Can an anime version of Batman hold a candle next to the recently released Batman movies? Even the animated series of the 90’s?
What They Say
Acclaimed screenwriters including David Goyer (Batman Begins), Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and Alan Burnett (Batman The Animated Series) join forces with revered animation filmmakers on six spellbinding chapters chronicling Batman's transition from novice crimefighter to Dark Knight. These globe-spanning adventures pit Batman against the fearsome Scarecrow, the freakish Killer Croc and the unerring marksman Deadshot.
Using an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry from Wayne Industries, Batman's ethical boundaries exist only where he chooses to place them, leaving some fearful of his power.
For this review, we watched the series using the English soundtrack that is Dolby Digital 5.1. This collection also features Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, and Thai. The soundtrack is probably the most consistent thing found in this collection. In fact, the soundtrack is what really keeps the content gelled together, if at all. You will find the familiar Batman score from the movies throughout. The sound effects are spot-on as you will most certainly hear every kick, punch and gunshot. There are several multi-channel effects that are nicely used as Batman swings and flutters throughout Gotham City.
The transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio. The video quality for this release is decent, but hard to judge as there is a lot of artistic inconsistency and change between the segments. To be fair, one would have to judge each segment on its own as some segments look better artistically and technically than others. This series, of course, focuses heavily on the Dark Knight theme found in Batman. Of course, it’s going to be dark! And that means lots of dark backgrounds, shades, and muted colors. As whole, there is some noticeable blurred motion, grain, and artifacting. This is evermore present with the muted and dark colors. Overall, everything seemed to feel a bit flat. However, the background art throughout the whole series is solid. I sometimes got caught up in checking out the background detail as it really portrayed the darkness of Gotham City.
The packaging for this version of Gotham Knight includes a collector’s edition slip cover that has 3D artwork concealed by a flap. The front flap features a picture of Batman, teeth gritted, like he is in the midst of a jump and ready to punch somebody out. The main part of the slip cover is similar to that of the DVD case. To reveal the 3D artwork, one has to open the flap that is on the front. The artwork features Deadshot taking on Batman from one of the scenes in the segment “Deadshot”. Changing the angle of view creates the illusion of Batman swooping down to block Deadshot’s gun fire.
The DVD case matches the slip cover art and contains the same white lettering and DC Universe logo on the front. The spine of the DVD case also contains the same lettering. The backside of the case and slip cover have screen shots from each of the six segments. The standard technical specs, disc compilation, and credits are also found here.
The menus for this collection are simplistic and easy to navigate. One nice touch to the main menu, disc 1 only, is that it changes. Moving to a submenu and then back will result in a different main menu background. The musical score from the series loops appropriately throughout the menus with no noticeable cutoff. The layout was simple, yet effective. However, the flat artwork that comes from each series affects the menu background. It just doesn’t draw a lot of attention.
Batman Gotham Knight comes with a nice load of extras. The extras are what make this DVD collection worthwhile. Especially worthwhile, is the bonus episodes from the Batman the Animated Series. The extras include the following:
• Audio commentary
• Sneak peak of DCU’s Wonder Woman
• “A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City” (A stimulating documentary covering Gotham City’s most nefarious of characters, combined with a look into the symbiotic relationship Batman shares with his enemies.)
• “Batman and Me a Devotion to Destiny: The Bob Kane Story” (The comprehensive chronology of the remarkable life of the creator of Batman.)
• “Bruce Timm Presents: 4 Bonus Episodes from “Batman the Animated Series”
The sneak peak feature of Wonder Woman definitely peaked my interest. A great cast and crew is featured here for what may be a great release on a much neglected heroine of DC superhero lore. It’s about time for Wonder Woman to get her due in a newly rebooted movie feature.
"A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City" was an interesting clip that has several artists sharing their perspectives on the philosophy and psychology of the Batman villains. The major villains are given their due, supported with stills from the comics and various video clips.
The most intriguing feature is "Batman and Me, Devotion to Destiny: The Bob Kane Story." Here, Tom Andrae (author of Batman and Me), Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Jerry Robinson, and Bob Kane's widow, Elizabeth Kane, among others, discuss the life and times of Batman's creator. This was a great insight and reflection on the brilliant work of Bob Kane. There are several interview clips of Kane along with some early sketch designs of Batman
Last, but not least, are the “Batman the Animated Series” bonus episodes. It’s great to revisit those old shows in what is probably the best Batman animated series to date. It is my opinion that these 4 episodes are collectively much better, story-wise, than the 6 features in this collection. This will definitely get you excited about the upcoming “Batman The Animated Series Ultimated Complete Collection” DVD set that is supposed to be released sometime later this year.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Anything Batman related is hot stuff right now. Batman Begins was a huge success and the Dark Knight is a blockbuster that is still raking in huge ratings and a lot of cash. It only seems fitting that an animated series would fit right into the mix.
The Dark Knight aspect of Batman is one that never really got fleshed out onto any type of screen until recently. This was heralded by comic fans, but was often thought of as too dark and too violent. This is definitely not your Adam West type of Batman, old chum! Batman Begins proved that there was a time and place for the Dark Knight theme and it has been very successful. One would think that continuing that theme by spicing it up with some animation from some of Japan’s great anime artists would fit the ticket. Well… it sort of did.
Many reviews have been made about this collection, the writers, the anime team, etc… Those reviews are aplenty throughout the Internet. My perspective comes from a person who loves anime and has an appreciation for the great storytelling that comes from American comics. Bottom line, this collection is more for the Batman fan/collector. What has been created is admirable, but it just doesn’t hold up well next to its live action counterparts, and it even falls short of its animated predecessors. The more recent “The Batman” animated series that is currently airing has a much better story line.
Establishing this collection as filler between the two movies does not work well in lining up with what Christopher Nolan has created. It doesn’t capture the feel of what Christopher Nolan has done with the recent Batman films. Perhaps this collection should have not been labeled or established as such.
"Have I Got A Story For You" is one of the stronger pieces that features a group of punk kids sharing their exaggerated encounters with Batman. Each kid tries to get a leg up on their version of how tough and awesome Batman is. Each kid perceives Batman differently. This makes for some crazy, yet creative depictions of the Caped Crusader. This story works, but falls flat as it does not seem to have a real strong conclusion.
Crossfire is a segment that fleshes out Batman’s involvement in dealing with the mob. It really focuses on two Gotham detectives who are trying to reconcile their unease with the Dark Knight and his vigilante approach to justive. There are some really wild action sequences that go beyond absurd and do not really line up with the action sequences that are found in the two movies. It was really hard to connect with the two detectives, the mob’s plight, and Batman’s involvement. Too much happened, too fast, in this segment.
"Field Test" has a similar feel to "Crossfire". More mob friction is inserted in this one along with a ridiculously young looking Bruce Wayne. He looks like he is in his early twenties and doesn’t come close to looking like any established Bruce Wayne from the comics, TV, or the movies. I had trouble connecting with this one as the art design was just way too out there. The plot of this story did not make a connection and became easily forgettable.
Scarecrow and Killer Croc show up in the next feature "In Darkness Dwells". We finally get to see some real Batman villains. No more henchmen or mob guys, we have got some honest-to-goodness Batman villains here. A reasonable explanation for Killer Croc is done here and does a decent job of aligning him within the boundaries that exist for him in Batman lore. This episode held my interest and felt like a real Batman episode.
"Working Through Pain" is a decent segment that focuses on the inner mind of Bruce Wayne. Batman is a superhero that gets the crap beat out of him a lot, but is capable of fighting on. This segment gives us a glimpse into how he might deal with that. The feature opens with a badly wounded Batman trying to make his way through the sewers of Gotham. An extensive flashback sequence of his early training reveals how he learned to deal with pain. A well written piece plays out to a flat ending as Alfred shows up just in time to help. Somewhat memorable, this is one of the stronger segments in the collection.
Rounding out the collection is "Deadshot". This is the strongest of the collection and assumes the tone set forth by the Batman movies. Deadshot is a bounty hunter and expert sniper. We even get a pretty good feel for Deadshot as a character. It was easy to identify with his plight and his purpose. This is definitely the most suspenseful segment in the entire collection. It ends the collection on a definite high note.
The continuity for these shorts was confusing to say the least. Like many other reviewers I was under the impression that each story would present its own tale. However, I had never thought that they would be so loosely connected. Perhaps the creators should have worked together to string some kind of narrative that could have linked these stories. It was a real struggle to watch this and not think of the new Batman movies.
The anime concept for Batman is a novel idea. Linking an animated of Batman short stories that connect Batman Begins with the The Dark Knight is an awesome concept. However, Batman Gotham Knight falls short of meeting any kind of heightened expectations one would perceive after viewing the movies. This is a show that will satisfy most hardcore Batman fans, but not for the casual viewer.
English 5.1 Language, Japanese Language, Portuguese Language, Thai Language, Audio commentary, Sneak peak of DCU’s Wonder Woman, A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City, Batman and Me a Devotion to Destiny: The Bob Kane Story, Bruce Timm Presents: 4 Bonus Episodes from “Batman the Animated Series"
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Player with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.