TV REVIEW: ‘Beware the Batman’ S01E01 ‘Hunted’
The Dark Knight takes flight in a new CGI animated cartoon series on Cartoon Network.
Directed by Sam Liu
Written by Mitch Watson
Watch it on Cartoon Network USA @ 10:00 Saturdays!
Beware of spoilers!
’Beware the Batman’ is the Cartoon Network’s latest Saturday morning incarnation of The Dark Knight and in the Batman timeline it replaces ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ as the flagship Bat-show.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation in partnership with DC Entertainment the show is executive produced by Sam Register (co-producer of Teen Titans) and produced by Glen Murakami (Batman Beyond, Teen Titans) and Mitch Watson who also serves as the writer on this episode.
The premise of the show ousts the Batman origin – who doesn’t know it by now?! – and instead brings us in to a slightly altered Batman universe that focuses on elements often forgotten in other versions. The most obvious on show here is beefing up the history of Alfred as an ex-secret agent followed by the introduction of Katana.
The first was first announced just over a year ago and little was known about the format aside from sparse comments from the production team and a few images of the animation and I have to admit that in that year I was dubious about the idea of a CGI cartoon based on my favourite hero as I’m generally cautious around any 3D animated TV series.
But thankfully this pilot dispelled most of my fears.
Similar to when ‘The Batman’ first premiered in September 2004 this show is being heavily compared to ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (hereby BTAS). Unless by some sheer miracle a new version of Batman comes along and de-thrones BTAS every future cartoon will be unfairly compared to brilliance that was the 1992 show. This is not comparison you will find below… well maybe one reference…
This show has a much darker tone than ‘The Brave and the Bold’ which finds itself more in line with the Nolan movie series of recent years and in that I find this show to be a great return to form. I like ‘The Brave and the Bold’ but I didn’t love it.
There are few daylight scenes in this episode so the colour palette is naturally very dark and as you can see from the above screen-cap Batman’s costume is also in line with the movie universe in that it is almost entirely black.
There’s an interesting mix of modern and classic design which echoes the mashup of modern and art deco which became known as the dark deco of BTAS (there’s your one reference). It’s not a rip-off and looks in no way similar but it works well. I particularly like the design of the Bat-computer with its retro keyboard. Also keep an eye out for the various gadgets from the utility belt which all feature nifty designs.
The voice cast here is well suited. Anthony Ruivivar (Tropic Thunder, Third Watch) is our Batman and at times could be mistaken for Kevin Conroy (okay second reference) but is on his way to finding his individual Batman voice.
The voice which stood out most for me was JB Blanc (The Count of Monte Cristo and PotC: At World’s End) as Alfred. His portrayal is so un-typically Alfred that it takes some getting used to. Other reviewers have referred to this Alfred as a Jason Statham type and I am inclined to agree. His characterisation will take the most time to become accustomed to for many a fan but don’t discredit him; the potential for interesting development is there and waiting to be tapped.
The dialogue is strong and consistent throughout and from the opening scenes each of the characters has their own voice within this world. This Batman is younger and inexperienced and its made clear to us from the outset. We are treated to brief glimpses of Katana who we already know will be important in this world and there is also an introduction to Lt. Gordon.
The animation is also surprisingly strong and I was impressed with the fight choreography. The production team and using the CGI medium to their advantage and for that I am grateful. The texture of Batman’s costume is a little plastic for my liking but it’s a small gripe in a cartoon with wide scope.
I’ve not yet touched on the villains on show here. One major aspect of this series is that the production team plan to focus on lesser villains within the DC mythos. This week: Pyg and Toad. I have to plead ignorance on their histories but the characters here are interesting and have enough weight to carry the episode throughout. They’re not a replacement for Joker or Penguin but having an unknown villain each week adds a level of interest to the show which lacks when we already know our villains intimately.
Overall a good start to the series.