The highly anticipated blu-ray set for Batman: The Complete Animated Series is out in the wild and is more than worth the wait. Come inside to check out my full review!
Batman: The Animated Series is awesome. In most nerd circles, that’s considered a general fact. It’s a show I watched religiously as a kid; rushing home everyday from school just in time to catch the latest episode. That said, however, I’ve often wondered how much of my love for the series, and it’s accepted awesomeness, was tied into the nostalgia of the time.
As such, when Warner Bros. (finally) announced a complete blu-ray set that remastered the series, I was both eager and nervous about the result. Thankfully, the series kicks just as much ass today as it did over twenty years ago, with themes and fun that are just as relevant today.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here talking about the series itself. The show started back in 1992 and ran through most of the decade (albeit with a couple different monikers). The blu-ray set compiles all of those episodes together into one nifty collection and fully remastering them to look great on your modern television.
I’m going to be honest, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve watched this show. Despite how influential it was for me as a kid, I didn’t make much effort to rewatch them when they hit DVD. I can’t specifically say why, but in the midst of everything else, it didn’t seem as much a priority. When I heard about the blu-ray, however, and having a family of my own, it seemed like the perfect chance to revisit the beloved series from my childhood to see how well it had aged.
I’m happy to say...It’s aged incredibly well. Batman, in general, has the ability to be something of a timeless character who’s fight against injustice can fit in just about any decade. As such, the animated series manages to feel just as relevant and engaging today as when it first aired. It really doesn’t feel like an “old” show. I mean, when they re-released the original Adam West Batman series, it was a lot of fun to rewatch. It still holds a lot of magic and is fun to watch, but there’s no denying that it feels like you’re watching a show from the past.
With Batman: The Animated Series, however, it feels like something that you could turn on the TV and find today. While some of the ‘tech’ stuff may feel a bit outdated, on the whole there’s nothing overtly tying it to the decade of its origin. Couple that with iconic characters, thrilling action, with some incredibly poignant themes (sometimes getting awfully deep/dark for a kids’ show) and you’re presented with one of the best Batman incarnations ever created.
The blu-ray set contains 109 episodes all together, which brings together all the seasons of The Animated Series and it’s continuation, The New Batman Adventures. To say that’s it’s stacked is something of an understatement. Spread out over 11 discs, there’s a ridiculous amount of show to watch and will take you some time to get through it all. There’s even more goodies in that 11 of the episodes include full commentaries, which offer some great insight for fans.
Beyond the series however, which on its own is enough to justify the purchase, the set also includes two feature-length movies; Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero. If, for some reason, you haven’t seen these films yet, you’re missing out on some of the best Batman films around. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating here when I say that Mask of the Phantasm may still be THE best Batman film ever produced and getting it fully remastered is the cherry on top of a massive, delicious, sundae.
Sight and Sound
Animation restoration/remastering can be a tricky beast and doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the result is an image that’s crisp and clear, but highlights the problems in the overall animation, or shortcuts that had been taken through the animating process (normal stuff I assure you). For the most part, the blu-ray transfer for Batman: The Complete Animated Series manages to balance out these factors and deliver on the goods.
The show is boosted to HD, but maintains its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This means you get the black bars on the side of the screen, but it’s presented exactly as intended; preserving the broadcast standards that were the norm at the time. The clarity on the image is impressive and allows for the more subtle animations (clothes moving, background details, etc) to shine through. There are things going on that I never noticed as a kid, but seeing them now really shows the attention to detail put into the show and making it feel like a real world.
There are some problems, however, though I doubt we can fault the transfer process for it. Throughout various episodes you will notice some artifacting on the image with some ‘debris’ showing itself on occasion. I found most of these issues to be more prevalent in the series’ earlier episodes, but even the later ones have moments where things crop up (or even sequences that are lower resolution and feature some scaling).
Overall, however, these picture issues weren’t too distracting and the great parts of the HD transfer far outweigh the negatives. When spread out over the full 109 episodes, the problems are definitely minimal.
The sound presentation is really good, despite not being able to bring in a full surround sound experience (it’s an old show with a two-channel audio track). The dialog is given great priority, while the action sequences remain dynamic and sound great. Overall, from a technical standpoint, this massive blu-ray transfer does an impressive job.
The Bonus Features
If you think 109 episodes of cartoon goodness is a lot of content to keep you happy, just wait till you get to the nearly 45 HOURS of bonus features included in the set. Many of these are spread throughout each set of “season” discs, as well as a specific bonus disc:
The Heart of Batman (All-New Documentary) – A rare gathering of talent defined Batman for a generation. Twenty-five years later, Batman: The Animated Series continues to inspire fans and myth makers all over the world. This hour-long documentary takes an in-depth look at the renowned storytellers behind the landmark series.
The Dark Knight’s First Night Pilot Promo: Hosted by Bruce Timm (Featurette) – Witness the 1991 Batman promo reel as producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski discuss the origins of Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman: The Legacy Continues Retrospective (Featurette) – DC luminaries join BTAS creators as they explore the combination of exquisite design and in-depth storytelling that helped create a once in a generation show.
Robin Rising: How the Boy Wonder’s Character Evolved (Featurette) – The evolution of Dick Grayson from young ward to crime fighter.
Gotham’s Guardians: The Stalwart Supporting Characters (Featurette) – Batman is not the only hero safeguarding Gotham City. This documentary focuses on the importance of the Dark Knight’s allies in the Batman mythology.
Voices of the Knight (Featurette) – Actors Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Adriene Barbeau, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Andrea Romano discuss the process of bringing their iconic characters to life.
Gotham’s New Knight (Featurette) – Barbara Gordon swings into focus in this exciting look at Batman’s trusted ally and equal, Batgirl.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Introduction (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Dan Riba, James Tucker, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Andrea Romano discuss Gotham’s most popular rogues.
Ra’s Al Ghul
Ventriloquist & Scarface
“Concepting Harley Quinn” (Featurette) – Producer Paul Dini discusses how Harley Quinn was incorporated into the series.
Tour of the Batcave (Featurettes):
· Utility Belt
It’s insane how stacked this blu-ray set is. I mean, it’s almost overwhelming the amount of content you’re able to watch. All of it, is a great amount of fun and provide legitimate insights into the production of the show, the characters, and general Bat-lore that even long time fans will find fascinating.
I really loved the ‘Arkham Asylum’ featurettes that delved deeper into Batman’s rogues gallery, along with the featurettes on the voice cast and general creation of the show. The big highlight, is the all new, hour-long, documentary that takes a look at the series 25 years on and how it’s stories have influenced the Dark Knight in just about every faucet since its creation.
In terms of bonus content, it feels endless. For fans of the series it’s a veritable treasure trove of goodies, and offers up a lot of extra bang for your buck. There’s even more great extras thrown in if you are able to get the Collector’s Edition, including special miniature Funko Pops, holographic cards, a booklet, and more.
I wasn’t given these for the purposes of this review, but if you’re a big Batman fan/collector, they look pretty damn awesome. Even without those physical extras, if you’re just getting the basic blu-ray set, there’s more than enough bonus features to make it feel worthwhile. Hell, with all that’s included, it almost feels like a steal!