Batman Beyond: The Movie (1999) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for violence
Running Time: 132 min.
Cast (voices): Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Sherman Howard, Michael Ansara, Linda Hamilton, Teri Garr, Ryan O'Donohue, Seth Green, George Takei, Bruce Timm, Michael Gross, CCH Pounder, George Lazenby, Corey Burton, Amanda Donohoe, Olivia d'Abo, Larry Drake
Director: Curt Geda, Butch Lukic, Dan Riia, Yukio Suzuki
Screenplay: Hilary Bader, Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Rich Fogel
Review published July 8, 2006
Batman Beyond: The Movie is a bit of a misnomer, as it isn't so much a movie as it is five (well, actually six) episodes from the first season of the WB animated superhero series, "Batman Beyond" (called "Batman of the Future" outside of the US). It does contain the pilot of the show, which they dub "The Movie" but it's really a merging of the two-part series opener called "Rebirth" At around 45 minutes without commercials, one could hardly call that a feature-length movie. Four other episodes trail the origin, none of them tying in much to each other, save for the same basic premise as spun off from the origin included in the first episode.
"Batman Beyond" is a futuristic show, set a few decades from the current continuity of Batman in the DC animated universe. The show starts off with an elderly Bruce Wayne (voiced by Conroy, The Batman/Superman Movie) giving up the mantle of Batman after he realizes he has grown too old to do much good anymore in the suit. He even has to cede control of his company, Wayne-Powers Enterprises to his partner, Derek Powers (Howard, Day of the Dead), who is undermining everything Wayne stands for in a scheme to sell biological weapons. In the process of testing on a human subject, Powers kills one of his employees, while one of his scientists, Warren McGinnis (Gross, Tremors), makes off with evidence, existing on a disc, that shows Powers' nefarious plans in action.
Powers wants to get his hands on the disc, killing Warren in the process, but Warren's teenage son Terry (Friedle, Trojan War) gets a hold of it. Terry is saved from another certain calamity by none other than elderly and ailing Bruce Wayne, who needs Terry's assistance back to Wayne Manor after the altercation. While there, Terry finds the entrance to the hidden Batcave, where he discovers the futuristic Bat-suit, which gives him superhuman strength, agility, ability to fly, camouflage himself, and other neat little technological gizmos. In order to get revenge on Powers for his father's death, Terry steals the suit and makes his way to the bad guy's lair. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne communicates with Terry through the communications device that links the suit to the Batcave, at first denying Terry from harming himself by shutting him down, later rethinking this by eventually helping him take down Powers. From there, the two form an alliance to thwart Gotham's criminals from future dastardly actions.
I don't usually review TV shows, so I'm not going to give the particulars of each episode. True, I do review anthology films, but this isn't really a multipart film so much as a collection of episodes, with each one having their opening and closing credits. However, since it is marketed on DVD as a movie, I thought I'd give an overall review nonetheless, as it does at least have the purpose of informing others seeking information on it as to what they can expect should they purchase it. Needless to say, if you already own "The Complete First Season" of "Batman Beyond" on DVD, you already own these episodes, which include "Rebirth", "Golem", "Meltdown", "The Winning Edge", and "Dead Man's Hand".
The animation and style is consistent with other DC comics animated series, with square-jawed looks, stocky bodies, and a clean sense of appearance and movement. Unlike the Superman and Batman animated series, "Batman Beyond" seems to be aimed at a slightly younger set, as Terry is a teenager, and many of his confrontations deal with matters that take place at his school, some involving his fellow classmates. Many artistic liberties are taken with the material, as we are supposed to take the fact that people could, with enhanced technology, fly or become invisible, although the gist of the hows and whys aren't explained in any detail.
"Batman Beyond" isn't quite at the level of quality as the "Batman" animated series, and sometimes the tie-in to Batman is limited to one or two brief conversations with Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. However, classic villains are referred to, including a street gang that call themselves the Jokerz, and old-school villains like Bane and Mr. Freeze make an appearance. Kevin Conroy, who also voices Batman in the modern-day animated series, also supplies the voice of the elderly Bruce Wayne.
All in all, it's a solid production all around, but while I do recommend the series for Batman fans, I can't be as enthusiastic about the DVD with the title Batman Beyond: The Movie. Not only does it not contain a movie, but with the complete 13-episode first season released on DVD in 2006 for only a few dollars more, especially since that release sports commentaries, interviews and other special features, there's just no reason for anyone but an avid completist to invest their money into this barebones release. Like Bruce Wayne in this series, this release once served its purpose, but with entire seasons now being released on DVD, it's time for this "movie" to retire to the Batcave museum.
©2006 Vince Leo