Beware the Batman: A Batman In A Desolate Gotham

If any of you haven’t heard, there’s a new Batman animated TV series currently showing. While this doesn’t surprise no one, since it became somewhat of a habit of milking the good ol’ Batman franchise, from video games, comics, and live-action film (reboot and recast recently with Ben Affleck just a few years removed from a successful trilogy, anyone?). So an animated TV series isn’t anything new, but this new iteration does put new tricks on the table.

If any of you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge Batman fan. I used to faithfully watch Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: Beyond on our local television (despite the fact that the network would erratically show it, dropping in and out of the network roster). I also collect the comics, though I mostly collected the ones when Dick Grayson was Batman and Damian Wayne was Robin.

I didn’t exactly like Beware the Batman when I first saw the trailer. Part of me was angry because I felt it was somehow replacing and leaving Young Justice to dust. YJ had been wonderful and deserved another season, and I thought that another Batman series isn’t something that made people excited anymore. So, I didn’t watch it for a while. But, I did eventually watch it anyway, because you know…Batman.

Good – Showcasing the more obscure villains

Professor Pyg, Toad, Magpie, and Anarky aren’t the most popular villains in Batman’s Rogue Gallery. Heck, I didn’t even know them, and what more could it be for the casual viewer. But, instead, this becomes a kind of selling point for the series. It’s refreshing that the Joker doesn’t pop all over the place. No Harvey Dent, Poison Ivy, Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze or Riddler. In all honesty, they were getting a little drab. You can’t replace the hero or portray Dick Grayson as Batman (leaving a lot of viewers scratching their heads), but you sure can introduce new (or old) villains.

Professir Pyg and Toad are quite interesting, especially their dynamic. Magpie is fanservice hot, which makes me wonder how it got past Cartoon Network’s censor. Overall, it’s quite refreshing because it’s something new for both casual and die-hard fans alike.

Good – Batman with an aesthetic and functional suit

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Dark that can actually help blend in the shadows, but also doesn’t look like some piece of spandex that a knife can cut through? If there is anything Nolan’s Batman trilogy showed, it is that Batman’s suit doesn’t just have to be a black suit of rubber. It also has to be functional, it has to make the viewers feel that the suit actually helps protect Batman physically (not just his identity). The problem with Nolan’s suit is that it was too armored. But that’s because it’s a more realistic approach and it of course have to deviate from the sleek suit Batman usually wore.

In Beware the Batman, the suit looks sleek but also seem to offer protection. The design gives also an intimidating feel to it, so you really see that it is not just some crazy guy dressing up like a bat. It’s a suit that is built for stealth and intimidation, something that the grey or blue-colored ones doesn’t really do well, in my opinion.

Neutral – The cast of characters

While I mostly liked the characters and the character designs, a few does standout. For example, Alfred:

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This is not the Alfred most are used to and this isn’t the grey-haired, mustached butler we’ve come to know and love. The Alfred is tougher and buffer, and is more of bodyguard/protector–highlighting his history in the British MI6. He still acts as the father figure to him, though we don’t get that dry humor and sarcasm that is common to comics Alfred. Still, I like this iteration though it may take some time getting used to.

The other one is Tatsu Yamashiro, or Katana. I like how they are bringing her story up, and especially how she might become Batman’s partner. Tatsu serves as Bruce’s new bodyguard/protector/driver when Alfred was injured, and may I say er character design is pretty appealing.

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She’s snarky, serious, and down to earth which seems to give a dynamic to Bruce’s more mocking attitude. Besides, it is nice to see Bruce with a new companion aside from the usual Robin, Batgirl, or even Catwoman.

For the characters I didn’t particularly like, it has to be the two Gordons, the Commissioner and Barbara. Daddy Gordon has a dull character design made worse by an annoying voice actor, and he looks like some buff guy with a creepy mustache. Meanwhile, Barbara doesn’t have any hints of her wits and looks more like a nerdy prepubescent boy with bad character design.

I have nit much to complain about the villains, they have good character design but the other minor ones were lazily designed.

Bad – Gotham is a dead city

The setting is one of the important elements of writing a story. A setting sets the space wherein your cast of characters can move, interact, and live. The setting can also affect the characters, provide obstacles, life, or even set the tone. The setting itself gives character and atmosphere, and Gotham City is its own character with particular traits.

The problem I had is that there is a lack of people in Gotham. There are several scenes where Batman fights in highways, sidewalks, buildings, and there are no pedestrians, cars, animals, or even filth. Nothing. The only times there are people is when the plot requires it to. There are no city sounds like police sirens, people shouting, or even the usual vehicular noise. You could argue that Batman is operating at the dead of the night, but even at those hours a city still makes a sound. Especially if it is a city like Gotham full of crime, high-end living, life, and chaos at every corner. What happens is that Batman and the villains are fighting in a plastic model set.

It’s very inorganic and unnatural. Heck, the bats that are a common resident of Gotham City is nowhere to be found. Let a lone a bird or two. Even a single trash is not even spared. Gotham City became some model city for the Clean and Green Award.\

Bad – A shallow plot coupled with dull scenes

The plot is too shallow. That’s another big problem I found when watching the series. There is a difference between simplicity and shallowness–a simple plot still show meaning and effort that doesn’t require a huge amount of twist and turns to figure out. A shallow plot may or may not be a simple plot that shows no particular effort in resolving conflict or even making the source of conflict. Beware the Batman has a shallow plot.

Batman solves things too quickly. With no tinkering at all. He goes to his Batcomputer, punch a few buttons, and voila, answers. There is no figuring things out. Villain motivations are cheap or sometimes unexplained at all. Villains are an integral part of storytelling, too. If you don’t add at least some kind of depth to them, they fall into the villains are bad just because cliche. Also, like I said, they got beat out easily by Batman without even breaking a sweat. The series is becoming more like Batman steamrolling his way to victory.

Character interactions also seem to look unnatural, but that may be because of the CGI faces. Speaking of CGI…

Neutral – CGI Animation

The CGI animation here is a hit-and-miss. On one side, characters look amazing, especially with their movements. It’s fluid and natural, and physics-bound with no spinal contortions or what-not. The problem I have is texturing. It all looks plastic-y and made from rubber. The building all have the same grainy or cement=smooth textures, lacking the variety or color depth. Even the lack of shadows is a problem. All in all, it looks fake and unconvincing.

What I did like is the action-scenes. It’s particular amazing, fast-paced, and offers a lot of dynamic actions that most traditional animation cannot afford to do. Watching the fights in Batman is a great joy since it is not merely Batman brawling and shouting, but more of Batman fighting using his skills, the environment, and countering on the attacks of his opponents. It’s nice until you notice that the environment looks dull and bland and the lack of people makes you think it’s a fight simulation. Heck, Toy Story had a better rendering in animation and that was made in 1995!

One might say that the lack of budget might have been the cause, but I say it’s the lack of effort by the people behind this. Especially if you see bullshit like this:

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What the fuck is this? Latin? Seriously? Every book, newspaper, and file has its content like this. They are not even making an effort to write something here, like even a random blurb. Even low-budget animation I’ve seen at least had the minimal effort to write something. You are better off showing squiggly lines, or better yet, not focusing on it at all. If you don’t have any words to show, don’t show it. Don’t make the viewers pay attention on it. It really ruins your immersion in the show and shows how lazy the studio charge of the show is.

Good – It’s Batman

It’s Batman, nuff said.

Beware the Batman is still worth a watch, often times a wonder, but often a lot of bore. It’s still something new, and it is going on a different direction. But still, most of the bad kinda ruins the good, and the show takes a huge amount of patience and effort to get used to–especially the CGI animation. If you are not used to the CGI, Alfred being a buff guy, or the lack of notable villains, then most likely you wouldn’t like it. But, if you are a big Batman fan and would still like to see a Batman that has a different take on it, it’s a good watch.

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