REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: MECHS VS MUTANTS

CAST (VOICES)

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder)
Dana Snyder (Open Season 3)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
Oded Fehr (V)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Dave B. Mitchell (The Lorax)
Troy Baker (Marvel Anime)

Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsBatman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is half Batman and Batfamily adventure. This time around for Batman, Robin (Damian Wayne), Flash, and Green Arrow vs. Penguin, Bane, Chemo, Mr. Freeze and Clayface. This is the third in the Batman Unlimited direct to video animated films.The latest in the toy-centric Batman Unlimited storyline transforms from a commercial to current Dynamic Duo adventure in a frozen Gotham City. Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins) returns as Batman and introducing Boy Wonder Damian Wayne voiced by Lucien Dodge (Fate/Zero). The Damian/Batman relationship is explored a bit here, in a surprising move that wholly embraces the current DC Rebirth status quo.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsThere is no mention of Batman being Damian’s father, but it is hinted that he is the grandchild of Ra’s al Ghul when Robin awakens from a bad dream screaming, “Grandfather, NO!”. Pennyworth encourages Robin not to stay up too late studying to become Robin, as The Dark Knight has enrolled him into a “Robin Training Program”.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsWill Friedle (Batman Beyond) appears as Nightwing and a simpatico brother to young Master Wayne. When faced with the threats lobbied by a team-up of the exiled Penguin (Dana Snyder) and Mr. Freeze (Oded Fehr) who recruits Killer Croc, Chemo, Clayface and Bane, Batman and Robin enlist the aide of Leaguesters Flash (Charlie Schlatter) and Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos). Good guys round out their team with Commissioner Gordon and Dr. Kirk Langstrom.Genius scientist Victor Fries comes up with a formula to mix the compositional makeup of Bane, Chemo and Clayface to develop monsters capable of crushing cars and stomping through Gotham. Croc is the first to get juiced up, growing ten times his size and making the citizens of Gotham run for their lives. Of course, this is the Godzilla movie part, that frankly works pretty well.Image result for batman unlimited mech vs. mutantsWhat makes this Godzilla-type movie trope work really well is the cartooning and archetypes of these villains filling the Kaiju role. Batman has no choice but  to fight size with size. Batman and Green Arrow are able to pilot their own Mech suits to punish the bad guys before they have a chance to destroy Gotham’s Police Department and the rest of the city. Green Arrow is even conscious of which buildings to destroy in the process (by asking the computer which ones he owns). By placing a seed of doubt in Damian’s character early in the movie, he is able to redeem himself by playing detective himself and helping Batman problem solve. Green Arrow/Ollie Queen serves as a good uncle figure to Robin, who uses his years of experience dealing with Batman to assure Robin that he is important to the Batcave operations. Flash fulfills his normal role as comedian and lab scientist.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsWhile not the grim and gritty, this Batman Unlimited release turns out a decent story. Of course, the allied bad guys find a way to stop getting along all together when the heroes’ strength lies in unity. While I was at first skeptical of the gigantic yellow Batsymbol on Bruce’s chest, it is growing on me, ever so slowly. Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is fun for most ages, riding the fine line between serving the fans and serving the general audience, and selling toys.

REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: THE WEB SERIES

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)

DC has become increasingly more successful at gearing their content towards adults. Whether it is the gritty world of The Dark Knight or the even grittier Batman parallel Arrow, it has all been for the grown ups. We ask though, what about the children? We forget that our favorite heroes are essentially adults wearing tights who admittedly don’t always have to be so dark. We were all kids at some point and were enamored with these fictional characters at one point or another. Batman Unlimited strikes that perfect balance between kid friendly yet still enjoyable to adults. Even recent animated films from DC were extra violent so getting a film that is by no means dumbed down and still fun for everyone is a breath of fresh air.

The ensemble cast chosen for this film can be considered to be a strange pairing. For the good guys, you got Batman, Red Robin, Night Wing, Flash, and Green Arrow–who, we’d like to point out, is now referred to as Arrow. Two of those characters aren’t exactly straight from the streets of Gotham. It seems that DC is trying to bring these heroes together in different yet interesting ways, maybe even attempting to match Marvel’s ability to mix it up with no one batting an eye. Another pretty obvious reason to include Flash and Arrow is they both have popular television shows currently airing. Add Batman to the mix and you have DC’s most popular characters at the moment. If there is one thing that the shows have made apparent, it is that crossing into each other’s worlds is possible and will be occurring more often. It also makes sense that Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen would be at the same social gatherings since we all know they are both rich guys. The action is there and it is good. There are motorcycle chase scenes, transformations, great fights, you name it. There is a lot of action, with very little violence. Now, that is something hard to accomplish, but necessary when trying to create a family-friendly Batman web series. Each one of our heroes has a specialty that is used in some way like Flash’s speed or Arrow’s archery skills to complete the task at hand. As he himself will let you know, Batman is Batman, so he is a badass, which is really nothing new.

This won’t be a game changer in the DC Universe canon, but it is at least a fun time for all ages.

REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: MONSTER MAYHEM

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Troy Baker (The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Kari Wuhrer (Hellraiser: Deader)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alistair Duncan (The Batman)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)

Batman Unlimited is DC’s all-ages animation line. The dialogue and storytelling don’t pander to a younger crowd, and while the superhuman slugfests are family-friendly, they’re still every bit as well-staged and thrilling as DC’s PG-13 animated efforts.
As much as I dug Animal Instincts, the premiere entry in the Batman Unlimited series, Monster Mayhem easily tops it. The basic formula pretty much remains the same: a motley crew of four super-villains are pulling off heists all across Gotham, it turns out that a scheming master villain-type is yanking their strings, and only Batman and his buddies stand any chance of stopping the technologically-fueled apocalypse. Monster Mayhem reigns supreme over Animal Instincts because of…well, everything! For one, the roster of super villains is a lot stronger this time around. Silver Banshee hasn’t scored a whole lot of screentime in DC’s animated movies or TV series, so it’s pretty great to have her take something close enough to center stage here.Clayface is a character that works more brilliantly animated than in any other incarnation, and Monster Mayhem takes full advantage. I’m not wild about Scarecrow’s pro wrestler redesign, and he’s the most underutilized of this bunch, but the guy’s obviously a great fit for a Halloween-themed rogues gallery. Oh, man, and Solomon Grundy…! Undead and loving it, everyone’s favorite Southern-fried zombie runs away and steals every single scene he’s in. Seriously,The movie keeps its cards close to its chest and takes a while to reveal that the Joker is the sinister mastermind behind it all, but he’s right there on the cover, so you probably figured that out anyway.  Monster Mayhem is so. much. fun.I mean, look at all those clever battles in an abandoned amusement park, complete with Solomon Grundy squaring off against the Caped Crusader in the Tunnel of Love. The movie is pretty much just one “oh, wow!” after another: from its lengthy, masterfully staged, adrenaline-pumping action sequences to the wildly imaginative ways it plays with and against!)its futuristic tech. Though Monster Mayhem is meant to be a cross-promotional thing with Mattel’s action figure line, the dinosaur tie-in is genuinely pretty great and makes sense in context.Not having to deal with any origin stories lets Monster Mayhem hit the ground running and relentlessly plow forward. There just isn’t a wasted moment anywhere throughout this sucker. The master scheme is vastly superior to the one in Animal Instincts, and it’s riddled with twists and turns along the way that make the whole thing that much more engaging.

REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: ANIMAL INSTINCTS

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Dana Snyder (Chowder)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Laura Bailey (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Alistair Duncan (The Batman)

Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts really is aimed towards audiences of all ages. It’s appropriate for kids but doesn’t talk down to them. Spectacularly choreographed and consistently thrilling to watch, its superpowered battles never pull their punches but don’t spill any blood either.

Animal Instincts’ dialogue is reasonably sharp: not reaching the same heights as Justice League but not falling all that short either. The heroes and villains alike are nicely characterized, each deftly fleshed out with distinct personalities while still keeping the overall momentum screaming forward. Animal Instincts has a pretty terrific sense of humor without ever stomping on the gravity of the crisis at hand.

The voices are remarkably well cast, including a couple of DC Animated Universe alumni tackling different roles: Will Friedle as Nightwing and Phil Lamarr as Man-Bat. Charlie Schlatter returns as the voice of The Flash after a few years away, and he’s joined by such seasoned actors as Chris Diamantopoulos, Laura Bailey, Roger Craig Smith, Yuri Lowenthal, Dana Snyder, Keith Szarabajka, and the once and future King Shark himself, John DiMaggio. There’s not a weak link in the bunch, not that there would be with résumés as vast as theirs. Animal Instincts has a very distinctive set of character designs, with costumes that are more angular and exaggerated than any incarnation I’ve seen in the past. They work really well though, as does the quasi-futuristic version of Gotham City on display here. Although Batman Unlimited is intended to promote the Mattel action figure line of the same name, Animal Instincts doesn’t come across as a feature-length toy commercial. Batman briefly dons a couple suits of armor he probably wouldn’t have if there weren’t an action figure tie-in, and the Cyberanimals do feel kind of shoehorned into match the toys’ sidekicks, but neither are particularly distracting.