Batman: Hush 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review
DC’s latest animated feature, Batman: Hush, strays pretty far from the source material. The biggest problem with this adaptation is that it focuses too heavily on the romance between Bruce and Selina. Their relationship and partnership was a highlight of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s comic run, but only as a part of the story’s larger tapestry. However, the film is so dialed in on that aspect that it eschews the most enticing aspect of the original comic – the mystery.
As a result, the secret of Hush becomes the B-plot of the film when it really should have been the focus. Without a compelling mystery to lure viewers in, it’s hard to get invested in Bruce’s journey. Although some of the source material’s most iconic moments are included, the majority of the plot has also been changed. This is most apparent in the third act, where the big reveal has been dramatically altered. Without getting into spoilers, this change isn’t for the better. In fact, it comes entirely out of left field.
The real problem with this adaptation is that it shouldn’t have been a movie in the first place. Instead, this particular arc would have been better suited as a miniseries. There’s simply not enough time in Batman: Hush’s 82 minutes for the movie to do justice to the comic. It’s equivalent to the Dark Phoenix conundrum. The original story is simply too vast and far-reaching for a single film to cover more than the minutia of the arc. In that case, why do it at all?
Director Justin Copeland does craft some interesting splash page-like imagery. Regardless, the framing is relatively static, which ultimately makes it feel less cinematic and more like a motion comic. Similarly, the action is well-choreographed and animated, with a few shots in particular that are very impressive. The animation is up to par with what we’ve come to expect from DC, but it’s also not particularly inventive. In the film’s favor, there are some decent vocal performances from many of the returning voice actors. There are also some fresh voices added to the DC stable of actors, including Peyton Lost and Maury Sterling. However, Jennifer Morrison is the MVP for her memorable performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman.
Batman: Hush isn’t a complete disaster, but it’s just not going to work for everyone. Despite having enjoyable aspects, it is unfortunately too hit-and-miss to live up to the iconography of the source material.
Presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the 4K transfer of Batman: Hush is a treat. While the 4K HVEC encode certainly tops its 1080p counterpart, it’s also probably one of the best looking DC animated movies to date. Perhaps the most significant benefit from the UHD version of the film is the added contrast via the disc’s HDR capabilities. In particular, the black levels see a significant boost, with highlights and shadows that play into the film’s dark aesthetic.
Even though Batman: Hush isn’t a particularly colorful film, the HDR also adds a noticeable boost to color saturation. Overall, fabric definition and skin tones are outstanding on this disc, even if the animation isn’t super detailed. Similarly, it offers a sharp and crisp image throughout the film’s relatively short runtime. Unfortunately, banding is an ever-present issue with this video transfer. Color representation is always an issue with animated features on Blu-ray. The 4K version of the film manages to mitigate this issue from being too distracting.
Unfortunately, the Batman: Hush 4K Blu-ray doesn’t contain either Atmos or 7.1 tracks. While this is fairly standard for these DC animated films, the lack of extra channels immediately makes this 5.1 mix lukewarm at best. Although this track is relatively mundane for the first half, it truly comes alive for the latter half. The action is terrific in this mix, while dialogue levels are prominent. As a whole, channel separation is solid, but most of the audio mix comes squarely through the front channels.
This 5.1 tends to favor high ends of the sonic spectrum, while the low ends are never particularly distinctive. Some slight volume calibration might be needed, but luckily only by a few decibels at most. Frederik Wiedmann’s excellent score also plays prominently here, while offering a nice counterpoint to the more subtle moments of the mix. Clarity, positioning, and overall surround activity are sufficient, even though environmental ambiance is a slight letdown. It’s not quite fair to call this a particularly robust track, but considering the 5.1’s limitations, it does what it can.
The Special Features
As a whole, the supplemental materials are pretty lackluster. Despite a solid filmmaker commentary and a decent featurette, the special features are more interested in promoting other films as opposed to the actual movie itself. Considering that this was an iconic and revered Batman storyline, this part of the disc comes off as an afterthought.
DC Showcase: Sgt. Rock (14:55; 1080p): A new animated short film that highlights one of DC’s classic characters, Sgt. Rock. Executive produced by Bruce Timm, this is the first DC Showcase since, ironically, 2011’s Catwoman. It’s essentially a proving ground to gauge the appeal of Sgt. Rock. But it’s an entertaining watch nevertheless.
Batman: Love In Time of War (16:53; 1080p): A decent exploration of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman throughout the years. Starting with the way that the live-action interpretations of Selina Kyle influenced this adaptation, it covers many of the changes made to the story. The extended featurette also includes interviews with Jim Lee, in addition to how his amazing art informed the film. Considering that the focus of Batman: Hush is on the aforementioned relationship, this supplement offers a further exploration of their dynamic – even if it feels a tad redundant.
Audio Commentary: A feature-length audio commentary track that is both lively and informative. It features executive producer James Tucker, director Justin Copeland, and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker as they discuss all aspects of making the film. In the commentary, the trio delve into the voice casting, animation, the score, the iconography of the story, and more. Most importantly, they discuss why the core story has changed for Batman: Hush.
Sneak Peek – Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (10:00; 1080p): A reasonably in-depth preview of the next DC animated film. There are interviews with the filmmakers and various members of the voice cast as they discuss multiple aspects of the project. It serves as an origin story for Wonder Woman – as well as a prequel to Justice League: War. The film will arrive in October 2019.
Sneak Peek – Batman: Assault on Arkham (3:16; 1080p): A slightly more rough preview of an older animated title. It includes a mixture of concept art, unfinished animatics, and storyboards. Naturally, this preview features the various filmmakers and voice cast. How did an unfinished featurette for a movie released over five years ago make it onto this disc? Talk about shameless promotion.
From The DC Vault – “Catwalk” From Batman: The Animated Series (21:17; 1080p): As the title implies, a classic episode of B:TAS. Luckily, this episode was sourced from that show’s 1080p Blu-ray re-release, so it looks and sounds absolutely incredible. The original press release from WB promised two episodes of the vintage animated series, The Batman/Superman Hour. Instead, “Catwalk” takes its place in the final release.
As a whole, the Batman: Hush 4K Blu-ray is largely disappointing. The movie itself is perhaps the biggest letdown, only because it fails to capture the magic of the book. The technical specifications are fairly pleasing, with an excellent picture and a passable sound mix. As one of the best modern Batman stories, Batman: Hush should have been handled with more care. Fans of the original Hush comic book arc should be wary of blind-buying this release outright. It’s probably best to see the film first before committing this disc to your collection.