Lately it seems you can't go anywhere without bumping into Batman. DC's most famous detective is simply all over the place with the hype surrounding the upcoming Dark Knight film. From the animated release of Gotham Knight to previews of Lego Batman the video game you really can't go anywhere or watch anything without hearing about the caped crusader. I suppose it's only appropriate that as another chapter of the Batman saga opens another one closes. The Batman animated series has just had its fifth and final season released on DVD and it showcases once again why more Batman is a good thing.
For the Batman fan this has been an interesting series to watch mature. It started out as kind of a weak effort and didn't quite reach the level of quality we all hoped it would until the second year. The problem is that Batman: The Animated Series really raised the bar for an animated interpretation of Bats. In the case of The Batman it wasn't necessarily bad per say but it simply wasn't traditional or closely related to the original series. Over time the show has definitely grown and it's safe to say that it's come into its own. Though this may be the final season it's definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take.
In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That's right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.
Destruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex's control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it's up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there's plenty of fighting between the DC legends.
If you have been following the series this marks Superman's first appearance on the show and you'll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season's introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman's roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel. Sometimes this works for the show and at other points it feels a little disjointed. Still, if you love the DC universe you will most likely appreciate what's going on here.
Despite the overall positive impression I had with this season one problem I had with the DC universe element was the fact that most of the episodes with the other heroes felt entirely forced. For instance in the episode "Vertigo" the Green Arrow makes an appearance and Batman gets caught up in a fight between Arrow and Count Vertigo. The episode itself turns out to be entertaining but Batman feels kind of like a sidekick to Arrow's story. The show is called The Batman for a reason and there definitely could have been a stronger plot thrown together.
Likewise "Mirror Darkly" has Batman teaming up with the Flash to stop Mirror Master who has made his way to Gotham and "Ring Toss" features the Green Lantern. Both episodes were fun to watch but within the context of this series they simply didn't work so well. The Batman was undeniably stronger when it focused on Batman, Robin, Gotham, and the laundry list of Batman villains. Joker, Penguin, Wrath, and Firefly all appear in one-shot episodes here which prove to be the most successful. There's just something about the series focusing on what it does best that has made this show as good as it is.
With all of that being said this season is still very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman's run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful. This season definitely has a different tone than the previous ones though I must say that if I wanted to watch Justice League I'd pop one of those DVDs in. Team up episodes are fine once in a while as a diversion but to include so many in one season makes it feel very unbalanced.
Despite some misgivings this is still a good season for The Batman and a nice way to close out the series. Sure Batman plays second fiddle to other heroes in a good portion of these episodes but there are still some great Bat-centric episodes wedged in between. If you have been following the series to this point then you should consider this another worthwhile season. On the flipside if you're new to The Batman you should definitely start watching from the beginning. This series may not be quite as good as The Animated Series but it's still a great way to spend some time in Gotham.
Like the previous season of the show The Batman's final trip to DVD comes with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. This set's presentation matches the show's broadcast and previous outings on DVD which isn't very surprising. With thirteen episodes presented on two discs there are some compression artifacts that crop up every once in a while and grain is still present as well. Neither is very distracting or prevalent but you will notice them from time to time. Other than those flaws the video here is pretty solid with strong colors and a nice blend of the darkness and grit we have come to know Gotham for.
Also keeping in step with the previous DVD releases for The Batman the audio here is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0. The quality is very good for what it is with a decent presence on the front channels. It's disappointing that this series didn't receive a 5.1 mix as the amount of action begs for a better sense of immersion though I suppose that just wasn't in the cards for a cartoon such as this. All around the dialogue, sound effects, and music are crisp and clean here. There are a few moments scattered throughout where things feel flat on the soundstage but otherwise the sound quality is perfectly fine. French audio and English subtitles for the hearing impaired are both available through the languages menu as well.
A few bonus features make their way onto the fifth season of The Batman. One decent extra that has a lot to do with this season's appearances of other heroes is "The Batman: Justice League Profiles" (11:39). In this supplemental some of the creative staff gets together to talk about the characters of Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman. It's interesting to hear their takes on the character and how they felt they would work them into the show.
Keeping in line with the "Justice League" theme is "Joining Forces: The Batman's Legendary Team-Ups" (8:40). This feature offers the same personalities talking about the direction they decided to take the show in this season. They discuss how the dynamic of the show changed with the introduction of the Justice League and it's interesting to kind of get into their heads to see what they were thinking.
The Batman has been a very enjoyable romp through Gotham for the past five seasons. It never tries to emulate other animated versions of the character but rather it goes in another direction and does its own thing. While the show has been building up to certain events and points there's no denying that this season simply isn't as fluid or balanced as the others. The involvement of many other DC heroes feels a bit too forced and Batman often gets nudged aside for these other personalities. There's a little too much of a Superfriends vibe going on here at times but overall the quality of these episodes is very good. I wouldn't say there's a "bad" one among the bunch but they definitely don't stand up to the quality enjoyed by the fourth season. In the end this season comes recommended but you should definitely check out the other seasons first.
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