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REVIEWS


Episode #1 - The Bat in the Belfry
Original Airdate - September 11th, 2004 - Series Premiere

The Batman finds himself dealing with a new breed of criminal when Joker takes over Arkham Asylum then plans to fly a hot air balloon filled with Joker Gas--a toxin that leaves its victims in a strange "rictus" state--and release its contents all over Gotham!

Reviews by The Penguin, Jim Harvey
Media by Bird Boy
Credits
Supervising Producer Duane Capizzi
Supervising Producer Michael Goguen
Producer Linda M. Steiner, Jeff Matsuda
Associate Producer Kimberley A. Smith
Written by Duane Capizzi
Directed by Seung Eun Kim
Animation by Dongwoo Animation Co., LTD.
Music by Thomas Chase Jones

Voices
Rino Romano as The Batman
Alastair Duncan as Alfred
Steve Harris as Detective Ethan Bennet
Ming Na as Detective Ellen Yin
Kevin Michael Richardson as Joker
Victor Brandt as Rupert Thorne
Edward James Olmos as Chief Rojas
Miguel Sandoval as Thug #1

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Pans



Review

Review (The Penguin): The Batman is not Batman: The Animated Series. Now with that out of the way let's get to the new series featuring a younger Bruce Wayne and everybody else, slated to start this Saturday. I could do this review in three words, "I liked it." That wouldn't be very constructive though so let's continue...

One of the earliest pieces of news about The Batman was that fact that it would feature a Bruce Wayne early in his career as Batman. After watching "The Bat and in the Belfry" multiple times, the younger Batman is one of the things I enjoy most about this new series. Everything is still fresh and new and Bruce (with Rino Romano giving an excellent performance) is still trying to find an acceptable balance between his two lives and all his "wonderful toys" (which are not made by Mattel).

One of the things Batman needs to adjust to is what will become his trademark weapon of choice—the Batmobile. And I am definitely a fan of this Batmobile's design. While it makes for a poor review technique, I tried and I really can't describe it. All I can say is, the second I saw it on screen I thought to myself, "Now that is a cool car."

The other notable "toy" is the Batwave (which may have actually been made by Mattel). Despite the fact that if Batman loses the Alfred-made Batwave he can pick one up at Wal-Mart, I like how it appears it's going to be used in the context of the actual show. The Bat-Signal does not exist in this world, so Batman must have another way to keep on top of things. Being tapped into the computers at the Gotham City Police Department seems like a good way to do that. Besides it could be worse—Bruce Wayne could be carrying around a bat-shaped cell phone.

Coming back from the technical side, the younger Bruce Wayne also allows for a younger, less-gray Alfred Pennyworth to move a little more into his surrogate father role. The proper Englishman seems comfortable in his role as "father" but is clearly still somewhat uncomfortable with his role as "Batman's butler" and goes out of his way to make sure Master Bruce is taking care of both himself and his secrets. Alastair Duncan brings the faithful butler to life with a mixture of wit and stern concern for the little boy he raised into this still very young man.

In this earlier time in Batman's life, the Gotham City Police Department lacks Jim Gordon (or even an Irish police chief) as the head of the police force. Instead we find Chief Angel Rojas giving orders to Detectives Ethan Bennett and Ellen Yin. Bennett and Yin form an interesting tandem that should be fun to watch develop over time. Rojas is clearly supposed to be a somewhat unlikable character and while not despicable, he does nothing to endear himself to the audience.

The Joker is the biggest thing that's going to take some getting used to. Kevin Michael Richardson does a decent job as the Clown Prince of Crime, but his deeper tone of voice coupled with the more maniac design is definitely a departure from what we have seen before. One thing I did like was the establishment of Joker's relationship with Batman. The man in the purple straight jacket rarely needs an overwhelming reason to cause trouble for the decent people of Gotham and he definitely goes that route in his first encounter with the city's would-be hero. The foundation has already been laid for Joker's obsession with all things Batman despite the Dark Knight not sharing his sense of humor. "Yet we're linked, you and I. Like comedy and tragedy—two sides, same coin." This clown is clearly not going to quit until he has the last laugh and gets Batman to share it with him.

In case you have forgotten, The Batman is not Batman: The Animated Series. It is however a fun re-imagining of the hero for a new generation. I first fell in love with Batman through reruns of the Adam West series. Those five or so years younger probably first fell in love with Batman with Batman: The Animated Series every weekday afternoon. And the little kids you see running around the grocery store and begging mom or dad for the candy bars strategically placed by the check stands will have The Batman. All three worlds had some drawbacks and failings when people look back, but isn't it that youthful awe and wonderment that made each series fun when seen for the first time? Don't watch The Batman like you're 18. Watch it like you're eight. You know what you'll say? Bring on The Batman!

Mini Review/First Impressions by Jim Harvey
: It's Batman's third year as a vigilante and just now the freaks are coming out. The costumed loons are making themselves known for the first time in Gotham. Not only that, but the police have decided they want to start tailing him, to discover who he is. For some reasons, this all happens at once and not three years ago when the Caped Crusader first appeared on the scene.

I was screened the first episode in advance, and I could remember being less than satisfied. Thinking that I wasn't giving the pilot episode a fair chance, I watched it when it premiered on Kids'WB. I still thought it was sub-par, mediocre at best. Still thinking I was unkind to the show, I watched the pilot a third and final time. That sinking feeling still crept in.

In an attempt to get into this show, I even watched a couple more follow-up episodes. This designs for the series looked great. The voice work, for the most part, was pretty on the mark. However, the show felt hollow and seemed to lack anything tangible and real.

This series presents Batman early in his career, when he was more focused on his gadgets than his actual fighting abilities. Batman seems more comfortable using his "Batwave" devices then going toe-to-toe with an ordinary thug. Almost immediately we get an understanding that the "Batwave" gadgets are going to be the focus of the show. Not his
remarkable athletic stamina, or near perfect crime fighting abilities, but the gimmicky tools he uses. On more than one occasion it's the gizmos that save Batman's life.

The series looks great. I really like the influences of Jeff Matsuda's work on the show. His designs, for the most part, look great and it brings a different quality to this version of the Dark Knight. His Batman design is sharp, dynamic and looks very rough. The backgrounds look gritty, dark, and almost seem to be another character. The rest
of the designs seem to range from basic (background characters, etc., so that's expected) to stylish to over-the-top and different, such as the Joker.

The show succeeds as a simple light affair, more style over substance, but there's room to grow. It's not trying to be a dramatic, character-driven show like Batman: The Animated Series. The Batman is striving to be something different and it is. It has a ways to go, yeah, but it's something that will definitely appeal to some, maybe not others.

It's a shame, really. The animation is fluid and great to look at, and the few designs that work really shine. But even with the pros outweighing the cons, it can't fly on it's own just yet, but the potential is there for this to be a fun, exciting new adventure for The Batman!

 

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