The Bat in the Belfry
Original airdate 9/11/04
In 1989 director Tim Burton
and actor Michael Keaton took movie theaters by storm with
the first big screen adaptation of the dark knight, Batman.
Due to the box office success of the film, Fox gave Bruce
Timm and his team a half hour slot on Sunday night primetime
for a Batman animated series.
the show wasn't a hit in primetime, it flourished in a more
traditional time slot befitting an animated show. Initially
running three years, the show was retooled as The Adventures
of Batman & Robin and Batman: Gotham Knights.
Different titles, same quality. Its creators continued to
expand that universe with shows like Superman: The Animated
Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited
as well as Batman direct to video movies.
The quality of their work has been recognized
and embraced time and again by fans. The writing has always
been top notch, the action explosive and the voice talent
represents the best in the business.
Now in 2004 a new team looks to reboot
the Batman animated franchise with a new series and all
new talent. The first episode aired last Saturday and spent
most of the time setting the stage.
Bruce Wayne has been Batman for three years.
He's still in his mid twenties and isn't as dark or brooding
he's typically portrayed. News reports tell us that crime
has dropped significantly since Batman's first reported
appearance but no one has yet been able to confirm Batman's
Bruce Wayne juggles his playboy lifestyle
and crime fighting hobby with the help of his butler Alfred
and an electronic device I've taken to calling the Bat-Palm
mainstay Commissioner Gordon is nowhere to be found this
time around. Instead, a young detective named Ethan Bennett
has been put in charge of hunting down Batman and he has
a new partner named Ellen Yin who recently transferred to
Gotham from Metropolis.
and the detectives have their first encounter when alarms
sound off at Arkham Asylum. An ape-like Rastafarian clown
named The Joker has let prisoners out in an effort to draw
Batman's attention. This is presumably the first encounter
Batman has had with the Joker during his three years in
action and may be the first encounter he's had with a costumed
debut show is good, although fans of Bruce Timm's animated
series will spend the half an hour noticing the differences.
The Batman is obviously a repackaged Batman for a
younger audience, similar to last year's Spiderman
on MTV. Bruce Wayne is much younger and not as gruff as
we are used to seeing him. He's more like the totally awesome
older brother you always wanted that drives a rocket powered
though they specifically say Bruce has been Batman for three
years, it feels more like year one. He's never met the Joker,
doesn't have a sidekick named Robin, and Bruce is too fresh-faced
to have been fighting crime for three years. Even after
we find out that Detective Ethan and Bruce are old friends,
they have a conversation about Batman that you would think
they would have had when Batman first appeared.
show looks great. The animations have a slightly more Japanese
look to them without taking it too far. Batman looks cool
and the fight scenes are all well done. For some reason
the sky in Gotham is always bright green or red and I really
don't like the Joker's hair style or wardrobe, but those
details are minor. If I can get used to the animation on
this show will be a breeze.
Conroy will always be the voice of Batman in my head, and
that is probably the biggest hurdle the new show faces.
Rino Romano does a fine job and fits the bill as a less
guttural Batman, but it's like drinking a Pepsi when you're
a hardcore Coke fan.
Surprisingly, I have no problems with Kevin
Michael Richardson, who voices the Joker. His tone is richer
than Mark Hamill who voiced the Joker with more of a high
pitched cackle you wouldn't think he was capable of making.
Richardson's Joker might sound sane if he were a telemarketer
and not jumping out of a giant jack in the box.
Batman does have an impressive line up of stars on
hand to lend voices to future villains.
Dan Castellaneta - Scarface
Clancy Brown - Mr. Freeze
Joaquim de Almeida - Bane
Robert Englund - The Riddler
Gina Gershon - Catwoman
Frank Gorshin - Hugo Strange
Tom Kenny - The Penguin
Ron Perlman - Killer Croc
Adam West - Mayor Grange
hard to compare this show to Batman: The Animated Series,
but it's also hard not to. Obviously the show isn't as good
as its predecessor, but I've only seen the first episode
and Bruce Timm has had 12 years to win my heart. On the
other hand, if this were the first time I'd seen a Batman
show, I'd be totally hooked.
comparison would be to match it up versus MTV's Spiderman.
That show sucked from the beginning and only got marginally
better. It never took the time to establish its continuity
so I was constantly trying to figure out where and how everything
fit. The Batman accomplished that goal in its first
episode as well as showed me that the team working on it
has its head straight about Batman, Gotham and the rest
of Bruce Wayne's world.
Batman airs regularly on Saturday mornings on Kids
WB and comes with the strongest recommendation we can give
it for you to check it out.