REVIEW: Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts
Thankfully, today you are offered a larger variety of Batman flavors so in theory you should find one interpretation that appeals to you. Prefer mindless action, there’s the Arkham video games. Like driven dramas, there’s the Batman monthly from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Prefer your Batman with a bit of a character and a soul, there’re dozens of graphic novels to pick from.
The same holds true for the direct-to-video films from Warner Animation. For the slightly older audience there are the darker films, the most recent was Batman versus Robin and next is the long-awaited adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. But Warner has wisely come up with a more all-ages version as seen in the recently released Batman: Unlimited – Animal Instincts. The new film runs the same length as the others, 77 minutes, and does not skimp on colorful action.
Admittedly, this story is actually more about Batman (Roger Craig Smith) and his team plus their friends so you get your pick of champions to cheer for. In addition to the caped crusader, you have Nightwing (Will Friedle), Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal), Flash (Charlie Schlatter), and Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopolous). On the side of evil, you can hiss at Killer Croc (John DiMaggio), Penguin (Dana Snyder), Cheetah (Laura Bailey), Man-Bat (Phil LaMarr), or (Silverback (Keith Szarabajka).
Including the Emerald Archer and Scarlet Speedster are definitely there as product placement for their respective CW series, but it’s nice to see them anyway. Collectively, it’s also a tie-in to the Mattel-branded toy line and this box set does come with a Man-Bat so there’s that.
As for the story, the Penguin has recruited the animalistic rogues Silverback, Cheetah, and Man-Bat. Why? Well, that’s the mystery that keeps the audience guessing until late, so the plotting is well done. Each hero and villain is individually introduced through action, each laying out clues to follow.
The heroes are clear cut, as are the villains, which is appropriate for the younger viewers this is primarily aimed at. There are some shadings to the motivations and you can’t help feel sorry for some of the characters who are victims of circumstance.
I’m also impressed that the script from Heath Corson, whose earlier efforts left me bothered, does a nice job of differentiating the characters, notably the byplay between straight-laced Barry Allen and the more fun-loving Dick Grayson. Here, they’re treated as being roughly the same age as opposed to the source material that matches Allen with Bruce Wayne.
There’s plenty of action to enjoy from speed to trick arrows to fisticuffs. Credit to director Butch Lukic for giving the film a distinct look and for keeping the action flowing without feeling as gratuitous as some of the other offerings.
If you like this, next month comes Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem with the promise of 22 animated shorts for later this ye