‘Christopher Nolan Collection’ review (4K UHD)
Home entertainment lovers smitten by the ultra-high definition format will truly appreciate a selection of movies by one of the masters of modern-day cinema with the Christopher Nolan Collection (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, $149.99).
Director, writer and producer on many of his most popular films, Mr. Nolan has delivered a steady stream of blockbusters over the past decade. His filmmaking prowess dazzles movie audiences while staying firmly rooted in his love for using more practical, than digital, effects and traditional film stock formats.
This 21-disc set offers seven of his best films in both the 4K UHD and high definition. Here’s a short synopsis of the movies that will become a permanent part of family movie nights.
“Batman Begins” (rated PG-13, 140 minutes, released in 2005) Featuring the transformation of Bruce Wayne into the Batman, the film is the shortest and the weakest of the Dark Knight Trilogy but a necessity to set up the angst-ridden narrative of the movies that follow. The gravelly voiced Christian Bale stars as the high-tech Caped Crusader, and he battles Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow and a mysterious villain played by Liam Neeson looking to destroy Gotham City.
“The Dark Knight” (rated PG-13, 153 minutes, released in 2008) Without a doubt, the best superhero-fueled crime drama ever produced, the movie features the Joker (the late Heath Ledger) on a destructive path to break the spirit of Gotham while having fun with the Batman. Ledger’s Academy Award-winning performance as the Clown Prince of Crime, twinned with Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) as the tragic Two-Face, makes the film the best of the Bat epics.
“The Dark Knight Rises” (rated PG-13, 165 minutes, released in 2012) The Dark Knight Trilogy concludes with a new menace named Bane (Tom Hardy) wanting to break Batman and his beloved city. Our hero will need to survive a stay in a remote prison before getting help from Catwoman (Anne Hathaway).
“Interstellar” (rated PG-13, 169 minutes, released in 2014) Mr. Nolan’s epic homage to classic sci-fi films such as “2001″ stars Matthew McConaughey as a farmer turned planetary explorer who must act as man’s last hope for survival in the stars. It’s by far one of Mr. Nolan’s most beautiful and thought-provoking films.
“Inception” (rated PG-13, 148 minutes, released in 2010) A mind-bending sci-fi heist drama offers Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional criminal who can steal dreams and gets a chance to clear his criminal record if he is willing to permanently mess with a human’s mind. The multi-Academy Award-winning movie offers some of the wildest special effects ever brought to the screen.
“The Prestige” (rated PG-13, 131 minutes, released in 2006) A pair of rival magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) take their tricks to the extreme as they compete as the top prestidigitator in Victorian London.
“Dunkirk” (rated PG-13, 106 minutes, released in 2017) A nail-biting recreation of the massive evacuation of 400,000 British and French troops stranded on the beach of Dunkirk (before the German army could destroy them) offers Mr. Nolan’s solemn tribute to perseverance and hope during World War II.
4K UHD in action: Reportedly Mr. Nolan supervised all or most of the remastering of the collection. His efforts are truly highlighted in the Dark Knight Trilogy, “Dunkirk” and “Interstellar,” all digitally rescanned from the original camera negatives and culled from the 35mm and IMAX 65mm footage. Viewers will be thrilled by the results.
Boasting 2160p resolution and high-dynamic-range enhancements, the digital versions of the movies deliver lifelike, sometimes three-dimensional visuals and a deeper color spectrum that impeccably captures the director and cinematographer’s original vision for each film.
Mr. Nolan, for many of his home entertainment releases, also has a habit of switching between 2.39:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratios with the scenes often cut from the resolution generous IMAX format. It leads to pockets of full-screen immersion for the viewer during the many action-packed moments as well as sweeping landscapes.
The Batman films offer a great example of this and the upgrade to 4K literally explodes with detail and vivid color, popping from the screen, making the viewer feel like he is part of the scene.
Results allow viewers to appreciate the skyline of Gotham (often shots of Chicago); Batman perched at the top of a building like a gargoyle; a dizzying kidnapping of a businessman as Batman uses his cape and an aircraft to fly around Honk Kong; Bane escaping a collapsing aircraft; and Bruce Wayne escaping a wintery Tibet.
Also, besides admiring the Dark Knights detailed costuming evolutions, the makeup and scars on the Joker take on a new horrifying realism during many of his full-frame dialogue nuggets.
The cinematic immersion continues throughout the movie collection, witnessed in the spectacular Earth farm scenes and alien landscapes in “Interstellar”; the dogfights in “Dunkirk”; and the gravity-shifting, mass destruction of building landscapes in “Inception.”
As far as sound, no Dolby Atmos, but there is a steady diet of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on all movies that will still shake entertainment rooms though some fantastic audio mixes during every action sequence.
Equally compelling is appreciating any of the Hans Zimmer soundtracks with the sound format, especially during any Joker appearance in “The Dark Knight.”
Best extras: Nothing new on the 4K versions of the films, but most all of the bonus content culled from the previous Blu-ray releases of the movies does get included with extras found on the film disc as well as a separate disc.
That translates into almost 15 hours of behind-the-scenes appreciation of Mr. Nolan’s creative visions and its source material.
Some of the best documentaries, featurettes or interactives in the collection include:
A 58-minute documentary on the Batmobile (found on “The Dark Knight Rises”) offers an information-packed overview of the origins and design evolution of Batman’s most-trusted vehicle supplemented by some beautiful comic book artwork.
A 50-minute look at the real scientific principles behind “Interstellar,” narrated by Matthew McConaughey, touches on wormholes, relativity and planetary exploration.
A pseudo picture-in-picture overview of “The Dark Knight” with 18 vignettes is activated during the movie through the player’s controller when an icon appears onscreen. The feature delivers about an hours worth of behind-the-scenes content that stops the movie and plays the featurette before returning to the action.
For the movie “Inception,” actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts a 45-minute documentary looking at the science of human dreaming featuring interviews with professors and psychologists and including some bizarre animated sequences.
Note: The Christopher Nolan Collection does not include digital download codes for the films and that will disappoint some fans. However, the reference quality 4K UHD upgrades to each of the included masterpieces more than make it a worthy set to own.