Review: "Beware the Batman" Premiere - Bewares Some Pitfalls
When Professor Pyg and Mister Toad declare war on Gotham City, the duo seek penance from the city’s powerful businessmen for vaguely hinted offenses that carry lethal consequences. If only they remembered to beware the Batman…
Beware the Batman kicks off its inaugural episode “Hunted” with a small story, freshened by the use of new villains and new character dynamics. Joker or Penguin stories are a dime-a-dozen, but a Professor Pyg and Mister Toad story provides levity for the long-time fan. On the surface, Professor Pyg’s theme is comparable to a Poison Ivy arc, with a human who sympathizes with nature striking out against their own kind for perceived grievances. By pairing this human with Mr. Toad, a speaking and sentient animal, a new shade ripe for character and story exploration presents itself. The twosome’s freshman outing seems woefully more interested in the what, rather than the why. Why can Toad speak human languages? Is he the product of human pollution? What is the duo’s impetus? Is Toad the reason Pyg has taken to terrorism? If the show picks up on these threads, “Hunted” might be setting up a potentially strong, character-based arc that spans across further outings.
Alfred Pennyworth has never been better. A little stricter with Bruce than previous incarnations, Beware the Batman takes Alfred out of the Batcave and puts him in the center of the action, both character and story-wise. Alfred’s hovering is most frustrating for Bruce, and made no easier by the butler’s still-ripe knowledge and skill. This provides strong in-story justification for the decision to make Alfred a “retired” super-spy who considers himself very much “still in the game.” Bruce and Alfred’s eventual mutual understanding refrains from discrediting either one’s argument while also introducing a third party for fun.
As is the norm for DC productions, voice casting is somewhat mixed. Anthony Ruivivar surprises by delivering a solid first outing. Ruivivar’s natural performance never forgets to change intonation and delivers his lines with confidence. Most stunt-cast actors tend to not grasp the mic, blanking without a set or props to immerse themselves in. Ruivivar avoids these pitfalls, and is well on his way to becoming worthy of accolade. Brian George and Udo Kier disappoint as Pyg and Toad, respectively. As the voices of the new faces of evil the characters are lost beneath overly present accents and goofy voices, rather than performed with any interest. Part of this might lie on negligent scripting, but as actors their job is to take the rough draft that is the script and create the final draft with their performances. J.B. Blanc’s performance as Alfred, while occasionally hackneyed, matches the character’s newfound hard-edge. The sincerity of Blanc’s performance during the final scene leaves something to be desired, but Blanc is certainly not off to the worst of starts.
With no credits provided in our screener, it is difficult to get a grasp on the talent involved in creating the look of Beware the Batman (though there is little doubt if one studies the credits of other recent CG animated series). Sporting no different a look or feel than the rest of the crop, Beware the Batman’s one visual triumph is a pleasantly sleek, well-shaped Batman model. One must wonder if the action figure-esque look of all CG children’s animation is subliminal messaging on studios’ parts to condition viewers to buy more figures.
Opening Batman television to new ideas and new character, Beware the Batman proves to be well-worth the wait.