The Batman vs. Dracula/The Batman Superman Movie (Double Feature)
The Batman/Superman Movie
Directed By: Toshihiko Masuda
Voice Cast: Tim Daly, Dana Delany, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin, and Lisa Edelstein
The Batman vs. Dracula
Directed By: Michael Goguen
Voice Cast: Rino Romano, Tom Kenny, Kevin Michael Richardson, Peter Stormare, and Tara Strong
|The Batman/SupermanMovie||The Batman vs. Dracula|
|Studio||Warner Bros.||Warner Bros.|
|Running Time||61 Minutes||83 Minutes|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, Spanish||English SDH, French, Spanish|
|Release Date||August 11, 2009 (April 23, 2002)||August 11, 2009 (October 18, 2005)|
Over the last few years, Warner has been re-packaging a lot of their previously released titles into multi-movie releases. This trend continues with this double feature release combining the animated superhero movies The Batman/Superman Movie with The Batman vs. Dracula. There is no new content for either, and for that matter, this double feature release is bit-identical to what has come before. The previously released single-layered DVD-5 of The Batman/Superman Movie and the dual-layered DVD-9 of The Batman vs. Dracula have simply been combined onto a single double sided DVD-14 "flipper" disc. Since Warner forwarded a review copy and neither title was previously reviewed on the forum, I decided to give them a look.
The Batman/Superman Movie****In The Batman/Superman Movie, Gotham City arch-villain The Joker (Hammill) is running short on cash, but after a theft of a museum artifact, finds himself long on Kryptonite, a material known to be toxic to Metropolis-based Superman (Daly). The Joker and his sidekick, Harley Quinn (Sorkin) travel to Metropolis to cut a deal with evil genius industrialist Lex Luthor (Brown): Kill Superman in exchange for a billion dollars. Meanwhile, Batman (Conroy), in his civilian capacity as billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne, also travels to Metropolis to discuss a potential joint venture between Wayne Enterprises and Luthor's company, Lexcorp. While in town, Bruce also takes the time to pitch a little romance towards Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, much to the consternation of Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent.
The Batman/Superman Movie combines episodes from the Superman animated series that originally aired in October of 1997 under the episode titles of "World's Finest Parts One, Two and Three" into a single movie. This was not too much of a stretch since I believe the episodes actually ran back to back to back when they first aired. It was the first animated pairing of the two popular comic figures in their 1990s incarnations, and it is largely a successful venture that works as well or better as an extended narrative as any of the recent direct to video animated movies based on DC Comics characters.
The production team appears to have approached the project with an "everything but the kitchen sink" attitude as if they would never have a chance to pair the characters again. As such, it has a plot involving both of its protagonists' top villains, a romantic triangle between Superman, Batman, and Lois Lane, tensions between both heroes as they discover the others' secret identity, and even some "cat-fighting" between the villains' top female hench-ladies. These elements are well integrated into a tight narrative that all plays out in barely over an hour and still has plenty of room for lots of kid-friendly action involving indestructible robots with lasers, a city-destroying flying "wing", and the obligatory super-villain death traps.
The design style strikes a balance between the styles of the Superman and Batman animated series that were airing at the time. It is streamlined for television animation, and even compared to the designs for the earlier Batman animated series from the same production team in early 1990s, but done so with a stylization that works for the material. For those who already have collected the episodes from the Superman animated series, there is nothing new here besides a "Superman/Batman Movie" title text superimposed over the "World's Finest" title screen from the first episode, but for those uninterested in series who merely want to dip their toes in the water, this is an excellent sampling. It is a kid friendly production with enough depth to its storytelling to be entertaining for comics fans of all ages as well.
The Batman vs. Dracula **½In The Batman vs. Dracula, Arkham Asylum inmates The Joker (Richardson) and The Penguin (Kenny) learn from a fellow inmate about a large stash of loot hidden in a Gotham City cemetery. They independently escape from the Asylum intent on finding it, but when the Penguin gets there first, he stumbles across a tomb for the infamous Vampire Dracula (Stormare), and inadvertently raises him from the "undead". Dracula enthralls The Penguin and enlists his aid to begin terrorizing the citizens of Gotham City and turning many of them into Vampires. Batman (Romano) finds himself accused of many of Dracula's assaults and pursued by the police. He must race to discover a way to defeat Dracula before Gotham is overrun by the undead - a race that becomes all the more urgent when Dracula sets his sights on his alter ego Bruce Wayne's girlfriend, Vicky Vale (Strong).
The Batman vs. Dracula is a feature-length direct to video film based on The Batman animated television series. The series was an attempt to reinvent the Batman franchise with a more youthful spin. I saw a few episodes from the first season, but never really warmed to the show. I found the design style of the show to be unappealing and the storytelling very "dumbed down" compared to the 1990s animated versions of the character. I was told by others that it improved in later seasons, so I figured this film would be a chance to test that claim.
Compared to my memory of the early episodes in the series, this DTV movie does seem less forced in its attempt to appeal to younger viewers. I still do not care for the character designs, with The Joker being by far the biggest disaster of the bunch, but the backgrounds and use of color are better than I remembered. I guess I just like Art Director Jeff Matsuda's taste in architecture better than his unnecessarily "busy" character designs.
The story is straightforward almost to the point of dullness. Interesting elements help this situation, including the novelty of blending Dracula-style gothic horror with Batman-style gothic superhero elements and a plot development involving The Joker, but the film still feels excessively long at a running time of 83 minutes. It also feels somewhat dumbed down compared to The Batman/Superman Movie. I suppose that can be chalked up to an attempt to appeal to a "younger/hipper" audience. The script is filled to the brim with terrible eye-roll inducing quips, mostly from The Penguin who, when talking to Dracula about Vicky Vale, is given the immortal line: "Nice jugulars".
The VideoBoth films are presented in 4:3 standard definition video consistent with their originally intended aspect ratios, The Superman/Batman Movie (***) looks like the circa 1997 television cel animation that it is, and as such, looks a bit soft, exhibits some light film element wear and tear, and suffers from occasional "jaggies" along the edges of line art. The Batman vs. Dracula (****) has few if any production artifacts, but does suffer from occasional mpeg noise noticeable around the edges of objects.
The AudioThe Superman/Batman Movie (***) has an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track that benefits greatly from Warner Animation's use of a full orchestra to score their cartoons of the time. There is an impressive amount of low frequency "oomph" to the action scenes for a TV production, although wide stereo use is infrequent. The Batman vs. Dracula (****) has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track that has very good fidelity and a better than average use of the 5.1 surround field than I have come to expect from DTV fare. Both titles have Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0 dub tracks. The packaging indicates a Portuguese track on The Batman/Superman Movie, but it is not present on the disc.
The Extras **½The Batman/Superman Movie includes the following special features, all presented in 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless otherwise indicated below:
- Cast & Crew - is just two text screens listing key voice acting and production talent
- The Joker's Challenge is an interactive game that allows the viewer to move through a series of menu-based questions in order to defeat the Joker and Lex Luthor. Choosing to play either as Batman or Superman results in a different series of three questions involving choosing one of multiple objects displayed on the screen in order to accomplish a specified task. Choosing correctly results in an extended clip from the film and choosing incorrectly results in a brief clip of you being mocked/laughed at by one of the film's villains. This is a pretty slight feature that nobody is likely to access more than once.
- Conversation with Producer Bruce Timm (5:07) is a brief one-sided interview where Timm talks about his work on the Batman and Superman animated series and the thinking that went into the team-up episodes that were combined to form this movie.
- The Art of Batman: The Batman Superman Movie (2:22) is a brief montage of scenes from the film with related behind the scenes production art. There is some interesting stuff here, including storyboards and model sheets, but it all flies by "faster than a speeding bullet", so have your "pause" button ready. It ends with a couple of items of text-based production trivia
- Get the Picture: Batman (1:42) Is ostensibly a "how to draw Batman" featurette that just shows an under-cranked image of a hand drawing Batman set to some generic background music.
- Get the Picture: Superman (:55) is the same as previous, except with the Superman character
- Trailers is a collection of promos for other Warner Bros. animated video fare and one theatrical trailer. Specifically, it includes the following promos:
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (1:46) DVD trailer
- Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero (1:06) DVD trailer
- The Batman Superman Movie(1:11) DVD trailer
- Scooby-Doo Sneak Peeks(1:56) promotes six animated Scooby-Doo DVD releases
- Scooby Doo(4:3 letterboxed 1:06) is the theatrical teaser for the 2002 live action film
The Batman vs. Dracula includes the following special features, all presented in 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound:
- Science vs. Superstition (4:24) is a brief featurette that looks at various superstitions surrounding vampires and Dracula as well as the historical and scientific information behind them. It is narrated by Rino Romano in character as The Batman. It mixes still images and clips from the film in a montage illustrating Romano's narration.
- City of Knight is a hybrid interactive game/collection of behind the scenes featuretes. Its navigation is set-up as an interactive tour of Gotham City with a map that connects the viewer to different menu screens based on locations in the film. Within these menu screens are multiple hot spot links that can connect the viewer to brief behind the scenes featurettes on the making of the film. There are also hidden vampires that will kick you out of the menu screen if you select them, which is a major annoyance if you are just trying to watch all of the featurettes. On-camera comments are offered up by Stpry Editor/Supervising Producer Duane Capizzi, Senior VP Creative Affairs Roland Poindexter, Executive Producer Sander Schwartz, Producer Linda Steiner, Art Director/Producer Jeff Matsuda, and Supervising Producer Michael Goguen.
- Voices in Close-up (5:49) is a featurette focusing on the voice cast with plenty of footage of recording sessions as well as on-camera interview comments from Rino Romano, Kevin Michael Richardson, Tom Kenny. The most entertaining part shows the actors running multiple takes of lines in a variety of styes. The actors talk about their preferred methods for getting in character and a few other tricks of the voice acting trade.
- Trailers is a collection of promos for various other animated DVDs as well as a teaser for one upcoming (at the time of original release) animated television series.
- The Batman: The Man Who Would Be Bat (1:06)
- Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry (:42)
- Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy(:39)
- Atomic Betty (1:38)
- Hi HI Puffy Ami Yumi Vol. 2 (:30)
- Batman Vol. 4/Superman Vol.2 (1:16)
- Thundercats: Season 1, Vol. 1 (:53)
- Teen Titans: Fear Itself/Justice League: Joining Forces (1:31)
- Hot Wheels Acceleracers: Breaking Point (:57)
- Kids WB! Loonatics (:17)
- What's New, Scooby-Doo? Vol. 8 Zoinks! Camera! Action! (:56)
PackagingThe movies are encoded on either side of a single DVD-14 (double-sided disc with one single-layered and one double-layered side). Somewhat strangely, the cover image shows a rendering of Batman that does not quite match the style of either animated film included on the disc.
Summary ***½Despite the common denominator of the Batman character, this re-package of two previously released animated superhero movies seems like a bit of an odd combination. The film's are stylistically very different and feature dramatically different takes on the two characters they share in common (Batman and The Joker). I greatly preferred The Batman/Superman Movie to The Batman vs. Dracula, although the latter receives a technically better A/V presentation. Extras are predictably kid-oriented, with some very rudimentary behind the scenes information, but not a lot of depth.