February 14 2009

Batman: The Animated Series

btasHow did a cartoon nail the real Batman formula better than any of the movies?

I recently purchased the complete box set of the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series (B:TAS) cartoon, and I’ve been working my way through the episodes as I exercise. (my workout happens to almost exactly match the length of 2 episodes) The first thing I have to say about it is that I had forgotten just how good this series was. I remember loving the heck out of it when it first aired, but it’s even better than I remembered.

The second point, and the biggest one, is how did this series get closer to the true Batman formula than any of the movies? Don’t get me wrong, I love Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but my biggest complaint with them, and the previous series of four films, is the almost total lack of detective work on the part of Batman. Beyond his physical prowess, Batman has always been labeled the greatest detective the world has ever seen, but in the movies he always seems to solve everything either through complete blind luck, or some amazing gadget.

The closest we have seen to him doing anything in this style was in The Dark Knight when he was getting the fingerprint off the mangled bullet, and following that print to a man’s apartment. An episode of B:TAS was approximately 22-minutes in length, so you can’t chalk it up the movies not being long enough to feature such scenes when they clock in around 2.5 hours each. And I’m not talking about having like 10-minute long scenes of him researching, just have him look up from a microscope when Alfred walks in, or show him using a centrifuge to test a blood sample; any of those types of scenes could be wrapped up in just a few seconds. I really don’t think this is too much to ask from the films.

The third, and last, point about the series is that while I loved it, it became painfully obvious that they had zero sense of continuity with itself. Take the strange case of Robin, Batman’s sidekick. Through out the series he just randomly popped in and out of the show with no real sense of how the stories connected to one another. He first appeared in the second episode of the series, “Christmas with the Joker”, living in Wayne Manor with Bruce. He next appears a full 22 episodes later in episode 24, “Fear of Victory”, living in a college dorm room with a roommate. He appears randomly through out the series, and his origin isn’t touched on until the second season of the series.

Nitpicky? Yes it is, but when you are watching them in their true order, and multiple viewings per day, it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.

Overall it is a pleasure to watch, and one I highly recommend to anyone needing a supplement to their Batman addiction while we wait for another movie to be made.

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