Saturday, June 27, 2015

'Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts' review

"Don't worry, Bats. We've got your back." -- Green Arrow

Due to my work life, looking forward to my vacation and a general, rare case of no inspiration or fan mojo, I'm really far behind in reviewing Warner Bros. Animation's latest addition to the already huge animated Batman library, "Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts."

In this continuity,universe, "Batman Unlimited" is set in a high-tech Gotham City. The sci-fi architecture is something out of "Batman Beyond" (whose costume the Caped Crusader wears in the first segment) and the technology is akin to the "Blade Runner" and "Robocop" movies.

Dick Grayson, the original Robin, is Nightwing while Tim Drake (although he isn't named and isn't seen out of costume) is Red Robin. Rounding out the good guys are The Flash and Green Arrow, both of whom obviously have a history of working with Batman.

Oswalkd Cobblepot (aka the Penguin) is part of a high-society family. Cobblepot's character design reminds me of "The Batman" animated series. The rest of the voice cast is fine; Dana Snyder's Cobblepot voice just doesn't work.

In logic only known to Cobblepot, he creates robotic animals which he says are to be used for altruistic and ecological reasons, but since it's Cobblepot we know he's up to no good. The trio give the heroes quite a fit, as do the villains Cheetah, Killer Croc, Man-Bat and a Gorilla Grodd knock-off I'm not familiar with, Silverback. Nightwing even says Croc and Cheetah working together to rob a jewelry store is a "weird team-up" -- something which Grayson says applies to working with The Flash.

My biggest knock on "Animal Instincts" -- and it's nitpicky -- is not keeping the logic of The Flash's speed consistent. Since he's the Fastest Man Alive, there's no reason Killer Croc should be able to hit him (immediately after the speedster had been pummeling him with super-fast punches from a variety spots around Croc) and Cheetah shouldn't be quick enough to trip a running Flash.

There's no good reason for the quartet of villains to work together and Cobblepot doesn't provide any answers. The only answer is in the subtitle and the Penguin's inventions. In other words, the writers needed animal-related villains to keep up with the the theme.

The coolest aspect of the animated film is Batman's creation of the Batcycle. Let's just say he and the team turn the tables on the Penguin and Batman calls the Batcycle "Ace." It's a nice homage to the happy-gp-lucky Golden and Silver Ages of Comics.

Red Robin and an unmasked Batman talk in the Batcave.
"Animal Instincts" is kid-friendly fare. How accessible is it for children? My daughters, ages 11 and 6, who don't have a lot of exposure to superhero fare enjoyed it. There's some violence, but it's of the classic Saturday morning variety with no bloodshed whatsoever.

Cheetah and Nightwing battle early in "Batman Unlimited:
Animal Instincts."
My oldest daughter really enjoyed whenever Nightwing spun his fighting sticks in one hand and her sister said she "kinda liked" how Cheetah looks. The older one told me she liked Nightwing's high cow-licked hair, but I thought it looked ridiculous. We both joked that Commissioner Gordon and Nightwing must use the same hairspray.

The characterizations are accurate to the original print versions. Red Robin and Nightwing offer the occasional quips, but honestly, Red Robin doesn't have a lot to do. Batman is in his usual take-charge mode, but the heroes work together well, like a nicely oiled machine.

As you can tell, "Animal Instincts" is easy on the brain. It isn't close to must-see or being a must-have, but it is fun escapism. Grade: B

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