Batman: The Animated Series Review

Batman: The Animated Series is a 1992 superhero animated television series created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, starring  Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin.  Based on the DC Comics superhero created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the series follows the Dark Knight who battles crime in Gotham City with occasional help from Robin and Batgirl.


Positives:

  • Memorable characters
  • Dark neo-noir theme
  • Great voice performances
  • Music is well-done
  • Great animation
  • Touches on important themes
  • Thumbs up to the writing
  • Violent action
  • Great intense intro
  • Brilliantly written plots

Negatives:

  • Would’ve liked more overarching stories

Plot:  The series follows billionaire Bruce Wayne who witnesses the death of his parents at a young age, and whose grief leads him to become Batman. Batman and his allies fight crime and protect Gotham City against criminals, corruption, and super powered villains.  The series is mostly episodic but it features some brilliant yet mature storytelling.  The series also dives into who Batman is and what it means to be the Dark Knight. There are a lot of underlining themes focused into the stories.  One of the things I would’ve liked to have seen would be extensive arcs per season, perhaps have a more prominent antagonist manipulating events behind the scenes or have a special event happen that Batman/Bruce has to deal with (such as being framed for murder or hunting someone linked to a crime). Another thing that I would’ve liked to have seen is more opportunities for the bad guys to win to match the mature content. (4 out of 5)

Characters:  The show’s main protagonist is of course, Batman. Batman is aided in his war against crime by his friend and butler Alfred Pennyworth, sidekick Robin, protege Batgirl, and Police Commissioner Gordon.  Each character has their own interesting backstories and special relationship with the character which adds so much complexity to him.  Batman shares special relationships with his love interest Catwoman, who has all the charm and sex appeal of a femme fatale.  There are a lot of interesting supporting characters that provide a lot of depth, bringing different elements from the Dark Knight’s personality.  Harvey Bullock is a hardass detective who dislikes and distrust Batman, and it’s pretty entertaining watching his expression when Batman saves him.

The villains are just as important as the good guys, and just as memorable.  Although Harley Quinn is a favorite, Joker (who is awesome though not as dark as his comic book counterpart) is the one main four, the others being Penguin, Two-Face, and Riddler.  Most of Batman’s rogues gallery do have their own backstories but its their relationship/rivalry to Batman that makes them interesting.  Riddler tries to prove he’s smarter than Batman, Joker tries to best Batman, Ra’s al Ghul tries to recruite Batman, Catwoman and Talia al Ghul have romantic interests with the Dark Knight…just a lot of interesting villains viewers will find themselves drawn to in one form or another. One of my favorite villains is Babydoll, a washed up actress trying to put herself back into the spotlight. A lot of their motivations stretch from revenge to the fight for justice to just plain greed. Great, memorable characters.  (5 out of 5)

Cast: This features some awesome voice performances.  Kevin Conroy is the true voice of Batman, there is no denying this.  His voice is deep, strong, and definitely makes the Batman persona menacing. Love Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin as Joker and Harley Quinn, they were perfectly cast, especially Sorkin. The cast includes Adrienne Barbeau (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Diane Pershing (Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley/Poison Ivy), Loren Lester (Dick Grayson/Robin), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred Pennyworth), Robert Costanzo (Harvey Bullock), Melissa Gilbert (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl), and Bob Hastings (Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon). Some other standout performances is David Warner as Ra’s al Ghul and Ron Perlman as Clayface.  Dude was awesome as this guy.  The cast do feel like a perfect fit for the characters and there are some surprising guest performances by some huge names.  (5 out of 5)

Animation Style:  When it comes to the quality of the animation style, this series rocks.  The overall dark pallet makes for a great background for the show’s darker atmosphere, especially when it comes to the fights, mob, and crime.  The city setting is great and well designed, and does a great job of reflecting upon the series’ stylized theme. Character models are done well, and many of the character designs are cool. (3 out of 5)

Score:  The musical composition just works to create a dark and suspenseful tone.  The intro song is very dark and the lack of lyrics makes it that more ominous. Danny Elfman just does a great job with the soundtrack.  (4 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing is pretty damn good, and although it is a cartoon it is clearly written for older kids and adults. The writing supports strong characterization so there are memorable characters with strong developing arcs.  The fights are pretty violent, viewers will see Batman dish out the can of whoop ass. A lot.  There is a lot of violence…people die, there are guns and knives, lots of people getting beat up…but it has a great charm to it and it is done well.  Not enough to be strictly mature but enough to be serious.  The setting itself is brilliant, the overall theme of Gotham City is pretty daunting and grim.  There is a strong focus on violence and drama but it has a surprising amount of humor that perfectly balances it. Even with the show’s themes, touching on death, lose, grief, and dealing with the hardships of life.  (4 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Batman: The Animated Series is one of the best comic book adaptations of all time and it’s easy to see why.  It has everything about the comics and adds more.  Sure, my only gripe I really had is I wished there would’ve been more overarching stories among the episodes.  However, the series features good quality animation, awesome voice performances, great music, mature writing, and brilliant storytelling.  Batman: The Animated Series gets 4 out of 5.


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