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REVIEWS - THE BATMAN VS DRACULA


The Batman vs. Dracula
Original Release Date - October 18th, 2005 - Direct-to-Video

Gotham City is terrorized not only by recent escapees Joker and Penguin, but by the original creature of the night, Dracula! Can Batman stop the ruthless vampire before he turns everyone in the city, including the aforementioned super villains into his mindless minions?

Reviews by Bird Boy
Media by Bird Boy
Credits
Executive Producers Alan Burnett, Sander Schwartz, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan
Supervising Producer Duane Capizzi, Micahel Goguen
Producer Jeff Matsuda, Linda M. Steiner
Associate Producer Kimberly A. Smith
Casting and Voice Direction by Ginny McSwauin
Music by Thomas Chase Jones
Editor Margaret Hou
Sequence Directors Seung Eun Kim, Sam Liu, Brandon Vietti
Written by Duane Capizzi
Directed by Michael Goguen
Animation Services by Dongwoo Co., LTD., D.R. Movie Co., LTD.

Voices
Rino Romano as The Batman / Bruce Wayne
Peter Stormare as Dracula
Tara Strong as Vicky Vale
Tom Kenny as The Penguin
Kevin Michael Richardson as The Joker
Alastair Duncan as Alfred

Additional Voices
Jeff Bennett
Richard Green
Neal Ross
James Sie

Videos

Screen Grabs






[ More on the Screens and Pans ]

Review

On October 18th, Warner Home Video will release the first Direct-To-Video feature for the popular The Batman animated series. Skeptics wondered how it would stand up both against the show itself as well as the rich history of the Dracula legend. You don’t need to be skeptical anymore.

What we get from this movie eclipsed anything that I could have imagined. I expected small amounts of blood due to the Dracula legend, but was met with much more than a “small” amount; I expected a reincarnation of Dracula’s legend, but was instead given the Vampire basics, which work surprisingly well with shows tone. On top of that, I also got a really solid story with lots of excellent animation, storyboarding, writing and characters. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…let’s start at the beginning.

The opening to the film is the credits; a simple black backdrop with production crew names, ominous music and rain and thunder sound effects echoing in the background. This helps set the mood for the rest of the show incredibly well; it’s almost always pitch black and the music continues it’s dark undertones throughout the entire movie.

The movie immediately opens to Arkham Asylum, where an inmate strikes a deal with The Penguin to split a stash of millions hidden in Gotham Cemetary; he'll split it fifty-fifty if he can help him escape. Apparently this inmate also asked the same of Joker and within seconds of this revelation, the alarm sounds in Arkham: Joker’s escaped.

The Penguin escapes in the ensuing Arkham madness and confronts Joker who was on his way to the money stash himself. A knocked out Penguin and a battle with The Batman and Joker, we’re taken back to a Penguin wading through sludge to the Gotham Cemetery where the movie really starts to pick up. This is where Penguin stumbles upon Dracula’s tomb and accidentally brings him back to life upon slitting his hand on his umbrella knife (“I’m bleeding!” Penguin shrieks; I yelled a similar “He’s bleeding!” as the blood began to drip down his hand) as he attempts to open the tomb. The blood drips onto Dracula’s heart and his body immediately starts regenerating.

Back at The Batman / Joker fight, we see Joker fall into the water and become violently electrocuted due to joybuzzers in both of his palms. The shrieking screams are rather disturbing; you already begin to get a sense that this isn’t just an extended episode of The Batman; this is a much darker than anything we’ve seen on the show.

Within these first few moments of the movie, we see Dracula pounce a Cemetery guard and bite his neck, invigorating his body to a higher strength than the single drop of Penguin’s blood gave him. Penguin’s put under Dracula’s mind control and the stage is set for the rest of the movie.

Dracula’s history is given in a nutshell; when he was killed in Transylvania, they moved his body to another location, far from Transylvania: Gotham City. This explains how he got there, but it doesn’t really explain how Dracula knew that if the was dead. It’s never told, but it has to be a given otherwise you have to put Gotham in Budapest for Dracula to exist in a Gotham City cemetery.

The rest of the story goes deeper: a search to cure Dracula’s victims instead of just killing them with sunlight or garlic gives us a look at the scientist in The Batman, as well as his oath not to ever kill, something he feels guilt over after seeing The Joker “die”. And the final fight between Dracula and The Batman was more than just a “showdown”; it doesn’t let up and it’s incredibly intense.

If you’re wondering how they explain vampires to the general public of Gotham City, it’s all wrapped up in a neat bow. After being cured, the Lost Ones remember nothing but what happened before they were bit. Everything is blamed on The Penguin who “put the Lost Ones under a state of hypnosis”. I like the fact that they kept the Dracula matter between only Vicky Vale, Penguin, Alfred and The Batman; it just seemed like a tighter way to end it than the public freaking out about vampires.

Vicki Vale is introduced as the love interest for the movie after only about ten minutes or so. An interview between Wayne and Vale starts the romance cogs moving, inviting her to a Wayne Manor exposition and another date at Wayne Manor on Saturday. Her character is fleshed out more over the movie, seeing that she cares for Bruce, but is never really sure if he feels the same. Vale is later used as a sacrifice to bring back Dracula’s original bride, Carmilla Karnstein; we see her body decaying as her life force brings back Carmilla and it’s added to the already growing stack of disturbing images to come from the film.

One thing about Vale’s character that I loved was she didn’t find out that Bruce was The Batman; this is something stereotypical of feature-length Batman movies, with the love interest finding out in the end. The fact they avoided this makes it all the more enjoyable.

After Vale, we see Dracula’s minions, or the “Lost Ones.” I can’t help but think about The Lost Boys whenever they’re mentioned and they’re certainly as freaky looking as the vampires in The Lost Boys. Fast-moving, deep and dark eyes and a set of teeth that would scare any small child, they’re pretty disturbing the first time you see them. They gang up on The Batman and it’s a really intense fight; yet another sign this movie isn’t what anyone originally thought.

Unlike the Lost Ones, Count Dracula is able to hide his disturbing face; his “normal” face is a pale, but handsome and angular, giving off hints of a distinguished member of high society. His vampire form is even more disturbing than the Lost Ones; deeper eyes, sharper fangs and a penetrating gaze. It’s all quite scary when you first see it.

One disappointing bit about Dracula is his transformation into a bat; it’s implied in one scene, but we never see it again. Considering the gorgeous animation this show has, I can only imagine the transformation he undergoes; a shame we won’t ever see it.

All of the fights in this movie are on the “epic” scale; a showoff in the graveyard between Batman and the Gotham SWAT, which include laser-sight rifles that literally dance across The Batman’s body as he dives and runs from the officers. Dracula taking out the guards one by one in the darkness (hearing only the “swoosh” of his cape and brief whimpers from the officers as they go down) and the fight with The Batman across Gotham’s rooftops, which ends with Dracula nearly defeating The Batman. These scenes aren’t even half of what the rest of the movie gives, however.

I’m sure some have heard of the “blood bank scene” between a Vampire Joker and The Batman. While you expect packets of blood in cabinets, this blood bank is literally dozens of shelves with thousands of vials of blood. We see Joker take six or seven at a time and drain them into his mouth; later, we see the shelving fall down and begin raining blood all over the scene, splattering the floor and hitting Joker in the face. Joker drops to the floor to lap up the blood and The Batman takes this to his advantage and knocks Joker out with a garlic bomb.

The final fight between the Lost Ones and The Batman is great as well; despite them ever closing in on The Batman, he is able to fend them off with smoke bombs and his antidote. Despite what you may think after seeing this fight, it does get more intense, as the final fight between The Batman and Dracula expertly shows.

I’ve honestly never seen such intense fighting and…well, violence in any form of animated Batman. The first part of the final Dracula fight we see The Batman taking a severe beating by our vampire baddy. This continues until The Batman triangulates his position in Dracula’s lair and realizes that The Batman cave is not far off. Blowing out a rock wall, The Batman takes the fight to the Batcave. He takes quite a beating here, barely able to stand. A fake-out of Alfred “killing” Dracula (which, to my relief, was a fake-out; if Alfred killed the main villain of the movie, I’d be pretty disappointed) follows, but the antidote that The Batman made for the Lost Ones doesn’t work on Dracula. As Dracula himself says, “you can’t cure a supernatural infliction.”

The coolest (and most surprising) part in the film is how Dracula is finished off. Turning on a device that Bruce Wayne’s company had devised that stored energy from the sun (something we see earlier in the movie to set up its existence in the end), The Batman unleashes it upon Dracula, literally frying his skin and setting him on fire. While in excruciating agony, The Batman delivers a final blow to Dracula which breaks his body apart; bones go flying and a still-smoking skull rolls across the floor.

Like I said before—this isn’t the movie anyone was expecting. This is incredibly violent and surprisingly bloody for what’s supposed to be a “kids” movie. On top of these fights, there is a dream sequence, which shows the night Bruce Wayne’s parents died, echoing gun blasts and an appearance by a vampire version of The Batman.

I quite honestly wouldn’t recommend this movie to a younger audience unless you’re planning to watch the film with them and reassure them that it’s just a cartoon; the Lost Ones are undeniably disturbing and scary and the sheer amount of blood that we see rivals anything that I’ve seen in any animated Batman.

The movie is enjoyable from the minute it starts till the minute it ends. As I mentioned before, it feels like a movie and not just an extended episode—I can’t stress this enough. Forget what you perceived when watching the trailer for this movie; what we get in the end is nothing like this. Perhaps I’m exaggerating it all and am simply running off of the general shock that this movie gave. After a third viewing, however, I can tell you it loses very little of it's intenseness.

With the movie out of the way, it’s time to focus on the other elements of what make it up.

First is the animation: something that has always been the shows strongest point, it’s carried over to the movie. The directing gives the darker tone of the movie some excellent animation; from Dracula’s cape envelopment to his burning flesh at the end, the movies animation never faults or wavers.

The music by Thomas Chase Jones echoes the show with its recognizable musical notes, but it also brings about a darker tone of music as well. At times it sounds almost like something from Batman Begins (especially the music during the end credits) and it fits the Dracula mythos well. Lots of violins to be had throughout the movie, it definitely carries the movie. Had Thomas Chase Jones taken a different route, it would no doubt be a different movie.

The voice actors are familiar to fans of DC animation. Tara Strong (Batgirl from BTAS/TNBA, Raven from Teen Titans) voices Vicky Vale and excellently so; a soft, young voice is exactly what the characters image portrays and the voice fits perfectly.

Peter Stormare as Dracula was a bit of brilliant casting as well. While he’s not as well known yet, those who saw the 2005 film Constantine will remember him as playing an awesome Satan and fans of Prison Break will no doubt be familiar with his John Abruzzi character and voice. He does a great version Dracula and thankfully without the thick accent that we often see the character with in movies. Perhaps the best moment Stormare gave as Dracula was his shaky voice while eating the beef tartar in the Wayne Manor scene. It showed how much Dracula loved the smell and taste of blood.

Rino Romano gave another great performance as Bruce Wayne and The Batman. Combined with Strong and Stormare, the movies voice actors enhanced and brought the story and animation to a whole other level.

After all of this praise, you’re probably wondering if there was anything wrong with the movie. I have no problem with pointing out a shows weak points, but the fact is…this movie just doesn’t have that many.

While this movie is awesome in almost everyway, the only negative point is the puns that are pretty much the sole responsibility of The Penguin and The Joker. Without them, I realize that the movie would be even darker in tone and would be even less fit for kids. It helps keep the movie from being overly depressing.

The only thing in the movie I wish they would’ve left out was The Joker’s belch after drinking the six or seven vials of blood in the blood bank. True, the scene was already pushing the limits and the burp certainly didn’t make it as dark, it would just been a perfect scene had they left it out.

In the end, the negatives barely register in the grand scale of things. The movie has an excellent story, great dialogue (sans puns), amazing animation, perfect voice actors and a score that keeps up and enhances them all. There’s very little not to like about this film. Whether you’re a The Batman fan or not (and even if you despise The Batman but love the Batman character), you owe it to yourself to see this. I’m sure the puns will annoy some more than they did me, but this movie can really change your opinion of this incarnation of Batman.

At the very least, give this film a rent. A few key scenes are worth the rental fee alone and you may just end up buying it, whether on October 18th or the gift-set release (with two PVC figures of The Batman and Dracula) on November 22nd.

 

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