REVIEW: Batman Beyond: The Complete Series
The team at Warner Animation were enjoying unrivaled success with their 1990s offerings from Animaniacs to Batman: The Animated Series. As a result, as they retired BATS after 65 award-winning episodes, they decided to roll the dice on something bolder. For a change, they were looking to the future and not the comics for inspiration. What if, they wondered, Bruce Wayne aged out of being Batman but the need for the Caped Crusader remained? Who would inherit the mantle of the bat?
As it turns out, they settled on a teen, Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), to cross paths with Wayne (Kevin Conroy). Where once he relied on Alfred or Oracle for guidance, now he would direct the actions of his unlikely successor in the series Batman Beyond.
Given the futuristic designs and strong storytelling, the audiences proved loyal to the new franchise and the show lasted 52 episodes, spawning fresh merchandising opportunities along with a new character to bring to the DC Universe, where Terry remains active today.
In celebration of this success, Batman Beyond: The Complete Series is now out in an attractive box set, complete with Funko Batman Beyond figure. So, is this worth paying for considering the series was previously collected in 2010? The previous set, which I recommended back then, is now on Blu-ray so the high definition transfer is a consideration. The colors and details are, of course, sharper. Then there are the new Special Features and the addition of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker – The Movie – The Director’s Cut and the figure. I’d say yes for fans of the creators or character.
What’s fun is to be reminded that, like Blade Runner, the future depicted is 2019, which does not resemble our world at all. Bruce Wayne stopped being Batman and Jim Gordon finally retired, with his daughter Barbara (Angie Harmon) as his successor. The influence of the Bat and his villains can be found in the society from gangs known as Jokerz to the fear of the bat symbol.
From a design standpoint, this series is a step forward, away from BATS’ inspiration from the Fleisher Superman cartoons. The extrapolation of a high tech yet still dark Gotham feels right as does the need for a new breed of hero. The dynamic between Bruce and Terry makes for great fun throughout while Terry’s teen and family issues clearly odd a debt to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s early Spider-Man stories.
The show was successful enough to offer up Batman Beyond: The Return of Joker, its only feature-length entry which had to tone down its violence for theatrical release, but all that is back in the director’s cut, making this worth a new look.
Interestingly, just 41 episodes were remastered in high def as technical issues seemed to prevent the remainder from being upgraded. The 1080p episodes look great while the rest look good. The feature is also nice in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Accompanying the upgrades is a fine 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack so the music and special effects are crystal.
The six discs sprinkle the special features, much as the 2010 release so they remain in standard definition while the new pieces are in HD. For the record, here’s the breakdown:
Audio Commentary: “Rebirth Part 1”, Producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and Director Curt Geda; “Shriek”, Timm, Burnett, Dini, Murakami, Geda and writer Stan Berkowitz.
“Music of the Knight (15:00): Timm talks of the score’s importance; “inside Batman Beyond – Meet Series Creators (9:42) – Timm, Murakami, Burnett, and Dini.
Audio Commentary: “Splicers:, with Timm, Murakami, storyboard artist James Tucker, voice director Andrea Romano and Will Friedle.
Audio Commentary: “The Eggbaby”, Timm, Tucker, Murakami, Romano, and Friedle.
Inside Batman Beyond: The Panel (11:51) – Timm, Burnett, Murakami, and Dini at SDCC.
Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Panel (9:36) – Timm, Burnett, Murakami, and Dini at SDCC.
Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Close-Up On… Timm, Dini, Friedle, and more: Out of the Past (4:32); The Call (6:19); The Call Part II (4:12); and Curse of the Kobra Part 1 (4:48)
Nostalgic Tomorrow – A Batman Gathering (HD, 53:19) – with Timm, Conroy, Friedle, Tucker, Murakami, Romano, Berkowitz, and Bob Goodman. Reminiscing and reflection.
Knight Immortal (HD, 34:50) – Celebrating Batman’s 80 years with plenty of familiar art, clips, and talking heads.
Tomorrow Knight: Batman Reborn (10:30) –Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis explored; Gotham: City of the Future (5:34); The High-Tech Hero (SD, 5:44); Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics (HD, 1:30:26) – a high def version of the 2010 documentary, skipping New 52 and Rebirth.
Audio Commentary for Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, featuring Timm, Dini, Murakami, and Geda.
Beyond Batman Beyond (12:00), EPK for the film; Video Character Bios (HD, 5:00); Confidential Batman Footage – For Your Eyes Only (5:00), a deleted scene; “Crash” music video (4:00) – A flashback to the days of Static-X; and Animatics (3:00).