BATMAN: THE ANIMATED
For my money, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is probably the one of the best, and certainly most influential, comic book superhero derived animated programs ever produced for television. True to the spirit of the character and his mythology, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES never dumbed down its content for a perceived juvenile audience. In fact, because the show remained true to the comic book character known as The Dark Knight, the show achieved a strong following that spanned numerous age groups. The success of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES also reinvented and reinvigorated the entire medium, changing how superheroes have been depicted in animated programming ever since.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is a highly stylized program that takes its cues from the original comic book character created by Bob Kane in 1939. Batmanís world is a world of night and shadows, and the style of the animation is suitably dark. Another thoroughly appropriate touch is how the show blends modern elements with a retro look that gives BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES a decidedly art deco, yet timeless look. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES also maintains the established mythology of the Batman comics featuring primarily classic villains, although with some occasional modern twists. The storytelling is sparse, in a comic book sort of way, yet each episode thrives on the strong vocal performances that bring each of the major characters to life. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES includes the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth, Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon, Loren Lester as Dick Grayson/Robin, Melissa Gilbert as Barbara Gordon, Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman, Edward Asner as Roland Daggett, Paul Williams as The Penguin, Richard Moll as Two-Face, Roddy McDowall as The Mad Hatter, David Warner as Ra's Al Ghul, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn and Mark Hamill (who is utterly brilliant) as The Joker.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME TWO ($50) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty eight episodes, which come up next in the seriesí production order: Eternal Youth, Perchance To Dream, The Cape And Cowl Conspiracy, Robin's Reckoning Part 1, Robin's Reckoning Part 2, The Laughing Fish, Night Of The Ninja, Cat Scratch Fever, The Strange Secret Of Bruce Wayne, Heart Of Steel Part 1, Heart Of Steel Part 2, If Your So Smart Why Aren't You Rich, Joker's Wild, Tyger, Tyger, Moon Of The Wolf, Day Of The Samuri, Terror In The Sky, Almost Got 'Im, Birds Of A Feather, What Is Reality, I Am The Night, Off Balance, The Man Who Killed Batman, Mudslide, Paging The Crime Doctor, Zatanna, The Mechanic and Harley And Ivy.
Warner Home Video has made BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME TWO available on DVD in a full screen format that is representative of the original television broadcasts. The episodes contained in VOLUME TWO, are similar in appearance to those in VOLUME ONE, which correlates to the fact that BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME TWO was a rather modestly budgeted affair. This show was done the old fashion way, with traditional cell animation on film, and so there are some imperfections that were printed into the showís original negatives, as well as a bit of noticeable grain that pops up here and there. Sharpness and detail are about all one can expect from 2D animation of this caliber, which is perfectly fine, but never outstanding. Occasionally, colors are slightly subdued with vibrant splashes that give the dark, animated world that Batman inhabits just the right sense of atmosphere. Blacks are accurately rendered, whites seem clean and contrast is acceptable. Digital compression artifacts are usually very nicely concealed, even with the number of episodes allocated to a disc.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME TWO comes with its episodes in two-channel Dolby Digital stereo, which decodes to surround in a reasonably effective fashion. The sound is never flashy and there is a minimum of directionality, but the tracks do maintain a nice sense of atmosphere. Not surprisingly, the forward soundstage tends to dominate, with the surround channels providing a bit of ambient sound and musical fill. Speaking of the music, each episode features an appropriately movie-esque score, which is reproduced with rather fine musical fidelity. As for the spoken component, dialogue is crisp, clear and always completely understandable. French and Spanish language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene/episode selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features. Various production team members, including Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, and Kevin Altieri contribute to audio commentaries on the following episodes: Robin's Reckoning Part 1, Heart Of Steel Part 2, Almost Got 'Im and Harley And Ivy. Next up, we have three featurettes. Robin Rising is an eight-minute program that looks at the characterís development for the animated series. Gothamís Guardians clocks in at over ten minutes and looks at some of the other good guys, albeit the supporting players, in the animated series. Voices Of The Knight runs eight minutes and features interviews with the vocal talent of the series. Bonus previews for the DVD releases of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME ONE and SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME ONE close out the extra features.
As Iíve previously stated, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is one of the best superhero animated television shows to ever air on broadcast television. Not only was the show reverent of the characters and their mythology, it was also well written, stylish, and it has positively influenced every animated superhero series come after it. As for the four-disc DVD set, Warner has done a very good job, providing solid presentations and a few fine extras. If you are a fan of the show, you will definitely want to place BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME TWO next to VOLUME ONE in your own personal Batcave. Highly recommended.
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