't worth your time – even though, at 176 minutes, it's going to require a lot of it – too much, in fact. They stuff so much stuff into this movie that I'm not sure how much it could've been shortened, but there must have been some "less important" stuff they could have excised – or, better still, saved for a director's cut down the road.

The Batman and Bruce Wayne is played by Robert Pattinson, who I last saw in Tenet but who I actually remember as playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Besides the film's length, he's the biggest problem because I didn't find him believable as either side of his dual identity. Especially since there are many other fine actors in this film – though not all of them are at their best, either.

I mean, I was pleased to note that Andy Serkis was cast as Alfred. I like Serkis and I honour his contributions to the state of the movie art, via such performance-captured performances as Gollum, Kong, Captain Haddock, Snoke, Caesar and others. Yet I found him lacking compared to Michael Caine in Christopher Nolan's definitive Batman trilogy (he's better than Jeremy Irons was, though). On the other hand, wait until you see Colin Farrell, though chances are you may not recognize him!

I enjoyed the movie for the most part (despite a certain wokeness that, fortunately, doesn't beat us over the head with it). I liked having The Riddler as the villain (and he's good, too!) and I liked the rather meandering story for the most part.

It's no Nolan trilogy, but what is?

I've pilloried Warners over the years for its lack of great DC comic universe films and, while this one isn't one of the top ones ever, it's certainly better than all other Batman films but Nolan's (well, I have a soft spot for the Adam West one from the 1960's, but that's like comparing apples and oranges). It's also better than the Justice League excess-travaganzas but not quite as good as the first Gal Gadot Wonder Woman and, maybe, the first Aquaman.

Worth a look, but if you want the "real" Batman, check out Nolan's.

Anyway, the movie is like an episode of a TV series, in that we join the Caped Crusader already fully fledged, a nighttime-based vigilante who's been working at cleaning up Gotham City's crime-ridden streets for some time now. He even has a relationship with the police. Well, a couple. He's buddies with Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, who can't shine Gary Oldman's shoes, either) but he seems to be an outlier in that most of the cops are convinced the Batdude is a Baddude.

Then the Riddler starts wreaking havoc, killing VIP's in a manner designed to "drain the swamp" of its corrupt individuals. It's kind of a look at today's world, where the elites can pretty well do whatever they want and not worry about consequences – and The Riddler plans to strike a blow for the little guy.

Over the interminable course of the film we also get some lessons about trusting people, in that sometimes the people you trust the most may still have feet of clay.

You'd almost think the writing team had been poring over the thousands of Q posts from the past several years that the mainstream media likes to pooh-pooh as conspiracy theories.

The 4K disc, with HDR of course, looks as great as it can in a very dark movie. The cinematography is gorgeous, but so much happens at night or in dimly lit rooms that it can be a tad hard to see at times. Not the worst example of this that I've seen, but it's noticeable.

Yet when you can make stuff out (which, to be fair, is usually), it's a lovely example of the 4K disc beast, with wonderful detail, bright and living colours, and great black levels.

The audio is Dolby Atmos, which is backward compatible to Dolby TrueHD, and it's a lovely aural experience. Well, as with some Warner discs, there's too much bass, but – as with the picture – it is definitely not one of the studio's worst examples. All channels get used well, channel separation is first rate, and the overall fidelity is wonderful. I didn't notice dialogue getting drowned out by other stuff, either, which is nice.

I did find Michael Giacchino's score more than a tad derivative. I and the two friends with whom I watched The Batman thought it sounded (more than once) like it was channelling (which is kinder to say than "ripping off") John Williams' Imperial March from The Empire Strikes back. Fortunately, I love that piece, though I'd rather it stayed in the Star War universe.

You also get a decent set of extras on the special Blu-ray disc that's also in the package (you also get a Blu-ray disc of the film and a digital code for a download). There's one nearly an hour-long feature, and a bunch of shorter ones and overall, they're pretty good. Here's a breakdown:

  • Vengeance in the Making (the long one)
  • Looking for Vengeance
  • The Batman: Genesis
  • Vengeance Meets Justice
  • Becoming Catwoman (oh, yeah, did I mention she's a lesbian here?)
  • The Batmobile (alas, one of the worst Batmobiles so far)
  • Anatomy of a Car Chase
  • Anatomy of the Wing Suit Jump
  • Unpacking the Icons A Transformation: The Penguin (you must see this!)
  • Deleted Scenes (With Optional Commentary)
  • Scene 52 Joker/Arkham
  • Scene 56 Selina Gets 44 Below Keycard

I wasn't going to bother with The Batman until Warners sent me the 4K disc to review, but now that I've seen it I'm glad I did. It's a decent entry in the Batman franchise and worth a look if you can set aside the time.

The Untouchables

Touching Eliot Ness

Then there's The Untouchables, which Paramount has just unleashed on 4K disc. The set only comes with the 4K disc, surprisingly, and it also contains quite extensive extras, but overall I don't think it has affected the movie's 4K picture quality because it still looks great even though it shares disc space.

As pretty well everyone knows by now, this is the story of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), a law enforcement agent whose sights are set on cleaning up Chicago by bringing down Al Capone (Robert De Niro). He enlists help from a crusty old beat cop (Sean Connery, in his only Oscar-winning performance), a Chicago Police Department recruit/crack shot (Andy Garcia) and an accountant (Charles Martin Smith). This motley crew finds itself on its own because it appears every other cop is on the take.

David Mamet's script is appropriately violent, but I didn't find it gratuitous. But I did find it to be very compelling, smart, and even touching in places.

The story follows Ness as he looks for ways to bring down the mob boss without breaking the law himself. He learns, from experience and from his mentor Jimmy Malone (Connery), that if he wants to be successful against a bunch for whom the law is basically irrelevant, he's going to have to play their game.

So he does, losing his innocence but, fortunately, not his humanity.

It's a movie that De Palma has crafted beautifully, with 1930's Chicago looking and feeling very real; heck, I wouldn't have wanted to live there then any more than I would today! I also enjoyed the scene set at the U.S./Canadian border, a nice action scene filmed beautifully in a lovely area of Montana.

The performances are excellent. Connery may have received the Oscar, but all the main actors do outstanding jobs, especially De Niro and Smith. Costner is fine as Ness, but he's almost outclassed by some of his peers here.

As mentioned, the 4K disc looks great; the HDR adds to the visual feast, without making the picture excessively dark. Detail is splendid and colours are bright and clean. I haven't seen this movie in years but it sure seems as if this is the definitive version so far.

Audio is remixed to Dolby Atmos, but I listened to the "dumbed down" Dolby TrueHD version and it was fine. Oh, it's an older soundtrack so it isn't going to rattle your neighbours' walls like some newer soundtracks do (including The Batman), but that's okay. It works, and it works well.

For some reason, Paramount has chosen not to include a Blu-ray of the movie, though there is a digital code. That means the extras are stuck onto the 4K disc, which means they had to use up valuable storage space for the supplements at the expense of the feature itself.

Fortunately, though I had no other version to compare, this 4K version seems just fine.

Those extras are pretty great, too! There's over an hour of them and, though none of it appears to be new, it's well worth seeing. There are features on the script and cast, stories from the production, "re-inventing the genre", The Classic, an original featurette "The Men" (feminists will love it!) and the theatrical trailer.

All in all, despite the lack of other discs (which those who want the 4K disc probably don't care about in the grand scheme of things), this is a very good presentation of a classic American gangster movie.

Between the two, I preferred The Untouchables to The Batman, but they're both well worth your time.

Copyright 2022 Jim Bray

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