Review: "Beware The Batman" - Mind Your Mediocre Surroundings, Batman
It’s no surprise that a new Batman show was commissioned following the end of the Silver Age-inspired team-up series Batman: The Brave and The Bold. As Warner Bros’ premiere franchise, Warner Bros Animation has no intention of taking Batman off television anytime soon. As a Batman fan, I received this news with joy, since I am always happy to give any Batman show a chance. There has been little hype regarding Beware The Batman’s premiere, with the only real information revealed that the show will focus on the lesser known Batman rogues, with nary a Joker, Riddler or Two-Face in sight. I personally thought this to be a short-sighted decision. Naturally, a younger sidekick would have to be included in the cast and Robin has been shunned in favour of Katana, a sword wielding MI6 Agent. Her weapon of choice will no doubt cause problems later on as swords and child friendly cartoons do not have a fond history but alas, that seems to be all the hype we’ve received regarding the show. Worryingly, beyond a small teaser trailer and the early release of the show’s theme song, this is all the hype the show has received.
The show is the first Batman cartoon to be animated in 3D, but the show does not look too different from what one would expect to see from a DC animated show. The designs do not flourish the way 3D designs should and fail to take advantage of the opportunities 3D presents. Sadly, the designs are very sugarless. The Batman model itself is simply peculiar, and struck me as being different for the sake of being different. It is neither scary nor comedic, seemingly taking its inspiration from the recent “New 52″ comic book designs. It may be a case of the look simply getting taking some getting used to. Visually, I must say I feel the show is a disappointment. The animation isn’t much better than the 3D cut scenes from the Batman: Vengeance game for the Playstation 2, which is somewhat concerning as the game was released over a decade ago. Indeed, compared to the recent 3D cut scenes in the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum/City video games, the show looks very lax. The storyboarding and staging do not feel they have appreciated the scope that 3D presents itself with, much like the Iron Man: Armoured Adventures. It does not compare favourably with 2003’s Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, in either its fight scenes or visual spectacles. In particular, there is a car chase sequence which looks very plain and uninspired. The only character who stood out aesthetically was the much exaggerated Mr Toad, who was staged well throughout.
The show fares better in its writing than its visuals, with the creative team knowing full well the audience already knows who Batman is. He has rarely been off television for 20 years and Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman trilogy will be remembered for generations to come as one of the greatest trilogies of all time, so the show wastes little time with origins and full on introductions. The plot of the opening episode “Hunted” is a basic villain’s revenge scheme, with Batman attempting to stop Professor Pyg and Mr Toad from murdering rich executives, with Batman and Alfred playing detective to catch up. One gets the impression that Batman is still in his formative years here, with Alfred acting as his mentor. However, even as a former MI6 Agent, Alfred does more than wash dishes and stock Batman’s utility belt. It is a departure from the Alfred we know… I wouldn’t have ever described Alfred as a bad ass before viewing this episode, but he was the star of the show. Future episodes will more than likely need to ensure he doesn’t outshine the title character to keep the show from becoming known as Alfred and his Amazing Friends.
The show has been difficult to review, I must admit. There was nothing which stood out as amazing and nothing from the pilot convinced me that we were witnessing the birth of something truly exceptional in the veins of “On Leather Wings” from Batman: The Animated Series or “Survival of The Fittest” from ,The Spectacular Spider-Man, but I will be eagerly awaiting the next episode and have not given up on the show based on one episode (as I have done with Legion of Superheroes or The Batman). I believe the lack of any true premier Batman villains will weaken the show and with the exception of Ra’s Al Ghul, none of the antagonists announced for the future inspire me with too much confidence. I hope something special is planned for these lesser known ne’er-do-wells.
The villains need to be stronger, the animation needs to up its ante to take advantage of its surroundings and more focus on Batman himself is needed in future episodes, but I am confident that future episodes will have a stronger impact than Hunted. If not, Beware The Batman will be known as the show that should’ve succeeded, but didn’t. Or, Alfred and his Inferior Friends.