I wasn’t sure if I should include this in my Batman season but it has the words “Batman” and “Movie” in the title so I guess my hands were tied. The reason I would have discounted it was because A) It’s actually 3 episodes of the Superman animated series tied together and 3) isn’t even an hour long. Considering I currently have 8 days to get through another 6 Batman films before The Dark knight Rises is released, plus my super secret 150th review choice, I may have made the wrong decision. Luckily The Batman Superman Movie proved to be a pretty enjoyable piece of cobbled together Bat-tainment. Nope, I’m not done with the bat puns. That 1966 film has had an effect on me. Click the Bat-link to read my review.
The Batman Superman Movie has a nice simple plot. Joker (Mark Hamill) has no money because Batman (Kevin Conroy) keeps ruining his fun, so he steals a Jade Dragon statue that’s actually made of Kryptonite and heads to Metropolis to kill Superman (Tim Daly) in exchange for $1billion of Lex Luthor’s (Clancy Brown) mega dollars. Then Batman goes after him. Pretty straight forward. Despite being made up of 3 separate episodes of the Superman Animated Series the film actually manages to not feel too much like it is. It clearly has major sequences spaced the right amount of time apart to fit an episodic format but the singular story running throughout gels together a lot better than you’d expect. Mostly this is down to the sub-plot running throughout of the rivalry between Batman and Superman, made more complex by Lois Lane’s (Dana Delany) sudden interest in Bruce Wayne.
At first the pair don’t trust each other at all, and when Bruce starts dating Lois it stirs up some level of disdain from Clark/Superman. Disdain not helped by the fact that Superman knows who Batman really is after taking a peek through his mask. Batman, of course, gets his own back shortly after. It may be a pretty standard first encounter of the super friends type of story but it works well enough and gives the story a little something extra to work with which helps when The Joker’s scheme is pretty much Superman attempted murder 101. Get Kryptonite, find Superman, walk away when you should have killed him. That plot.
This feature was a bit of a milestone in both the batman and Superman series because it is pretty much the point that they stopped being separate cartoons and became what would be the formation of the DC Animated Universe. Which is easily one of the most consistent and least over-written of all the DC multiverses. This is what lead to the Justice League series which was a damn fine 4 seasons of superhero action. It’s kind of a shame that the universe hasn’t been revisited since the end of Justice League Unlimited. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman never got their own shows after all.
Performances from the main cast are pretty much what you’d expect at this point. None of them really have the strongest material to work with but they enthuse the lines with the right amount of grit, boy scout heroics and humour that you’d want from them. This doesn’t have the sort of edge that Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker has and it doesn’t have the deep nuanced story of Mask Of The Phantasm. It does have a wing jet painted to look like a giant smile though, which is a plus point that more films should utilise.
Being a compilation of TV episodes the animation isn’t the finest done by the team. They’ve clearly worked within the constraints of the shows schedule and budget. It would have been good to see them given the sort of time they would have had for Batman Mask Of The Phantasm or Sub Zero considering how special the premise is. That said the animation isn’t too bad, it’s just not as flashy as you’d like it to be. Also the place this film exists within the two shows run is at an odd point where the animation style of the Batman series had changed to one that doesn’t quite gel with the Superman series. The Joker especially is drawn as a very cartoonish and angular character. A lot more so than he had been In the first few series anyway. It’s the completely black eyes that bug me, which is weird because Batman’s entirely white eyes never bugged me at all.
So in the end The Batman Superman Movie is a pretty standard, predictable adventure but it is at least and enjoyable one that doesn’t just sit back and rely on the fact that Batman and Superman are teaming up for the first time to carry it through. You’re not going to be missing a classic if you don’t see it but there’s enough here to make it a worthwhile evenings viewing. Well, and hours viewing.