Knight Life

15-Mar-07 8:30 AM by
Filed under Reviews, Television; Comments Off on Knight Life

I'm a fan of Batman in all his incarnations, from comics to television to film, but some formats and actors represent the Dark Knight better than others. Looking at his silver screen appearances, it's clear to me who the superior actor is. Forget Val Kilmer, George Clooney, or Christian Bale; give me Kevin Conroy anyday. His portrayal of Batman in the 1993 film Mask of the Phantasm (as well as Mark Hamill's as The Joker) helped establish the movie as the most realistic and authentic adventure of the Caped Crusader yet.

Phantasm was based on the animated television series that premiered in 1992. Unfortunately, the show's style, both in animation and characterization, became much simpler in 1997 when the show was rechristened The New Batman Adventures. It's this style that was employed by the show's last hurrah, the 2003 direct-to-video film Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, which I finally watched last night.

It'd been awhile since I'd seen its predecessor, the 1998 direct-to-video Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, but I remember not liking what they did with the characters, and the juxtaposition of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation being disconcerting. Fortunately, Mystery of the Batwoman has a smoother appearance. There are some really great animated sequences, and though these are inconsistent, the animation is always at least average — albeit still in that simpler style. The sound effects are also contributive to the experience; there is a particular fight scene between Batwoman and two nameless bunny girls that demonstrates excellent audio and choreography.

I was also surprised by the plot, which I expected to be a no-brainer to anyone familiar with the No Man's Land story arc from the Batman comics in 1999. Instead, rather than mangling the characters we know and love, this film introduces three new characters. But ultimately, the titular enigma is akin to badly-written murder-mystery, where ALL the clues are red herrings.

Like Sub-Zero, this film ends on an exploding boat, and all the loose ends are neatly tied up. By comparison, Mask of the Phantasm bucked that trend with a resolution that could hardly be called happy — and that was before Bruce Wayne adopted his darker, more uniform, and more boring presentation. Mystery of the Batwoman felt more like a prolonged episode that didn't develop our established heroes much. But taken more lightly, it was a fun prolonged episode, and one I appreciated all the more for not having seen any new animated Batman adventures in many years.

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