As you all may (or to be realistic: won’t) recall: I wasn’t exactly blown away by Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts. I didn’t think it was bad, I was just a bit… underwhelmed by it. Not one to back out immediately (I was the one guy who watched Lost ‘till the very end, holding on to the belief it would regain its footing in the end…), I decided to give the series a second go with the next installment: Monster Mayhem.
In it, the Joker gangs up with Scarecrow, Silver Banshee, Clayface and Solomon Grundy. His plan is to take over Gotham City by means of an extremely powerful virus that blocks all technology. It’s once again up to Batman and his band of merry crimefighters to take him out. The only problem is that good guy Cyborg is infected with the virus as well, and is now under Joker’s control.
So there. Pretty straightforward (if not a tad clichéd) plot. Joker happens to be one of my favourite bad guys, so this can’t possibly go wrong. Animation is fine, voiceacting was done well… I like this one better than its predecessor! The fact that there are a bunch of nice extra’s included on the DVD helps things as well. All in all, I got a good two hours worth of animated fun.
I still have one gripe with this “Unlimited” series however. During the action sequences, I get the overwhelming feeling I’m watching a commercial for Batman action figures. Joker suddenly gets a souped up motorcycle, with pop-up guns? Batman owning a robotic dog that can change into a motorcycle? Reeks of merchandising to me. Further on, we even get Batman riding a mecha t-rex into battle. While that’s probably one of the most awesome sights you’ll ever see, it strangely feels out of place. On an aisle in the toy store? Yes. During this movie? Not so much.
So if you can get over this (very minor) gripe, you actually like toytoons or you’d just like to see Batman on a t-rex, then this is the animated feature you’ve been looking for!
Edit: See, I knew I was right…
This is new for me. Astute readers may have noticed that all things Batman almost always get an instant like from me. Something about the cape and cowl just rubs me right. With Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts however… Not so much.
The story itself is quite simple. Businessman Oswald Cobblepot is a new face in Gotham’s high society. He built Gotham’s highest tower, yet still is shunned for his appearance by his peers. Batman is able to link crimes perpetraded by animalistic robots and members of the “Animalitia” to Cobblepot, who turns out to be (schocker!) criminal mastermind The Penguin. Penguin is hellbent on destroying Gotham by pulling down a meteorite onto it. Will the Bat be able to stop him in time?
I’m used to seeing the Bat-universe getting reimagined over and over again. I think it keeps the franchise fresh. But here? I’m not quite sure what they were going for. Gotham looks futuristic, with flying copcars and a Blade Runner-esque cityscape. Even Batman himself dons a new costume that allows him to fly. I’m ok with that. But nothing seems to come out of it. The futuristic timeline is abandoned really early on. You see a flying cop car now and then, but that’s it. Even the new Batsuit gets dumped after a measly five minutes, Batman claiming “it needs a few modifications”. it’s a nice reference to the Batman Beyond series , but I’d have liked to see more.
Maybe the writers felt the storyline was enough scifi already? Meteorites, cybergorillas, robots, lasers, forcefields… This feels more at home in a Justice League movie than a Batman feature. Speaking of the Justice League: none of them show up. Instead we get Red Robin, Nightwing, Green Arrow and Flash helping out the Bat.
It all feels a bit… Forced. It looks more like a toy commercial than an actual movie. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as Batman Unlimited is based on the Mattel toyline by the same name. Hmm. That actually explains a lot. A new movie is apparently coming soon, accompanied by a new series of cartoons. Maybe I’ll give it a shot…
All in all I wouldn’t really recommend this one. Unless you’ve got little Batfans running around that like the toys. For the more adult Batfans, there are far better features to be found