When Batman Beyond came out in 1999 it quickly became one of the most talked about productions to come from the Bruce Timm/WB team up. Unfortunately the show only ran for three seasons and a total of 52 episodes with a direct to video movie. Long after the final episode aired in 2001 the DC Universe has embraced Beyond with appearances in Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited. While there has been no word about future releases for the franchise the third and final season has just arrived on DVD.
If you are unfamiliar with Batman Beyond but know all about the exploits of Bruce Wayne then you'll most likely feel right at home here. The show takes place twenty years in the future with Mr. Wayne limping around as an old man. With his trusty cane and loyal pooch Ace, Bruce has become a recluse who lives inside of his mansion and rarely contacts the outside world. When he was forced to use a gun he made a vow to leave the crime fighting behind as if part of a former life. At least that's the way things were right up until Terry McGinnis shows up.
Terry stumbles upon the Batcave while at Wayne Manor and more or less convinces the old man to let him take over as Batman. Reluctantly Bruce agrees to it and after extensive training and teaching Terry becomes the Dark Knight. This is a Batman universe that is very different from the one with the classic gray suit. Armed with futuristic technology Terry becomes a veritable tank though it's mostly out of necessity. After all if the good guys have their hands on some sweet gear you just know that the bad guys do as well.
Over the course of the series there have been many throwbacks to the established Batman franchise. When you watch the show you'll still hear about Mr. Freeze, the Joker, and Commissioner Gordon. Each of these and more trickles into the show amidst new characters, locations, and enemies. The result is a world that is foreign, yet familiar when you put it in context to the DC Universe. Batman Beyond was a well crafted show in almost every regard and if you ever considered yourself a Batman fan you owe it to yourself to see this series.
In this collection of thirteen episodes there are quite a few worth noting and in my opinion rank among the best that the show produced. "Out of the Past" for instance was a real treat since it focused more on the aging Bruce Wayne than anything else. As people get older nobody ever looks forward to their birthday but when Talia (an ex-lover) shows up offering him eternal youth the old man's interest is peaked. This episode hit a lot of high notes for me since it offered more emotion and sentiment than most kid's shows. Oh, and the fact that it feature Batman: The Musical didn't hurt either. This was probably my favorite episode out of the thirteen featured here.
"The Call Parts 1 & 2" were another strong pair of episodes to be found in the third season. This particular story arc introduced the Justice League and was essentially a springboard for that program. Batman gets tapped by a noticeably older Superman (not voiced by Tim Daly) to join the Justice League and ferret out a traitor. When it turns out to be Superman himself things get tricky for Terry though fortunately for him Bruce Wayne is his mentor and keeps some Kryptonite on hand. In the second part of the story Terry confronts Superman with the truth and all hell breaks loose.
"Inqueling" was another fun episode that featured the return of Inque. There is a twist to her story involving her daughter and we get a glimpse into Inque's past. The battle with Batman almost seems like a trivial plot device but in the end the episode was pretty entertaining. The same can be said (the entertaining part anyway) about "Unmasked" which is the show's finale. In that particular episode Terry recounts an earlier adventure to get the point across to Max that his secret identity has to remain a secret. It was kind of a soft way of letting the show end but it was a decent enough story to remain a good episode.
The rest of the two disc set is filled with some filler episodes and only a couple of stinkers. "Speak no Evil" and "King's Ransom" take honors as the worst that you'll find from this season. It does have to be said though that even when Batman Beyond was at its worst the show was better than most animated series. The animation and dialogue were top class even in episodes where the plot failed.
Batman Beyond has remained one of my favorite Bruce Timm DC cartoons. The third season may be the weakest in my opinion but there are truly only two episodes that didn't impress as much as the others. If you have been collecting the DVD releases up to this point then there's no reason not to pick this up. On the flip side, if you have not checked out Batman Beyond this is a series that is worth starting at the beginning and enjoying the whole way through.
Originally airing in 2001 the episodes from the third season of Batman Beyond look pretty good on DVD. Because of the older production date the show does not shine quite as remarkably as Justice League but it does hold its own under scrutiny fairly well. Due to the classic nature of the show's production there is a decent dose of film grain in just about every scene. Some compression artifacts creep in from time to time, especially on the second disc where you'll find seven episodes. Aliasing was another flaw that cropped up but it was minimal at its worst.
Just like the previous season of Batman Beyond the only audio presentation that you'll find here comes in the form of 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. The English track offers a nice presence on the soundstage despite the limited technical range that the stereo provides. There is some slight directionality on the front channels with music, sound effects, and dialogue being pumped out at an appropriate volume. This is the type of show that would have been served well with a 5.1 surround mix though fortunately the presentation here is decent enough.
All of the supplemental materials for Batman Beyond can be found on the second disc of the set. The features this time around are very similar to what you'll find on other Timm and company releases. That being said there is a roundtable discussion regarding some details for many episodes from this season. Clocking in at just under twenty minutes you'll hear Timm, Paul Dini, Will Friedle, and James Tucker talk about some of the highlights from the third season. "Out of the Past", "The Call Parts 1 & 2", and "Curse of the Kobra Part 1" are all discussed here.
The only other feature that you'll find on this set is another roundtable talk about the third season as a whole. Moderated by Jason Hillhouse it includes Timm and Dini again as well as Alan Burnett and Glen Murakami. Fans will find a few interesting tidbits of information but like many other features like this from previous WB DVDs it's the interactions between the crew that is the main attraction. I can only imagine what it must have been like sitting in on a brainstorming session with these guys.
Batman Beyond may be nearing its ten year mark but in many ways the show is as fresh now as it was when it aired. There is a certain timeless appeal to the DC Universe cartoons and in my opinion Beyond was one of the best (taking second place next to Justice League). The third season brings the show's run to a close and while it may not be as strong as the previous years the quality is apparent. Highly Recommended
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