Blu-ray Review: The Batman: The Complete Series
Directed by: Various
Written by: Various
Starring: Rino Romano, Gina Gershon, Kevin Michael Richardson, Clancy Brown, Alastair Duncan
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Thanks go to WB for the free review copy.
“The six-time Emmy Award-winning series premiered on September 11, 2004, on Kids’ WB before eventually shifting to Cartoon Network for subsequent seasons. The Batman: The Complete Series follows 20-something-year-old Bruce Wayne’s early adventures as he balances his daytime persona as a bachelor billionaire with his nighttime guise as a caped crimefighter. Along the way, Batman is joined by allies Robin and Batgirl as they combat Gotham City’s Rogues’ Gallery, including updated versions of his familiar foes as well as a bevy of rarely seen villains like Killer Moth and The Everywhere Man. Join one of the most complex and intriguing characters in comic book history for action-packed superheroic adventures that test the limits of this legendary character’s extraordinary physical prowess and super-sleuthing skills.”
Suffice it to say, a Blu-ray release of The Batman was long, long overdue. I often felt like this series never got the respect that it deserved, simply because it wasn’t Batman: The Animated Series. Granted, Bruce Timm and company left some big shoes to fill, but this interpretation of the Dark Knight was no less valid. It no doubt created a new generation of Batman fans, not to mention brought me joy when I was starting to get back into comics as an adult.
Basically, The Batman picks up just as Bruce Wayne begins his third year of costumed vigilantism. Wasting no time, the Joker emerges as the first of the freaks to replace traditional mobsters in Gotham City’s changing underworld landscape. Many characters are given generous redesigns, but they’re very much the villains we’ve come to enjoy at their core. Come into this series with an open mind and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Batman himself is more athletic and acrobatic than anything we’d seen to this point, thereby making the action and fight scenes all the more thrilling. Whether it’s a hand-to-hand brawl with the Penguin, a fight for his life with Bane, or an aerial battle with Firefly, every action sequence is a real treat.
It’s also worth mentioning that this series came around at a time when TV shows started getting much more serialized – even cartoons. Sure, Batman: TAS did a good job at telling an unfolding story, but The Batman‘s seasons feel like defined chapters. In short, we see the Caped Crusader progress from outlaw vigilante to silent partner of the GCPD, before eventually being recognized as Gotham’s hero. Soon after, he’s joined by Batgirl and Robin (in that order) and then eventually helps form the Justice League. In fact, the fifth and final season focuses mainly on team-ups with the likes of Superman, Green Arrow, the Flash, Green Lantern, and others.
When it comes to my favorite episodes, I must give credit to “Artifacts,” “Strange Minds,” “Riddler’s Revenge,” “Two of a Kind,” and “The Batman/Superman Story, Parts 1 and 2.” Presentation-wise, the series is presented in 16×9 format, as opposed to its original 4:3. This may irk some purists, but I didn’t really mind. The color and resolution are brilliant, and it certainly looks better than when I pop in one of my old DVDs.
As for bonus features, there are many to be enjoyed, but only one is new to this set: “The Dark Dynasty Continues.” Basically, it’s a retrospective – but it clocks in at around fifteen minutes. Though I may have liked watching it, I wish that it’d had been as long as what we’d received in recent years with Batman: TAS and Batman Beyond. Again, this series deserves proper respect.
Okay, I’m not going to knock off any points for this one, but I’m going to state the obvious: The Batman vs. Dracula animated movie should’ve been included in this set. Not only was it a great extension of the series, but it was also the first animated appearance of Vicky Vale. Should you track down a copy for yourself, know that it’s to be viewed between seasons 2 and 3.
The Batman: The Complete Series is a must-own for any Bat-fan who fancies themselves a lover of the Caped Crusader in animation. It’s an important chapter in the timeless icon’s long legacy and deserves a place on your shelf. And now that pretty much every major DC animated series from the past thirty years has now received the high definition treatment, I’m going to throw this out there: It’s time that WB do something similar with Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, should they have the home video rights to it.