BATMAN: THE ANIMATED
Undoubtedly, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is one of the greatest superhero based animated shows ever produced for television. This influential show changed the face of superhero animation; taking it from the dumbed down productions of the past into a new era where the intelligence of the audience is never insulted and the utmost respect is paid to the characters and their mythology. Obviously influenced by everything from actual Batman comics to Tim Burtonís movies to Frank Millerís graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES finally captured the dark, brooding quality of the character and the world that he inhabited.
As for this final volume of episodes; well, they actually were produced after BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES officially went off the air. This collection features episodes that debuted on television as part of THE NEW BATMAN/SUPERMAN ADVENTURES. In general the Batman episodes produced for THE NEW BATMAN/SUPERMAN ADVENTURES are very good, although some donít hold up as well as those from the initial series. Of course, things are a little different this time around, as Dick Grayson has struck out on his own as Nightwing, Tim Drake is the new Robin and Batgirl is now part of the inner circle.
Featured vocal talents include Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth, Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon, Loren Lester as Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Tara Strong as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Mathew Valencia as Tim Drake/Robin, Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman, Paul Williams as The Penguin, Richard Moll as Two-Face, Roddy McDowall as The Mad Hatter, Ron Perlman as Clayface, Diane Pershing as Poison Ivy, Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze, Henry Silva as Bane, John Glover as The Riddler Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn and Mark Hamill as The Joker.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME FOUR ($50) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty four episodes: Holiday Knights, Sins Of The Father, Cold Comfort, Double Talk, You Scratch My Back, Never Fear, Joker's Millions, Growing Pains, Love Is A Croc, Torch Song, The Ultimate Thrill, Over The Edge, Mean Seasons, Critters, Cult Of The Cat, Animal Act, Old Wounds, The Demon Within, Legends Of The Dark Knight, Girls' Nite Out, Mad Love, Chemistry, Beware The Creeper and Judgement Day.
Warner Home Video has made BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME FOUR available on DVD in a full screen format that is representative of the original television broadcasts. The animation appears crisper and cleaner on this set than it did in previous volumes, but I would imagine that would be a result of this production being newer and probably having a couple of extra budget dollars. Image sharpness and detail are good for this type of 2D television animation, with no real complaints. Colors are strongly rendered and appear to be without flaws. Blacks are accurate, and the whites are clean. The film elements from which the episodes are mastered are free from serious defects. Digital compression artifacts are usually well concealed.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME FOUR comes with its episodes in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo, which does decode to standard surround in a fairly effective fashion. Directionality is generally held to a minimum, but the tracks do maintain a nice sense of atmosphere. As expected, the forward soundstage is dominant, with the rears adding some ambient sound and musical fill. Fidelity is quite good where the music is concerned; each episode features an appropriately movie-esque score, which sounds really good for this type of television production. Dialogue is always crisply rendered and easy to understand. A French language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as some extras. Interactive Arkham Asylum: Examine The Top-Secret Case Files Of The Dark Knight's Many Foes is pretty much self explanatory, allowing fans access to information concerning many of Batmanís enemies. Running audio commentaries are provided by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, art director Glen Murakami and storyboard artist James Tucker on the following episodes: Over The Edge, Legends Of The Dark Knight and Critters.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME FOUR gives fans a final collection of episodes from one of the most significant animated enterprises to ever be produced for television. Warner does their usual fine job, providing solid presentations for the episodes and a few cool extras. Recommended.
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