14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2014
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
What Executive Producer and show-runner Sam Register has done with 'Beware the Batman' is the seemingly impossible. While there is no way to verify this, after watching every episode of the series' "Shadows of Gotham: Season One, Part One," you get the feeling the entire endeavor started this way. He assembled a team of top animation craftsmen and women, and then took them on a journey 75 years into the past. Back to the dark mythos of `The Bat-Man' that artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger created in Detective Comics #27, and upon whom for 9 more issues they pilled on so much mystery, darkness, violence and vulnerability as a human vigilante that the editors of Detective Comics finally freaked out.
'The Bat-Man' had his final solo appearance in Detective Comics #37. What followed was Detective Comics #38 and "The Sensational Character Find of 1940 - Robin the Boy Wonder." The Bat-Man of the stories that filled those 10 issues of Detective Comics from #27, May of 1939 through #37, March of 1940 would not reemerge for 30 years. It was 1970 when writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neil Adams returned "The Batman" to his roots as a solo vigilante/detective with the dark stories "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" and "Paint a Picture of Peril."
This seems the only logical creative explanation as to how Register was able to lead his entire crew behind `Beware the Batman' into making it the most unique and visionary `reboot' of the character in the medium of film and television since Christopher Nolan's `Batman Begins' and Bruce Timm's Emmy winning "Batman: The Animated Series."
"Beware the Batman" has the same type of groundbreaking `vibe' that Timm's 1992 show had when it arrived. First and foremost, this is a series with a story that continues from episode-to-episode. While certain stories do have a `stand-alone' feel, the main characters of Bruce Wayne, Batman, Alfred, Tatsu Yamashiro, Lieutenant James Gordon and even minor characters such as Barbara Gordon all evolve and move forward through the series' overall arc.
This decision by Register, along with producers Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson, is vital given how complex they've chosen to reinterpret the series classic characters. Per the `Beware the Batman' imdb.com trivia page, "According to producer Mitch Watson, Batman has three aspects to his personality: "There's the public Bruce Wayne, who we modeled slightly after Richard Branson, more of an altruistic guy whose company's trying to do good. The private Bruce is more introspective guy who really only deals with Alfred at the beginning of the series; he's quiet, a little bit obsessive about particular things. And finally, there's the Batman."
The series' writers, including standouts Mitch Watson, John Matta, Matt Weinhold and Len Wein, literally WRITE `the public Bruce Wayne,' `the private Bruce Wayne' and `the Batman' AS THREE SEPARATE CHARACTERS. The series directors include such legends as Curt Geda and Sam Liu, and they've all developed distinct `movements, mannerisms and facial expressions' for the TWO Bruce Waynes and The Batman.
Actor Anthony Ruivivar (`The Adjustment Bureau' along with television's `Major Crimes' and `Southland') has literally developed three performances for his role as Bruce Wayne/The Batman, and there are times in the series - when the drama reaches adult heights - that the audience understands why Alfred is so concerned about insuring someone is always there to watch out for Wayne.
Ruivivar can switch from one Wayne to The Batman to the other Wayne in transitions so distinct, you could easily forget it's the same actor playing the same parts. For the first time since Michael Keaton's performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman in Burton's 1989 original "Batman," the audience is forced to consider the possibility that Bruce Wayne may be walking a fine line between `control' and `insanity.' In climactic episode of `Season One, Part One", Ruivivar even voices a distinct, unique Thomas Wayne. The guy is that good.
And the same must be said for the rest of the cast. Voice Acting veteran JB Blanc is perfect as a younger Alfred Pennyworth, a former MI6 Agent who, when forced, gives as good as he gets. Sumalee Montano's performance as Tatsu Yamashiro is perfectly metered, with her performance greatly aiding the writers and directors as her true identity and secrets are revealed.
Kurtwood Smith ("That 70's Show," "A Time to Kill," "Broken Arrow" and "Robocop") is a pure delight as Lieutenant Gordon. His scenes with The Batman as they forged a very uneasy alliance give Smith a chance to play frustration and anger that gives way to humor and humanity.
In giving audiences a more complex Batman, a younger and tougher Alfred, and adding Tatsu Yamashiro into the mix, initially as Wayne's limo driver, the producers wisely chose to go with villains rarely seen, and some never before depicted in animation or live-action. What makes them all work is the combination of character design, CG animation, movement, texturing (here's a show where the costume designer's work - thanks to CGI - is shown off in brilliant detail unlike any animated series in history) and, above all, the writing and voice casting.
Professor Pyg, AKA Lazlo Valentine, is voiced by Brian George, who plays him as a hilarious parody of Alfred Hitchcock. It's when he brings out his surgical tools, and the extent of his plans is revealed, that his character becomes truly horrific. Accompanying him as Mister Toad, Udo Kier provides great comic relief. Fiona Hughes' Lady Shiva conveys the menace and dishes out the malice those familiar with her character have come to expect. Grey DeLisle's Magpie is fascinating - introduced in the seductive manner of Selena Kyle, she's also a tragic figure whose conclusion in one episode is haunting.
Even when a villain like Humphrey Dumpler is introduced, and cynicism sets in that the episode will be one of the `weak links,' the writers add genuine human tragedy, and cast the perfect actor - in this case Matt Jones - to make the absurd dramatic.
With all great films and television series, their success, impact, and ability to transcend the technological leaps that follow in the wake of their production rest on the merits of their scripts, conceptualization, originality, acting, and the willingness of their creators to go to places others haven't with regard to subject matter.
It is because `Beware the Batman' falls into this category of greatness, its use of full CGI is not only befitting the material, it was the only logical choice.
When Tim Burton made "Batman" in 1989, he went with costume designs and art direction that mixed the styles and architecture of the `30s with an ambiguous `high/low tech' look. Cinematographer Roger Pratt shot with such low light levels and so much steam that when US theater owners saw the exhibitor screening, many freaked out. They feared the bulbs in their projectors wouldn't be bright enough, and that audiences wouldn't be able to see what was happening on screen.
Bruce Timm and his team made an insane choice in 1991 when starting work on `Batman: The Animated Series.' They decided all backgrounds would be painted on black paper stock, not white. While it meant that dust and scratches had the potential to be more obvious in the series than any other animated show ever made, it guaranteed a very dark, unique and moody tone to the series.
In rebooting Batman, Christopher Nolan wanted as much realism as humanly possible. He shot "Batman Begins" on as many real locations as possible, including a glacier in Iceland on which actors Christian Bale and Liam Neeson could feel the ice shifting beneath their feet. Nolan also insisted on shooting all second unit work himself, and only resorting to model or CGI when an effect couldn't be done in camera.
Sam Register and his Art Department, Visual Effects crew, Character Designers, Vehicle Designers, Background Designers and Set Designers have created a totally new Gotham City, Wayne Manor, Batcave, Batmobile, and countless other locations, rooms, props and atmospheric locations. His directors and animators have rendered them in glorious CGI. Viewed in its Blu-Ray release, "Beware the Batman" has textures so real you can practically feel what you are seeing on the screen.
A huge amount of credit must be given to the series' incredible sound designer and re-recording mixer Robert Hargreaves, along with the entire sound department. "Beware the Batman" is also blessed in having the talented composer Frederik Wiedmann for all 13 Episodes of "Season One, Part One." While Vasalines and Iggy Pop inspired rock band Dum Dum Girls delivered a great, punk/pop main title theme for the show, it is Wiedmann's scores for each episode that do what all great film scores do - give the visual experience its emotional voice.
Frederik Wiedmann takes the time in each episode to develop themes for newly introduced characters, alternating between rock and orchestral infused scores depending upon what the episodes and moments demand. Several episodes contain very dark, almost tragic endings - reminiscent of Hitchcock's "Vertigo" or "Psycho." It is the power of Wiedmann's music in those episodes that elevate those endings to levels of heartfelt tragedy or dread.
"Beware the Batman," like all groundbreaking Batman reboots which preceded it, feels like it truly began by turning to specific comic book source material. One can't help but feel Register chose to go right back to the very beginning - "The Bat-Man"'s very first, dark, brooding, violent and forgotten stories from May of 1939 through March of 1940.
In watching "Beware the Batman," you sense the producers, writers and directors are in tune with where The Bat-Man was in his last solo appearance in Detective Comics #37. The series feels, with regard to The Batman, that Register's creative team have taken the character where Kane and Finger would have had Detective Comics not stopped them from plunging further down the rabbit hole with The Bat-Man as he was originally created and developed.
Like all great reboots, by using these forgotten stories as the psychological basis for this new interpretation of The Batman, Register and his team were able to explore the psychology of Bruce Wayne and Batman in a way only Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had touched upon 24 years ago with "Batman" (1989). Bruce Wayne and The Batman of "Beware the Batman" is a version modern audiences simply have not seen before.
This, in turn, gave Register and his team license to reinterpret Alfred, introduce new villains, redesign the look of Gotham, and embrace doing it all with CG Animation to insure "Beware the Batman" - like all great reboots - bore it's own unique visual stamp, allowing its creators to realize the world of Batman in a way no one has ever experienced it before.
By utilizing CG Animation, Register and his team have given audiences an entirely new emotional and visual interpretation of arguably the greatest comic book character ever created, and a visual reinterpretation of his legendary mythological world previously unseen. CG animation was the only way all of this could be accomplished.
What a pity then, perhaps an outrage, that `Beware the Batman' may not live long enough to see the second half of its first season even air on Cartoon Network's `DC Nation.' After its premiere on July 13, 2013, the show was abruptly, and with no reason given, pulled from Cartoon Network's schedule the week of October 23, 2013. In October of 2012, Cartoon Network did the same thing with DC Animation's `Young Justice' and `Green Lantern: The Animated Series.' Those two programs eventually saw their final episodes of their respective seasons air, but it came after cancelation announcements.
Still, it seems the blame can't be placed solely on Cartoon Network's lack of enthusiasm for "Beware the Batman." The show also launched with no merchandising push from DC Collectibles or any of their licensees. Buried in Mattel's `Batman Unlimited 2013 Series 03' line of figures, along with a new Frank Miller "The Dark Knight Returns" Batman figure, was a single "Beware the Batman" figure. As a figure in a `series' line, you had to turn the box around to learn it was "Batman as seen on the animated series...Beware the Batman."
Perhaps most indicative of the series' fate is the fact that this licensed product for the show, an action figure, was labeled by DC Comics on the packaging as part of their `Adult Collector' line.
Indeed, "Beware the Batman" may be that rare thing - the first adult Batman animated series that's too grown-up for the Cartoon Network, merchandising, and multiple seasons. With all of Marvel's shows now aimed at little kids, and older Marvel fans abandoning them in droves, "Beware the Batman" may be the last artistic, adult Batman series fans will see for a very, very long time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Wow, it seems like I waited YEARS for this to be released. Since my wife and I made the decision over two years ago to end the madness that is DirecTV, Dish, cable or anything else that was sucking us dry because of the maybe 10-15 shows we watched collectively, I am not sure how I learned about BtB. Sure, you can ALWAYS find something to watch, but we determined the costs outweighed the benefits, and that my insomnia did not need any more help. However, when I did find out about it, I searched for it on the Amazon app on our Vizio, and decided to purchase the first episode. I enjoyed it immensely, but I felt each episode cost more than I wanted to pay without having the physical version of it. That was months ago and as I started watching it yesterday on its release, my wife came in on it and started enjoying it herself. I always get tickled when I am able to get her to watch something that she otherwise would say, "I don't wanna watch that!" Ha! As a child, I had Batman everything, even cried while in the hospital when my grandmother brought me a Superman puzzle--I pitched a fit! I severely wanted Superman to get, UP! UP! AND AWAAAY! She returned it and I, of course, got what I wanted. As you read the other reviews, I think so much has been said that I am only giving you this: YOU NEED TO GET THIS! MAN! This was so worth the wait! Granted, Alfred is as big as Bruce/Batman, and Katana is refreshing yet surprisingly a tasteful change from the mythos, but it all works so well together and makes such sense. The animation is appropriate for this, and I can see where Robin could get introduced if wanted, if you were wondering about that. (A minor spoiler alert--While Anarky is introduced here(I am not sure if he existed before Batman: Arkham Origins), his appearance is very different although the voice seems very much the same.) Right now, I am on a huge Batman kick, with the comics and the games. And as much as my wife has made a note of that, she will sit down and enjoy all of this with me. I guess Batman is not just for the fellas, anymore.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2014
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
How did this show get canceled?! Its great! The creators made some changes to the most familiar iteration of the Batman, but they all worked very well, I felt. Alfred is younger and is a former MI6 agent and Batman teams up with a female ninja named Katana, rather than with Robin. They use Batman's lesser-known villains rather than focusing so much on Joker, Riddler, etc, and that was a nice change. They could have brought in the more familiar ones later anyway. I felt that you got to see Batman being more of a detective than usual, which was also nice, and Gotham is a very noir-like city. Very cool. And the action is excellent. Even though Batman takes some lumps, he always appears as the supremely skillful fighter that he is.
As far as the blu-ray goes: this show looked excellent when broadcast in hi-def on Cartoon Network, but the blu-ray image is even more spectacular! I was blown away by how crisp and colorful everything looked. Perfect! I don't know why some of these shows are broadcast in 5.1 audio but then have only stereo sound on the blu-ray, but the HD-Master 2-channel soundtrack on this disc sounds great. It surely would sound even better with 6-channel sound, but for once I have no problems with this stereo audio. There are no special features on this disc, which is very disappointing, but I loved the show so much that it doesn't really bother me.
This is a great take on the Batman character, and the picture and audio on the blu-ray are outstanding. The voice actors are great and the stories are fresh and fun. Again I would say: How did this great show get canceled!? I just hope they bring it back in some form. I'd love some movies or, even better, another limited 13-episode run. (I think I could repeat most of this review regarding the recently-canceled Green Lantern animated show. Another excellent show that somehow was cut short. I've already pre-ordered that season one blu-ray.)