14 May 2011

"Batman Beyond - Season One"

Batman Beyond - Season One
Starring the Voice Talents of: Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis, Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Written and Directed by Various
DVD Release Date: 21 March 2006
List Price: $26.98
280 Minutes

I was disappointed when I learned that Batman: The Animated Series was to give way to a sequel series set in the future with a teenage Batman.  The only bright spot was that the series would feature Bruce Wayne as an aged mentor, and that this series would be part of the continuity of the previous show.  I resisted Batman Beyond, but I did buy the first DVD release (featuring the premiere episode presented in its initial broadcast form as a singular episode, with a few other episodes) and gave it a look.  It just fell kind of short for me at the time and I largely ignored the series.

Since then, of course, we've seen numerous incarnations of Batman on screens big and small and when I happened upon Batman Beyond - Season One on DVD at Walmart recently for $15 I took the leap.  The design is terrific, though some of the lesser characters feel cartoon-y and generic (especially Terry McGinnis's classmates at Hamilton Hill High School).  The character of Derek Powers was an inspired story element, as the guy who has taken over Bruce Wayne's corporate business.  He's on par with Lex Luthor and J.R. Ewing in the Corporate Sleaze Bag Hall of Fame, and his impact is felt throughout the entire season--even in episodes lacking his presence.  It lends a structure to this season that isn't always found in the beginning of a series.

I didn't rate any single episode above 4-stars, but none lower than three.  The standouts for me were the two-part opener, "Rebirth," "Meltdown" (a worthy follow-up with the tragic Mr. Freeze), "Heroes" (featuring a Fantastic Four-style trio), and "A Touch of Curare" (in which a member of the League of Assassins is sent to kill Barbara Gordon's husband).  The stuff with Terry McGinnis's friends and family didn't engage me, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the world of Bruce Wayne through his youthful eyes.  The scenes in "A Touch of Curare" between Terry and the former Batgirl were as good as it gets for this Bat-fan.

As for the bonus content, I ultimately found it lacking.  There are only two commentary tracks, each featuring five guys. It's hard for anyone to contribute much with four other guys in the span of 22 minutes.  Bizarrely, someone decided to only feature a commentary for the first part of "Rebirth."  I have no idea why it wasn't felt that the second half of the premiere was worthy of comment.  "Music of the Knight" showcases five specific scenes from assorted episodes with only the score from the scene playing.  It's a nice feature, but could have been more interesting with composer remarks and other selections.  As it is, the scenes don't even credit the composer(s) responsible for the work being showcased!  Lastly, there's "Inside Batman Beyond," a brief group conversation from the series producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Paul Dini with director Glen Murakami.  Like the commentary tracks, there's genuinely interesting stuff to be mined from these guys, but insufficient time alloted to their insights.