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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie Talk - The DCAU Batman Movies

Come on, Bruce! At least look like you're having fun! I know I would be.

Now that I’m at the end of Batman Month, I can finally get back to the animated universe created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. While they churned out good shows like Batman: the Animated Series, Justice League, and Batman Beyond, they also did some feature-length animated movies set in Batman’s animated universe. Unlike today, it was rare when we got movies like these. One of them even got released in theatres. So, let me see what I can remember about them.

I remember when Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was released in theatres. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it there. I ended up renting it on VHS. The rest of their movies ended up being direct-to-video. I only saw their second feature, Batman vs. Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, on TV when the WB aired it one Saturday morning. I rented their third feature, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, from Movie Gallery. I ended up getting the unrated version on DVD a few years later. Finally, I rented their last one, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman and I’ve only seen it once. Since I haven’t seen most of these movies in along time, I watched them all over the weekend.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
B: MOTP came out in theatres in 1993. In the story, a ruthless vigilante known as the Phantasm comes to Gotham and kills off old gangsters. Batman gets framed for the murders because of the similar costume style. While he’s dealing with the vigilante, an old flame re-enters Bruce’s life. Also, the Joker ends up getting involved in a big way. I’ll go on and say that this movie is one of the best Batman movies and it even trumps some of the good live-action ones.

The story is really good and well-paced. Since it’s a movie, the tone is pretty dark and we see some folk actually get killed. The movie also delves into Bruce’s early vigilante days. We see how those experiences ended up putting him behind the mask. We even get an exciting chase scene with the GCPD. I also liked his relationship with Andrea Beaumont. It’s pretty tragic and it’s actually better than most of the romances Batman’s had in live-action movies.
Great moment.

While the Phantasm didn’t do much, I liked the mystery behind the character and the look. I also like the bits with the Joker. They provided a little levity and he actually played a role in the flashbacks. The voice-acting is pretty excellent. Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, and Mark Hamill did fine jobs. The animation is also pretty excellent. The action is also top-notch and the music is awesome.

I don’t have any major issues with the movie, but there were some things left unanswered. We really never found out how the Phantasm did those tricks. Was it technology or magic? The movie never answers that. Batman’s frame-up is also resolved off-screen. Still, it wasn’t proved that Batman committed the murders, so that can probably be explained away. Still, none of the questions detract from the movie. It’s an awesome movie and you should definitely check it out especially if you’re a fan of the animated series.

Favorite Quotes:
Alfred: Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce. I've always feared that you would become that which you fought against. You walk the edge of that abyss every night, but you haven't fallen in and I thank heaven for that.
...
Joker: Don't touch me, old man! I don't know where you've been.
...
Alfred: What rot, sir! Why you're the very model of sanity. Oh by the way, I pressed your tights and put away your exploding gas balls.
...
Bruce Wayne: It doesn't mean I don't care anymore. I don't want to let you down, honest, but... but it just doesn't hurt so bad anymore. You can understand that, can't you? Look, I can give money to the city - they can hire more cops. Let someone else take the risk, but it's different now! Please! I need it to be different now. I know I made a promise, but I didn't see this coming. I didn't count on being happy.


Batman vs. Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
Sub-Zero was released in 1998. This and Mystery of the Batwoman are not as dark as the other two movies and have the same tone as the series did. The movie was spun off from the episode where Mr. Freeze found out his wife was still under ice. I think this was also made to tie into the popularity (or lack thereof) of Batman and Robin. Either way, I can safely say that this movie is definitely better than that thing. In Sub-Zero, Mr. Freeze’s wife's vitals are affected after some accident, so Freeze comes out of retirement in order to find a donor for her. It turns out to be Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. When she is kidnapped, Bruce and Dick do everything in their power to find her.
Polar bears make great henchmen. All they need is some fish and you have a friend for life.

While it has some noticeable flaws, this was a good movie. The story and voice-acting were pretty good. I liked that they got Freeze back. He was one of the best villains from the animated series, so it’s cool we get a movie about him. His reasons for coming out of retirement made sense and I also liked his polar bear sidekicks. I also liked how it also focused on Dick and Barbara a bit instead of it being all about Bruce this time. The character designs were good and the action flowed well for the most part. This is essentially what Batman and Robin should have been.

Even though it is good, there are some pretty noticeable flaws. There are times where the animation wasn’t stellar. There were some computer-generated images used and when it’s placed along with the hand-drawn animation, the combination doesn’t look good at all. The CGI is also not that good in general but this was the late 90’s. I was also disappointed by the run time. It runs for a little over an hour and I felt that it went by too fast. It could have been the fact that it felt more action-oriented and less story-oriented. The flaws don’t stop it from being a nice outing though. Check it out if you haven’t.

Favorite Quotes:
Commissioner Gordon: Come on, people! A guy in a weird suit with two polar bears can't be too hard to spot!
....
FREEZE: 15 years today, darling. Did you think I would forget? How could I? The day we met was the happiest day of my life. A gift for you. I found it in the snow. Fragile beauty clinging to life in this frozen wasteland. Like you, Nora.
....
DICK: Thanks, Alfred. Don't know what we'd do without you.
ALFRED: Frankly, sir, neither do I.


Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
BB: ROTB was released in 2000. The show was still on at the time, so I really can’t tell when it takes place. This would have made for a nice finale to the show though. This movie also has two versions: an edited one and an unrated one. In this story, Terry’s and Bruce's world is rocked by the return of the Joker. The Joker’s more dangerous than ever as he knows everything about Batman. Terry also uncovers some shocking info on the Joker and Tim Drake, the second Robin.

This movie is about on par with Mask of the Phantasm. A lot of that had to do with the dark nature of the story especially the flashback scenes to the past. The Joker’s back and worse than ever. We probably see Joker at his most disturbing in the series because of what he does to Robin. What happens afterwards is pretty tragic and sad for Tim and the Bat-family. The voice-acting is at its best with Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Dean Stockwell doing excellent jobs.
... Uh, yeah. Creepy.

The animation, designs, and action were also pretty good. I’m glad that they went back to Joker’s classic look instead of the weird, modern look he had in The New Batman Adventures. There’s also a bit of mystery on how the Joker has returned. While the revelation is a little out there, it still works for the story and the universe it’s set in. I really don’t have any issues with the movie other than the weird revelation. If you haven’t seen this one, go out there and watch it. It’s one of the best Batman movies in general.

Favorite Quotes: 
Terry McGinnis: So you fell in a tank of acid, got your skin bleached and decided to become a supervillain. What? You couldn't get a job as a rodeo clown?
....
The Joker: Aren't you the nasty tattle-tale! Ratting me out before I've had my fun... Pappa spank!
....
The Joker: I know everything. And kinda like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents, I must admit, it's sadly anti-climactic. Behind all the sturm and bat-o-rangs, you're just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy! It'd be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Oh, what the heck, I'll laugh anyway. HA HA HA HA HA HAA!
....
Bruce Wayne: Terry, I've been thinking about something you once told me, and you were wrong. It's not Batman that makes you worthwhile, it's the other way around. Never tell yourself anything different.


Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman
B: MOTB was released in 2003. While Justice League was on at this time, the animation still stuck to the styles used in The New Batman Adventures. This story also has to take place before the events in Return of the Joker. In this movie, a new vigilante starts a war on ending the Penguin’s weapon smuggling. She’s also a bit more ruthless than Batman. While Batman tries to figure out who the Batwoman is, the Penguin and his associates call in Bane to clean the mess up. 
I think I know where Bruce got his ideas for his later suit now.

This was an above-average movie. I did like the story since it dealt with another vigilante. I also thought the mystery behind the character was actually pretty smart. I’ll keep that spoiler to myself though. I also liked that we got some good “Bruce Wayne” action here as well. The voice acting was pretty good for the most part. While I’m not a fan of most of the designs from that final season, I did think the animation and action was pretty good.

On the other side of the equation, I thought the villains were sub-par. I’m not a big fan of the Penguin nor Rupert Thorne. I did like the use of Bane though. When I realized that the movie is basically a toned-down version of Mask of the Phantasm, the movie lost more steam. The story also dragged a little at some points. It also sucks that most of Batman’s team like Robin and Batgirl were sidelined for the most part. At least they were in the movie. We don’t even get a mention for Nightwing. Still, this was a pretty decent movie.

Favorite Quotes:
Penguin: Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman. What is it about this city? The water?
….
Detective Harvey Bullock: I think we got more than enough bat-freaks in Gotham already. I mean, sheesh, what's next? Bathound?
....
Penguin: And Mr. Wayne. It's been quite a while, hasn't it?
Bruce Wayne: Yes, I believe the last time is when you stole plutonium from one of my labs and threatened to blow up the city.
Penguin: Oh, oh yes. My more rambunctious days.


Well, that’s all I got for these movies. While two of them are really good, they are all recommended by me. Well, I’m out. Peace, God Bless, and don’t take animation for granted. Sometimes, it trumps live-action stuff.

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