Batman Mystery of the Batwoman

  • Title:  Batman Mystery of the Batwoman
  • Director: Curt Geda
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2003
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Mystery
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Brooks, Kelly Ripa, Elisa Gabrielli, Bob Hastings, Tara Strong, Robert Costanzo
  • Format: Color Animation, Standard
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“The last thing Gotham City needs is a vigilante running amok.”— Bruce Wayne
“As they say on the streets – ‘I ain’t touching that one.’ “— Alfred

A mysterious new vigilante appears in Gotham — the Batwoman, but is she a force for good, or a criminal? That, and just who is the Batwoman, is a mystery Batman must solve. Bruce meets Kathy Duquesne, the daughter of famous gangster, Carlton Duquesne, and begins dating her, in part because he wonders if she might have something to do with the sudden appearance of the Batwoman, a masked vigilante. He also meets a brilliant, and pretty, and blonde female metallurgist, nicknamed Rocky, who is newly employed at Wayne Enterprises. When Batman finds her new programmable metal at the scene of Batwoman’s attack on the Penguin’s club, he wonders if she might be involved. And he also runs into Harvey Bullock’s new partner, Sonia, but doesn’t initially realize the importance of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Carlton Duquesne, Penguin, and Rupert Thorne (another gangster) are plotting how to deliver a cargo of weapons to whatever-stan (a made-up name that’s not really that important). Batwoman had destroyed their first shipment, being transported by truck, so they plot for the next shipment to leave Gotham on a ship — a ship disguised to look like a cruise ship. For insurance, Penguin calls in Bane (the muscle-bound, steroid-addicted, South American mercenary, famous for once literally breaking the back of the Bat).

Batman, with help from Robin, and the ever present support of Alfred, investigates the mystery, trying to determine who the Batwoman is. He comes to the conclusion it might be Rocky and Kathy working together, but Robin finds no evidence that the two ever met. But, Batman then discovers a link: Sonia — who knew them both. Batman, or Bruce, as the case may be, has also discovered what the three have in common: a reason to be angry at the unholy triumvirate of Penguin, Thorne, and Duquesne. Sonia, as a child, saw her parents business destroyed by Thorne — a disaster from which the family never recovered and tore them apart (though it was Batman who saved her life in the fire). Rocky’s boyfriend was framed by Thorne and Penguin and sits in jail. And Kathy lost her mother when a rival gang shot at her father and killed her mother instead.

But Bruce also cannot condone someone else being a vigilante in his town, especially when innocent people get hurt, or even criminals get killed. He sets out to stop them. Meanwhile, Kathy’s taken a bomb to the ship that carries Penguin and Thorne’s guns — but she gets caught by Bane. She’s unmasked, but Batman arrives to save her, followed by Robin in the Batboat and the other two Batwomen on their glider-rockets. The bomb explodes, sinking the ship, but all three Batwomen are rescued and Throne, Penguin and Duquesne are caught.

I enjoyed this Batman animated movie. This was the second time I’d seen it, so I knew who the Batwoman was, yet the care the storyline takes in drawing character studies of these three women, who have all be affected by crime and violence, makes the story very re-watchable. Also, the cast is excellent, bringing back many of the regulars from Batman: The Animated Series — Robert Conzanso as Bullock, Bob Hastings as Gordon, Tara Strong as Barbara, and, of course Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred. Yes, a Robin is in this, but since Barbara is away at college, I suspect Dick is too (and possibly not yet Nightwing) and the Robin is Tim Drake, tho’ he’s never actually called by name.

Recommendation: See it
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Batman Subzero

  • Title: Batman Subzero (aka Batman & Mr. Freeze Subzero)
  • Director: Boyd Kirkland
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 1998
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Michael Ansara, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Loren Lester, Bob Hastings, Mary Kay Bergman
  • Format: Color Animation, Standard
  • DVD Formats: R1, NTSC
  • Length: 67 Minutes

As with many Batman movies, this animated film is more about the villain than about Batman. It’s also the only one of the many DC Animated Universe movies that I saw first on TV, prior to buying the DVD. In some ways, it’s more like a double-length or two-parter Batman: The Animated Series story than a movie (though a true 2-parter would only be about 44 minutes). The film opens with Freeze, outside his survival suit, swimming in the Antarctic with his two pet polar bears – he gathers some fish then returns to his cave, stopping to give the fish to a Native boy. Freeze then goes to give a flower to his beloved wife Nora, who is trapped in a cryogenic capsule that keeps her alive.

An accident occurs — a sub surfaces in the cave, causing a earthquake-like disturbance which destroys Nora’s cryo chamber. Freeze takes her to Gotham City, finds a doctor he had worked with who was an expert in cryogenics, and kidnaps him. They discover the only way to save Nora is an organ transplant, and because of her “rare blood type – AB-” kidnap Barbara Gordon, who is the only one in the donor database who shares that blood type.

Now, anyone with a high school knowledge of basic biology or who’s watched a few medical dramas can spot the major flaw in this plot. First — someone with AB- blood is a nearly universal RECEIVER – they can take any negative blood type (A, B, AB, or O). Only a positive RH factor can’t be used. And second, to be an organ donor – one needs to match a heck of a lot more than blood types, this is why organ matching is so difficult. If only blood matching mattered chances would be as low as 1 in 4 of finding a match, modified by regional variances in blood types. But I digress… Now, if you ignore that little plot hole…

Dick Greyson (Robin) and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) are on a date when Freeze and his two polar bears arrive and kidnap her. Dick tries to prevent it but is unable to; he gives chase, but eventually Freeze escapes. Batman and Robin investigate, and eventually figure out Barbara is being held on an abandoned oil drilling platform in the ocean. They take the Batwing to rescue her. Meanwhile, Barbara’s gotten herself free for the second time, but she gets trapped on an upper gangway when the doctor Freeze found (and hired to help him with the promise of lots of gold) fires at her with a gun, igniting the fuel tanks. As Batman and Robin arrive, Freeze does too. Barbara gets to the deck of the platform, and Freeze insists Batman rescue Nora. Barbara also points out the Native boy is also trapped below decks. Barbara and Batman rescue Nora and the boy, with some assistance from Freeze (he cools down the fires in their way with his Freeze gun), and bring the two to the Batwing. Then Batman goes back to rescue Freeze. Bruce is crushed when he fails and Freeze falls to his (supposed) death.

In the coda, after seeing the two polar bears and Freeze swimming away, we see Freeze in the Antarctic again, watching through the window of a research station. On TV, he sees Nora Fris (Victor Fris, aka Mr. Freeze’s wife) is alive, thanks to an operation paid for by the Wayne Foundation. Freeze smiles.

Overall, a fairly good story. I liked that Freeze wasn’t portrayed as completely evil (although wanting to kill Barbara to save his wife was pretty heartless), just a man who completely loved his wife and couldn’t stand losing her. I also liked that in their final battle — Batman tries to save Freeze — though Freeze had injured Dick and kidnapped Barbara. Kevin Conroy is an excellent Batman/Bruce Wayne. Ansara does a great job as Freeze. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is great as Alfred as always. The voice cast of Batman: The Animated Series is excellent as always. Barbara Gordon, for some reason, was re-cast — Mary Kay Bergman sounds a bit young, but manages to avoid giving Barbara a “Nancy Drew” feel.

By the way, in case your wondering – I found my copy at a grocery store for $5.00, it’s the last of the DC Animated movies I bought, even though it’s an early one.

Recommendation: For the series Batman collector only; worth a rental/Netflix.
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Batman Mask of the Phantasm

 

  • Title: Batman Mask of the Phantasm
  • Directors: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm
  • Voice Direction: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 1993
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Mystery, Action, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Dana Delany, Mark Hamill, Stacy Keach Jr., Abe Vigoda, Bob Hastings,
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • Length: 76 Minutes
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC, Double-sided Standard/Widescreen

“I know I made a promise, but I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t count on being happy. Please, tell me it’s OK.’ ” Bruce Wayne to his parents’ grave

“The way I see it, the only one in this room controlled by his parents is you.” Andrea Beaumont to Batman

The first in a series of animated movies that followed the very successful DC Animated Universe on WB and it’s associated networks (Cartoon Network, Boomerang), Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a promising start. The film opens with wonderful art deco titles, and quickly moves into the plot: someone is killing top gangsters in Gotham City, and a new congressman assumes it’s Batman and makes him Public Enemy # 1. Meanwhile, an old girlfriend of Bruce’s — Andrea Beaumont, has returned to town.

Much of the film is flashbacks to their blossoming relationship, from their first meeting in a graveyard – Bruce, visiting his parents, overhears Andrea talking to her (dead) mother – to their courtship, and Bruce eventually proposing (a proposal quickly shattered by the emergence of a huge number of bats from a nearby cave). Bruce even decides that he would put aside the cape and cowl, and his mission, to be with Andrea. However, she sends his ring back the next day, and Bruce adapts the Bat as his symbol. He’d been working on a costume, something to scare criminals, but hadn’t quite gotten it perfected yet at that point in time.

In the present, Batman is trying to discover who is killing off these old gangsters, a crime being pinned on him no less. Gradually he discovers all the gangsters were clients of Andrea’s father (some sort of accountant or investment banker, it’s not really spelled out), however, he assumes it’s Andrea’s father responsible for the crimes.

The Joker shows up, voiced by Mark Hamill, as he was in Batman: The Animated Series, to wreak havoc. The “Phantasm” (not actually named as such in the film) confronts Joker, the last one involved in Beaumont’s forced exile from Gotham and eventual death, only to be unmasked – it’s Andrea. Batman arrives, and fights Joker in the now decrepit World’s Fair grounds, which, ironically, were dedicated to portraying a brighter future. Batman and Joker fight in the 1/3rd scale “city” appearing like Godzilla and King Kong – Joker even sends a group of toy airplanes after Batman. But Joker has an ace up his sleeve — he’s rigged the entire place to explode. Batman is able to stop Andrea from killing the Joker, and escapes himself, but fears Andrea is dead (she’s not, we see her leaving Gotham by boat, but she’s not talking either).

This film had the producers of Batman: The Animated Series experimenting with a longer format for the first time. Aspects do work — there’s some great filming, and the plot is nice and complex with enough twists and turns for just over an hour. There’s one scene where Batman, having chased the “Phantasm” ends up in a graveyard — he suddenly realizes he’s in the graveyard where his parents are buried. And there is a wonderful shot of Batman looking at the Wayne grave, and we see the shadow of Batman’s outline fall on the grave. It’s a shot worthy of Citizen Kane in all the complexity of what it suggests: about Bruce, about Thomas and Martha Wayne, about the effects one act of violence had on a life. And Andrea too was affected – the night Bruce proposes to her, her father announces they have to go on the run – the mob wants money from him, money he doesn’t have. Both Bruce and Andrea are robbed of any chance of being happy. But the Bruce/Andrea romance is also, in a way, the downfall of the story. Bruce in love just doesn’t work the way, say Clark Kent’s romance with Lois Lane’s does. Or even Bruce’s occasional flirting with Wonder Woman does (see Justice League and Justice League Unlimited). Bruce may flirt, he deliberately brings “eye candy” to his social functions, but he’s way too dedicated to his night job to get serious with any woman.

And, oddly enough, though well played by Mark Hamill, Joker seems almost like an after-thought to the film. He’s not orchestrating events at all, but merely reacting to them. This makes him seem oddly under-used, though there are some great moments with the Joker anyway.

And, finally, for a mystery, the film ends with a giant plot-hole. We know the “Phantasm” killed the mobsters, and that “he” is a “she”— Andrea Beaumont. Bruce knows this as well, and thinks she’s dead at the end of the film. But the cops don’t know that. Just how was Batman planning on convincing them? When they’d chased him all over Gotham City trying to kill him?

But, overall, a good try – and successful enough for an additional string of DC Animated films to be made, most of which I have.

By the way, for the curious, the DC Animated Universe is: Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond, plus various movies. Don’t ask me to put them in order — I originally saw them widely out-of-order, tho’ I now own all on DVD but Superman.

Recommendation: For the serious Batman collector, a “should have”, but otherwise rent it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars