Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts
While so much of DC’s animated releases have focused on more adult stories for fans, Animal Instincts was designed with a younger audience in mind so everyone in the house can enjoy. Does it succeed and managed to still be fun? Come inside to check out my full review to see!
Putting on the Kid Gloves
For the last few years now, DC/WB have done a pretty phenomenal job of crafting an engaging series of animated films geared towards older fans and readers of the comics (most recently with the incredibly good Batman vs. Robin). While they’ve mostly all been met with positive praise, they’re not necessarily something you can share with the family and enjoy together. To that end, Warner Bros. has decided to come out with a series of animated films that will put the focus on more kid-friendly storytelling that everyone can enjoy.
The first blu-ray in this endeavor is hitting stores this week, Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts. This film sees Batman teaming up with some other heroes to take down a criminal gang, the Animilitia, all of whom are centered around animals (Man-Bat, Cheetah, Killer Croc, etc). As Batman tries to bring the criminals to justice, a larger plot begins to unfold and it’ll take him and his friends to put a stop to it.
Sounds pretty much like you’re basic Saturday morning superhero plot...and it kind of is. The movie plays out like what you would expect. Batman encounters this new gang, gang causes trouble, Batman needs help to take them down but in so doing bigger things happen...It goes on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, even if it sounds like one initially. While it’s a little formulaic, the movie remains fun, and keeps your attention with engaging action sequences and fun banter between the cast of characters.
The only thing that really threw me off at the start, are the heroes assembling with Batman to help out. You’ve got The Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin there to help, but there’s no explanation of why these specific characters pop up instead of other heroes Batman’s been known to interact with more. I can guess the reasons for this from a business standpoint (since two of those have successful TV series’ going on right now), but I wish the team-up would have had more meaning from a story point of view.
To be honest, this is essentially my biggest problem with the Animal Instincts movie in general. While it is fun and has things to enjoy for both kids and parents alike, many things are just sort of thrown out there as a “given”. Because it’s a “kid” show, they skip some steps in the plot, knowing the end result won’t make much of a difference with their target audience. While this isn’t a horrible thing, it keeps the show from reaching a higher level and being great. It’s definitely good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not great either.
Picture and Sound
One of the most recognizable things about Animal Instincts, right of the bat, is that it features a very different art style to it than DC’s other animated films. It’s far more evocative of the animated TV shows than a more polished looking feature film. While that sounds like a negative, it’s really not. For the story it’s telling and the characters used, it fits perfectly and looks slick. The visual change is a great way to differentiate the tone of this film from the others in an immediate way.
It’s not a serious and dramatic show, like the other DC adaptations are. The characters in Animal Instincts are much more vibrant and dynamic. They play off of each other well, setting up some solid humor while still feeling like their comic book counterparts. The new animation style helps sell all of this, putting you in a frame of mind for something different and more lighthearted.
On blu-ray, of course, all of these bright colors pop very well and stand out on the screen. The quality is solid and doesn’t get jaggy, nor did I experience any crushing. The sound is equally good, offering up crisp audio, which allows you to hear the great cast’s dialog without any trouble. All in all, from technical aspects, the blu-ray is a great transfer without any issues behind it.
On the Disc
Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts comes with these special features on the disc:
The Penguin: High Society Criminal
DC Nation Shorts
From the DC Comics Vault
The short documentary about the Penguin is fairly interesting if not entirely comprehensive. It offers some looks at the villains’ history with the Batman and early comic appearances, but since it’s still a featurette largely for younger audiences, it doesn’t dig as deep or extensively into his history as you’d like. It’s interesting, but doesn’t feel essential either.
For me, the most interesting feature were the DC nation shorts. The blu-ray comes with 10 animated shorts which appeared on Cartoon Networks’ DC Nation block of TV over the years (back when Green Lantern and Young Justice were still on the air), and they’re wonderful. While none of them are very long (about half an hour is all you need to watch ALL of them), they’re quirky and feature some awesome animation and characters. They’re a real treat to watch, and I’m happy to see them make their way onto a home release in some form.
The “From the Vault” is simply two episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold. They’re decent, but are pretty much just filler to keep your kiddos watching something even after the main feature has ended. So the special features have some gems here and there, but also some things I doubt you’ll ever return to after watching them once.
Sadly, the film is lacking in some areas that keep it from being a great film. As it stands, it’s definitely fun, and I imagine the kiddos wanting to watch it a few times, but it ultimately falls short of what it could have been. For what it is, it’s still worth a pick-up, just don’t go in expecting a high concept plot and deep characters.