Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Beware the Batman: Dark Justice -- Season 1, Part 2

Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 30, 2014
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted January 10, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Half-Season (-Series):

Note: Since this review covers the second half of Beware the Batman's first and only season, portions of this review have been republished from my previous coverage of the first half, Shadows of Gotham.

Did Beware the Batman get a fair shake? Or was this latest iteration of the Caped Crusader, designed to recapture the magic of the Animated Series as a replacement to The Brave and The Bold, doomed from the moment it swooped down upon its new digital rendering of Gotham? It's hard to tell; at this point, following the show's cancellation and Toonami's late-night/early-morning burn-off of the remaining episodes, it doesn't really matter. What becomes more and more obvious while watching this lone season progress is that the show's failure to garner widespread attention can't be blamed on a lack of trying new things or falling back on a formula that works, because DC really aimed to do both in a fresh spin on the hero. This becomes noticeable in these later and forgotten episodes, labeled Dark Justice for the home-video market, as it brings much more familiar names and concepts from the universe into the fold of its tweaked look at a mildly-futuristic Gotham. Niggling flaws persist and traditionalists may take umbrage with its manipulation of the lore, but a true vision begins to take shape in this divergent, frequently clever reworking of Batman, his allies and enemies.

Bruce Wayne himself (dutifully played by Anthony Ruivivar) takes few, if any, hits to his established character in this new take on the exploits of Gotham City, which finds the orphaned billionaire in an era shortly after his initial training and acclimatization to the life of a masked vigilante, neither a reckless rookie nor a veteran with years of wisdom under his belt. The differences in Batman's support structure become some of the defining, contrasting traits of Beware the Batman, first exploring the often hinted-at idea of his guardian and butler, Alfred (JB Blanc), as an ex-MI6 agent with the skills to train and physically assist Bruce. Alfred's proficiency and experience also leads to the reluctant incorporation of a new assistant for Batman: Tatsu Yamashiro (Sumalee Montano), a skilled female martial artist with a past in espionage and ties to a well-known organization in the Batman universe. The training of this Robin proxy, code-named Katana, becomes a central facet of the story as Batman protects the streets of Gotham and evades the police department's manhunt, led by Jim Gordon.

The first thing many will notice about Beware the Batman will be the stylized 3D animation, starkly deviating from its predecessors. A slightly-futuristic, sleek version of Gotham City is rendered for the Dark Knight to protect as tight angular buildings and sparse blasts of lights, vibrant explosions, and energy-weapon shots present an unmistakably comic-bookish atmosphere with nods to previous Gothams, though lacking its signature grittiness. Batman's appearance even takes a different approach, sporting high ears and a sleek suit that looks like an amalgamation of several previous designs, including a little of the original Detective Comics appearance in the cowl. At times, it's an enjoyable departure from the norm, where textures and punchy colors peek out from the depth rendered in the shadowy environment and steady camera angles, but it also cheapens other less-organic sequences with plastic facial movement and emotive eyes. DC clearly wanted the visual tone to stand out, and while it's a mixed bag in terms of execution, the streamlined fusion of old and new does come together into frequent eye-catching bursts of action and dynamic conversation.

Underneath the visual difference, Beware the Batman operates almost beat-for-beat on the same episodic formulas that hallmarked The Animated Series, methodically duplicating its high points with alternate characters and tweaked plots to bolster them. Some might get frustrated with the absence of familiar villains: instead of identifiable faces like The Joker and Catwoman, it unearths a gallery of lesser-known villains -- some will recognize members of the Circus of Strange, namely Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad, and inmates involved in the "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" book series -- to serve as clever substitutes in this new universe, involving gray-area conflicts built around eco-terrorism, scientific experimentation, and rebelling against order. From the enigmatic Anarky to the mentally-unstable vixen Magpie (ironically and exceptionally played by Grey DeLisle, who voices Catwoman in other mediums), the roles they serve become obvious as the gears move in each episode, but that doesn't stop them from being intriguing presences in this welcomingly diverse take on Gotham. For a dose of the familiar, the series also taps into the recent surge of popularity around the League of Assassins, dropping a refined version of Lady Shiva in the mix.

Frustratingly, the conflict involving the League channels into a cliffhanger end of the season's first-half that actually begins an intricate, pre-planned arc spanning three episodes, to which Dark Justice abruptly picks up and finishes the remaining two episodes at its beginning. Following the brisk but contrived conclusion to that story, which includes an identifiable but enjoyable performance from Lance Reddick as Ra's al Ghul and magical elements that'll disgruntle the "realism" seekers, Beware the Batman starts its steady incorporation of more familiar faces into this Batman's world, almost as if it's responding to audience recommendations about the direction the series should take next. Chiefly, that includes District Attorney Harvey Dent (Christopher McDonald), who adopts an anti-vigilante agenda against Batman and his ilk, making him an antagonist (and an odious, petulant take on Dent at that). Another recognizable face is the elevated presence of Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong), whose computer expertise puts her in a familiar position -- reminiscent of how Oracle operates in the Arkham Origins videogame -- to assist Batman and Katana under the nose of her father.

After tossing in these renovated signature elements with the lesser-known villains of the Rogues Gallery, Beware the Batman offers some payoff for going with the flow of the world-building from the introductory episodes, easing up on the attention paid to Katana's backstory while she becomes a more stable fixture as Batman's sidekick. Gradually, the show begins to realize its potential as an alternate, '90s-Batman inspired take on the earlier years of the character's mythology, combining a slightly-serialized progression of Batman's overarching story with moderate depth in its themes, from Alfred's integral place as a mentor and emotional anchor to how the Caped Crusader handles rival vigilantes and being (repeatedly) framed. Despite a handful of one-and-done story elements -- for example, an unconventional appearance by Manhunter -- very little of Beware the Batman feels entirely self-contained given how characters and developments keep reappearing within the next installments. When Batman interacts with returning characters, especially villains like Anarky and Deathstroke, there's a developing, smaller-scale story instead of a monotonous running rivalry with open-and-close doomsday plots.

While convenient resolutions to conflicts and wonky logic weaken the caliber of writing in Beware the Batman, the show's tight grasp on action and escalating stakes makes for a rather satisfying second half to its season, showing some improvements upon the first in both pacing and dramatic richness through Batman's case-solving. There's a grittiness to this back end of episodes -- the dynamic action, the layout of Gotham, and the tempo of Batman's mind -- that wasn't as observable early on, lending itself to slightly more challenging ideas that should satisfy adult-oriented viewers throughout the course of this half-season. Fortunately, those disgruntled by the cliffhanger at the end of the Shadows of Gotham needn't worry about how things conclude, because the season (and, unfortunately, the series) reaches a rather satisfying conclusion without any major loose ends. There are some left dangling, foreshadowings of conflicts and the origin of a new villain; however, they're charming in a way since they suggest that familiar head-butting between Batman and his nemeses are on the cusp of emerging from the shadows of this new Gotham. Wish we could see them play out, but at least we're able to see this largely impressive and overlooked take on the Dark Knight meet a fitting end.

The Blu-ray:

Warner Archives have release Beware the Batman: Dark Justice -- Season One, Part Two on Blu-ray in a standard one-disc package, where a single Blu-ray holds the remaining thirteen episodes (nearly five hours of material). No special features have been included with this release, only a static menu with an episode selection.

Video and Audio:

Once again, there are two factors to take into account when watching Warner Archive's Blu-ray presentation of Beware the Batman: Dark Justice: a) they've managed to fit all thirteen episodes on one disc; and b) the digital art style intentionally limits some of the high-definition punch. With that in mind, each and every episode sports a wealth of lively colors and unique textures. The blue blasts of futuristic guns, the neon tentacles of a villain, and fiery explosions enhance the palette's vividness, while skin-tone pinks and metallic grays are solid and convincing. When it comes to detail, the leathery surface of Batman's suit and the shine of his batarangs are crisp and clean, while simple elements like the cords of furniture fabric and triangular bangs of hair project sharp, distortion-free lines. There's some rigidity in the animation's rotational movement and some mild aliasing in places, as well as some wishy-washy black levels (though nothing too obtrusive). By and large, however, Beware the Batman continues to look solid.

As to be expected after Shadows of Gotham, the episodes also arrive with only a series of 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks that cannot project the potential dynamism of the action-oriented sound design. Blasts of energy weapons, the clank of blocked blades, and the cracks of hand-to-hand combat deliver enough punch to be satisfying in the limited arrangement, but other elements like weighty explosions are relatively muffled and unsatisfying again. When it comes to clarity, however, it doesn't really skip a beat: the rasp of Deathstroke's intimidating voice and the higher pitches of Barbara Gordon's vocals are razor sharp, and the pulsing stylized music delivers moderate bass punch and mid-range weight. Optional English subs are available.

Final Thoughts:

Dark Justice: Season One, Part Two effectively makes the entire series of Beware the Batman -- the most recent conservative "reboot" of the Dark Knight with 3D computer animation, lower-tier villains of the hero's mythos, and a satisfyingly strong female sidekick in Katana -- available on Blu-ray after a bit of a struggle for the remaining episodes to get on the air, ultimately a symptom of it getting abandoned. If you missed that unceremonious early morning burn-off, bear in mind that it's not reflective of the remainder of the episodes' quality, especially in comparison to the previous batch. Despite having to start off with resolving an intense cliffhanger that actually only covered one-third of a plotline, this collection of episodes reveals that the series knew the potential it had within its grasp ... and partially started to realize it. More renowned villains and recognizable allies of Batman's enter into the picture and blend together with the other largely unheard-of characters, while the action and conflicts themselves stay engaging, despite some simplistic resolutions and overt comic-book logic. No need to beware of another cliffhanger, though, as Beware the Batman meets a decent ending -- both for the season, and for the series. Strongly Recommended.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
Buy from







E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links