As much as I love Batman, I’ve always found it a bit hard to keep up with his various animated adventures. I mean, I grew up with the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini animated series, which we can all pretty much agree is not only one of the best Batman adaptations of all time, if not THE best, but also probably one of the best comic book adaptations of all time. Those guys just got it. Everything from the Fleischer-ish art style to Kevin Conroy’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s Joker were absolutely perfect for the ‘90s Dark Knight. And when that series gave way to Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and the absolutely epic Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, I followed those shows as best I could as well.
It’s perhaps because of that original Timm/Dini Batman show that I really had no interest in the subsequent animated Batman iterations. The Batman had an interesting style going for it, with some really fun character designs by Jeff Matsuda, but I didn’t need another Batman series. I especially didn’t need one with Batman starting as a young man and going on all his old adventures for the first time, just with a new spin on them. There’s nothing wrong with that stuff, but I don’t need to re-take Batman 101. I have a PhD in Batman. Bring me the good stuff.
Then later we got Batman: The Brave and The Bold. I mean, I heard the series was good, and I like the goofy, Dick Sprang Batman era just as much as anybody, but it wasn’t enough to get me to sit down and watch the show. I appreciated the lengths that it went to in order to pay homage to that era and to the Dark Knight in general, but I still really felt I wasn’t that show’s target audience. Interestingly enough, when it comes to Batman’s direct-to-video animated films, I typically catch them all as they come out, or at some point down the road on Netflix. This leads me to think that perhaps the television format is also to blame for dissuading me from watching these shows, since I really don’t watch TV. Although, to be sure, a lot of those movies also pale in comparison to the old Dini/Timm stuff. But I digress.
So now we’ve arrived at the most recent Batman animated adaptation, “Beware the Batman.” Right off the bat (I think there’s a pun in that somewhere, I just can’t piece it together) I knew I was going to hate this show. Why? Freaking CGI, man. What is this, that bogus MTV Spider-Man cartoon that came on a few years ago? With the exception of Beast Wars and Reboot, CGI cartoons on television do absolutely nothing for me. At worst it looks garish and tacky, at best it looks like a cutscene from a light, fluffy Wii game. Not a promising choice for a Batman cartoon.
And again, we have a young Batman at the start of his career learning all of his lessons again for the first time and meeting all of his supporting characters and rogues gallery all over again, one by one. I know who all these guys are already, I don’t need to be re-introduced to them, y’know? So I was pretty much just never going to give this show a chance. Couldn’t care less about it. Another all-ages Batman cartoon show? I’ll sit this one out, maybe catch the next one. But then destiny shone down upon me in the form of my dauntless editor Cody, and I went against everything I thought was possible and actually sat down and watched an episode of this thing.
And actually, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it did a lot of things right. Right off the bat (okay, I’ll stop doing that), in the episode’s opening scene, Batman has some cool little Sherlock Holmes-ian moments (I don’t know that for sure, I never made it all the way through an actual Sherlock Holmes novel) as he advises a thug that he’s fighting on which of his concealed weapons he should go for in order to properly get the drop on the Caped Crusader. The thug is speechless. That’s a cool little Batman moment.
Then in the next scene, we’re introduced to Alfred, who wakes up Bruce by coming after him with a baseball bat trying to beat the shit out of him. In this iteration, Alfred is a Jason Statham-esque bad ass, an ex-MI6 spy who not only looks after Bruce, but assists him in his training and chews him out when it takes Bruce five moves to neutralize him rather than three. A really cool angle for the character if you ask me, and one that I’m totally cool with in spite of it not really gelling at all with any previous iteration of the character except perhaps the version of him from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s graphic novel, Batman: Earth One.
As for bad guys, in this episode we get Mr. Toad and Professor Pyg, two guys who you might remember from the opening story arc of Grant Morrison’s absolutely fantastic Batman and Robin, but who are significantly re-tooled for the show. Pyg is now an eco-terrorist instead of a freaky Saw movie bad guy, and Mr. Toad has… some kind of weird energy burp thing? Anyway, they’re riding around Gotham in an old-timey car with an elephant gun hunting down these business men who purchased some wetlands outside the city in order to drill for oil, thus ruining the former animal preserve’s ecosystem.
I thought this was a pretty interesting way to go for the bad guys because, really, wanting to save the ecosystem and to safeguard wild animals from greedy capitalists is a noble thing to do. You just can’t do it by riding around wearing a pig mask and shooting at people with an elephant gun. Because Batman will find you. And Batman couldn’t care about the environment, as he promptly puts the kibosh on Pyg and Toad’s plan by blowing up their oil rig hideout and letting it sink into the ocean. OOPS. Next time don’t do crime, criminals!
Also, Bruce Wayne was one of the major investors in the land purchase and didn’t even know about it until after Pyg and Toad kidnapped his butler. Yeah, Batman really doesn’t care too much about the environment at all.
Anyway, the script is pretty decent, even though it’s got a good deal of expository dialogue and the detective work on the show is really limited to just the magic of the Bat-computer’s zoom-in and enhance features. But it’s a fun little show, and Batman looks cool. The CGI actually doesn’t detract too much from the show, in fact, the CGI combined with all the computers and smartphones on the show sorta gives you the impression that you’re watching the post-iOS/Facebook/Twitter Bruce Wayne at work. Oh, and there’s a new character introduced in it, an Asian lady who will serve as Bruce’s bodyguard. And maybe love interest? Hmm…
So anyway, I will be continuing with this little show all the way through its first season and posting delightful, highly researched and in-depth reviews such as this one for each episode. I’m anxious to see what this new series has in store for me, and I look forward to eating crow week after week for all the times I doubted it. Which sucks for me, because I’m a vegetarian.
Unlike Batman, I love animals.