Beware the Batman: Season One, Part One
Cinelinx fears the Knight and gives the new Beware the Batman Blu-ray a spin!
This Warner Archive release is a Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) Blu-ray. This title is available directly from WBShop.com by clicking here.
The early adventures of Batman are explored in this CGI animated series shown on the Cartoon Network. Featuring the voices of Anthony Ruivivar, JB Blanc, and Sumalee Montano. This one-disc Blu-ray set includes the first 13 episodes of the first season: “Hunted,” “Secrets,” “Test,” “Safe,” “Broken,” “Toxic,” Family,” “Allies,” “Control,” “Sacrifice,” “Instinct,” “Attraction,” and “Fall.”
From the Filmation cartoons of the late 1960s to the Super Friends series of the 70s and 80s to the Bruce Timm’s groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, the Dark Knight has an impressive animation legacy.
Lately, Batman cartoons have been rather prolific, from the impressive straight-to-video movies like The Dark Knight Returns and Year One, to short-lived series like The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Warner Bros.’ latest animated Batman offering, entitled Beware the Batman, takes some liberties with the character’s mythos and delivers a CGI-animated Caped Crusader, a departure from the hand-drawn animation fans had grown accustomed to. Alfred isn’t a father-figure butler, but rather a middle-aged ex-special forces who trains Bruce Wayne and drives him around. Alfred brings in Katana, his goddaughter, who assumes the non-Robin sidekick role and has a secret identity of her own. Jim Gordon is a lieutenant, not a commissioner, and his daughter isn’t quite old enough to don a cowl - yet.
Instead of the usual bad guys you would expect (or at least hope for), Beware the Batman offers up a bevy of second-tier villains. Instead of the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, or Catwoman, we get Professor Pyg, Mr. Toad, Magpie, and Tobias Whale as recurring characters in early episodes. Characters like Humpty Dumpty, Lunkhead, and Metamorpho (voiced by Adam Baldwin, no less) appear as guest villains. Although many of the early episodes appear to be stand-alone adventures, an overarching storyline involving Anarky emerges in later episodes, which brings in a popular villain that will make fans very happy.
The CGI animation may not appeal to many, and I always found the unrealistically quick movements of the characters distracting. The more I watched Beware, however, the less the animation style bothered me, and as I grew accustomed to it, I could concentrate on the solid storytelling more. The art direction and character design is highly stylized and is reminiscent of the 1990s animated series; it evokes well the dark tone the modern Batman comics have taken.
Beware the Batman will appeal to younger Batman fans, but it is a bit too dark and moody for kids under 10. Magpie’s outfit is a bit too revealing, and the threat of death to numerous characters may be too intense for young viewers.
Beware the Batman may deviate from the Batman we know, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great show. In fact, it feels fresh and original; the Bruce Wayne/Alfred dynamic is much stronger and far more interesting than other incarnations. The Katana character, as Batman’s protege, manages to move storylines along instead of reacting to the goings-on. The writing is strong, and the episodes are engaging. The 13 episodes included on the disc are well suited for binge viewing. Sadly, it appears Cartoon Network has cancelled the series, so there may not be many more episodes for fans to enjoy. The first 13 episodes showed great potential to strike out and create a unique Batman story.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The high definition video transfer is near-perfect. The detail is exceptional, and colors are bright and bold, with inky blacks and nice variances in the greys. The CGI itself is nicely rendered; fine details like the textures of the character’s clothing are visible, which shows just how much attention was paid to the quality of the animation design. Audio is, surprisingly, only a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and while it is very good, it lacks the true depth and surround effect a 5.1 track would bring. It lacked the “oomph” of a good mix with deep bass.
Release date: February 18, 2014
Rating: Not rated (violence, some adult themes, suitable for kids 10 and older)
Running time: 285 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Special features: None
Label: Warner Archive
The Bottom Line: Beware the Batman's Dark Knight rises to the top
It appears the (still unofficial) cancellation of Beware the Batman means this unique and entertaining spin on the Caped Crusader will not get the chance to win over Batfans or Cartoon Network viewers with a second season. While I’ve never been a fan of CGI animation made for television, Beware’s CGI style grew on me as I watched the 13 episodes on the Blu-ray. It isn’t perfect, but the highly stylized art direction, entertaining storylines, and faithful comic book feel won me over. The video transfer is exceptional, but the audio lacks punch.