Batman Beyond - The Movie 
DVD Animation
Written by Tara O'Shea   
Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Batman Beyond: The Movie

Warner Home Video
MPAA rating: Not rated
starring: Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Linda Hamilton, William H. Macy
release year: 1998
film rating: Three Stars
sound/picture: Three Stars
reviewed by: Tara O'Shea

‘Batman Beyond: The Movie’ is a surprisingly class act in every way but one. While it’s aimed at teens and youngsters, it has an intelligent script, moderately dimensional characters, a distinguished vocal cast and a sound mix with music and effects that is better than a lot of the live action out there. Furthermore, this DVD provides a lot of bang for your buck, with not only the title item but four TV episodes - ‘Gotham Golem,’ ‘Winning Edge,’ ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ and ‘Meltdown’ - included in the package. Adding courtesy to generosity, each of the episodes is broken into eight chapters (the movie has eighteen chapters), making for some of the easiest scene access ever on a DVD release of episodic television.

What, then, is the caveat? Unfortunately, ‘Batman Beyond’ and the accompanying episodes are done in what’s known as "limited animation," the technique favored by TV cartoons. This means that details are sparing, facial expressions are exaggerated and sometimes static and movements are rendered broadly. Of course, ‘Batman’ is a TV cartoon and by limited animation standards, it’s rendered well, with some pretty cool visual notions. It’s fun, for instance, to see how Bruce Wayne’s big black menacing dog echoes the look of the big black menacing Batsuit which, in this rendition of the legend originally created by Bob Kane, is the repository of Bat power.

It’s wise to watch ‘Batman Beyond’ first, as it sets up the mythology of the series (there’s a rough order to the rest of the episodes, but it’s not as crucial). As ‘Beyond’ begins, Batman, a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne, gets badly beaten by an evildoer. He hangs up his Batsuit for 20 years. Along comes teenager Terry McGinnis, whose own father is murdered by Wayne’s archrival Derek Powers. McGinnis discovers Wayne’s secret past and the abilities of the Batsuit. Although Wayne objects at first, it’s not long before Terry is in the game. Terry fights crime in the Batsuit, while Wayne provides him with strategies via an earlink in the cowl.

The opening titles vacillate between being inspired and ridiculous. There’s great dramatic use of gothic-font words hammering home what ‘Batman’ is all about - which is severely undermined by images of Batman swinging his arms so hard as he runs that he appears about to capsize and (Lord save us) teens boogying at a disco. We probably wouldn’t want to see this last even if it was live-action; in limited animation, the sight is supremely silly-looking.

However, ‘Batman’ still has some fairly resonant comic book imagery. The iconographic shots of a looming Batman - whether it’s Wayne or Terry inside the suit - are effective and the real face of the villainous Powers (who crops up again in ‘Meltdown’) is satisfyingly creepy, given the target audience. A point-of-view sequence in Chapter 3 of ‘Dead Man’s Hand,’ as characters fly up a winding staircase, actually provides a good sense of dimension and depth.

There are also some smart bits of animation shorthand that work beautifully in a way that would be overkill in live action. When pitiably badgered teen Willy Watt (voiced by Seth Green, who plays Scott Evil in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies) finally snaps and decides to use his intellect in harmful ways, his eyes vanish behind his glasses, leaving just opaque white lenses. Having an entire gang of garishly-made up Jokers menacing Gotham City throughout is a clever move, finding a way to preserve a touchstone of the ‘Batman’ mythos while giving it a new twist.

Some noteworthy sound effects can be found in Chapter 9 of ‘Batman Beyond,’ as guns fire and metal crashes. Chapter 2 of ‘Golem’ has lots of sonic nuance as well as sheer blasting power as a giant robot mashes a sports car. The voice casting is strong as well. Will Friedle is rebellious yet thoughtful as Terry and Kevin Conroy’s gravelly tones make Wayne even in his senior years a man to be reckoned with. Guest voices in a truly impressive lineup include Stockard Channing, Amanda Donohoe, Terry Garr, Michael Gross, Linda Hamilton, George Lazenby, Laura San Giacomo, ‘Star Trek’s’ George Takei and Oscar winner William H. Macy.

‘Batman Beyond’ is not something to watch for state-of-the-art animation. However, if comic book hero material appeals to you, it enjoys professional treatment here.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Stereo; French Dolby Stereo
aspect ratio(s):
1:3:3 (original aspect ratio)
special features: Four Animated ‘Batman’ TV Episodes - ‘Gotham Golem,’ ‘The Winning Edge,’ ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ and ‘Meltdown’; Theatrical Trailer; English Closed-Captioning; French Subtitles; Chapter Search
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reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: Yamaha RXU870
main speakers: Boston Acoustics
center speaker: Boston Acoustics
rear speakers: Boston Acoustics
subwoofer: Velodyne
monitor: 32-Inch Sony Trinitron

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