So I had no idea that this existed until I started searching for Batman films to review a few months back. It was never released here in the UK as far as I can tell and it’s based on a series that I gave up on halfway through it’s second season. There’s actually some unofficial Batman films from the 60s where he faces Dracula, obviously they’re lost to time, and Batman has faced vampires and Dracula himself in various incarnations of the comics. So this isn’t actually that batty a premise. Yes I’m still doing Bat-puns. Naturally I had to buy this because I like Batman, I like vampires and I felt like padding out this review season a much as possible. Click the link for the review!
The Batman Vs Dracula starts with Penguin and Joker breaking out of prison separately in order to hunt down the hidden loot of a fellow Arkham inmate. After a few tussles with each-other and The Batman Penguin makes it to the graveyard that the loot is stashed in. Instead of finding loot he finds a creepy tomb with just a lone casket housing a skeleton. Naturally this is the moment penguin decides to accidentally cut his hand on his umbrella blade and the blood drips onto the corpse that just so happens to be the remains of Count Dracula. What bad luck huh? So with Dracula resurrected and the Penguin in his employ the Count sets about his plan to take over Gotham and about 45 minutes in to bring back his bride too.
The plot is pure silly fun and really you can’t expect much else from something with the words “Vs Dracula” in it’s title. As the story progresses The Joker gets turned into a vampire along with many citizens of Gotham and Batman attempts to find a cure for the vampiric disease. It’s pretty straight forward stuff. The series this comes from, which was just titled The Batman, was largely disliked by fans. What The Batman struggled to do over the course of it’s series was provide the sort of well crafted stories that made The Animated Series before it work so well. Not much has changed with this film. There’s some pointlessly shoehorned in elements of Bruce’s pain at the loss of his parents, which have no baring on the actual story here, and generally the story is a single minded rush to defeat a villain and save the city. Sometimes a single minded story can work very well, we don’t always require our brain muscles be flexed. The issue is that the level of storytelling isn’t beyond what was done on the show and considering that this one off feature is darker in tone and features a fair bit of blood it’s not really wholly for the younger child audience the series had. At the same time it’s not enough to keep an older Batman fan interested fully.
Luckily the actual progression of events is fluid and well plotted out managing to not feel entirely stupid. I do have some issue with the events that happen though. Early one we’re led to believe that The Joker has died, Batman feels a little bad and then just gets on with it all. When joker resurfaces later not much of a deal is made about how he survived other than him making a joke about electro-shock therapy. He gets turned into a vampire and when Batman sees him he doesn’t wonder how he survived or ended up becoming a vampire. I guess Batman just wants to capture him and find a cure but it begs the question, why have The Joker apparently die at all? Even the sequence leading to his “death” just makes you wonder why Batman was even involved. Nothing comes from it, it’s just a scene that happens. Meanwhile why does story need Joker or Penguin at all. Couldn’t a bunch of random criminals had found the tomb whilst searching for the loot? This is one of those instances I’ve mentioned before where the writers have just forced in random villains just for the sake of having them there. If they had real comic knowledge they would have introduced one of Batman’s earliest and quite forgotten villains The Monk, who happens to be a vampire himself.
Animation in the film is actually of quite a high standard, maybe a little better than the actual show. These days decent cel animation isn’t too hard to come by on kids TV. I generally find that provided a show isn’t flash animated, as they increasingly are, the animation is to a fairly high standard. It’s the designs themselves that grate. Everything is far too angular and deformed. Batman himself has eyes that are nearly at 45 degree angles. The Joker looks more like some sort of rabid werewolf than a human at times with his hunched back, short legs and long arms. I quite liked that early on in the series his jacket was a purple straight jacket. It’s not here. Just in general everything looks ugly, especially the character’s bizarrely pointed cheekbones.
What we have here is an attempt to provide a darker story for Batman fans but without any of the emotional depth that made TAS work so well. It’s not exactly bad, just very by the numbers and predictable. Around 20 minutes in we see Wayne Enterprises has been making a device that can trap solar rays. Now see if you can guess exactly how the ending happens. I guarantee whatever you’re thinking is pretty spot on. The Batman Vs Dracula is an enjoyable diversion that may be a little to dark for the younger Bat-fans but is ultimately watch-able and inoffensive. It just lacks the teeth needed to have any real bite. Yup, vampire puns.