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While it lacks the dark and brooding, noir style of the series that spawned it, BATMAN BEYOND still proves to be an entertaining action cartoon. BATMAN BEYOND: THE MOVIE ($20) is the pilot for the series (originally titled Rebirth), which takes the saga of Batman into a high tech future. As the story opens, we find an older Bruce Wayne forced to hang up his mask, when his age and his failing health begin to interfere with crime fighting abilities. From here, the plot advances another twenty years and introduces a cocky teenage character named Terry McGinnis. When McGinnis' father is murdered, circumstances force Terry to turn to Bruce Wayne, his father's employer, for help. It seems that the elderly Wayne's corrupt business partner, Derek Powers, is responsible for the old McGinnis’ murder and Terry wants to avenge his father.

By this time, Terry has also discovered Bruce Wayne's secret, so he decides to appropriate Wayne's super high tech Batman suit for his own purposes. Of course, Wayne is none too thrilled by Terry's actions. However, by the end of the pilot episode, there is a new Batman striking fear into the criminals of Gotham city. As I said above, BATMAN BEYOND is more action oriented than the original series, but it the kids are certain to like it more than the darkly shaded, character driven original series. My slightly more mature tastes are drawn to BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and I remain hopeful that episodes from that show will be released on DVD as well. In addition to BATMAN BEYOND: THE MOVIE, the DVD also offers four additional episodes from the show including Golem, Winning Edge, Dead Man's Hand and Meltdown. For this reviewer, Meltdown is a genuine standout because it resurrects the character of Mr. Freeze and is far more character rich than the other episodes. The pilot and subsequent episodes of BATMAN BEYOND features the vocal talents of Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Stockard Channing, Teri Garr, Seth Green, Sherman Howard, George Takei, Amanda Donohoe, George Lazenby, Michael Ansara, Linda Hamilton, Laura San Giacomo, Olivia d'Abo and William H. Macy.

Warner Home Video has done a very good job in bringing BATMAN BEYOND to DVD. The pilot movie and four additional episodes are presented on a single sided, dual layered DVD, all of which are individually accessible through the disc's interactive menus. The full frame presentation is appealing, as well as being representative of the original television broadcasts. Of course, the image quality is superior to that of the broadcast medium (sharp and well defined), but is still limited by the fact that this is an animated television show intended for non-discriminating younger viewers. Sure, this isn't FANTASIA, but it isn't SCOOBY-DOO either. The animation has a slick MTV/STAR WARS influence, as well as being nicely drawn and colored. Speaking of colors, they are very strong and are reproduced without any evidence of chroma noise or bleeding. Digital compression artifacts seldom make their presence known.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack features a standard television mix, with almost everything happening in the forward soundstage, while the rears supplying ambient sound and musical fill. There are left-right directional effects, but television mixes won't become more elaborate until hi-def TV with full Dolby Digital sound gains a significant foothold. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, as is the electronic music that distinguishes this production as the "future" Batman. Bass is pretty solid on the soundtrack, but it isn't what I’d call Earth shattering. A French language soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles. The interactive menus are fairly standard, but incorporate music. Through the menu system, one can select episodes, as well as chapters within episodes. Language selection is also provided through the menus.

With its instantaneous access, DVD is the ideal medium for releasing animated television series to video. Lets hope that BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES will be appearing next on DVD.


Batman Beyond - The Movie (1999)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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