Director: Michael Goguen
Release Date: 2005
I was most excited when I discovered that an animated feature had been made of Batman, featuring Dracula as the villain (and many thanks to the Mystery of the Haunted Vampire, whose blog piece on this brought it to my attention). The cross-over between the two characters was crying out for a feature (it has already been a subject tackled in graphic novel form). I duly ordered the DVD, and being a sad little thing, ensured I ordered the copy with the collectors’ figures.
What I didn’t know, when I ordered it, was that there are two core Batman franchises running in the States. I was aware of Batman the animated series – we get that in the UK - but this is from the other stable, The Batman. The animation style is very different, and of course they use different voice actors.
Animation wise I was expecting the noir feel of the animated series, but the animation style here works really well in its own right. We begin in Arkham asylum where an inmate tells Penguin (Tom Kenny) about a multi-million stash of loot in Gotham cemetery, that he will split 50/50 if Penguin helps him escape. He reveals it is in the crypt behind the tombstone with a cross, but will (sensibly) reveal no more. He then reveals that he had mentioned it to Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson). Alarms sound and Joker has escaped, Penguin takes his cue and escapes after him.
Batman (Rino Romano) goes after them, concentrating on the Joker, leaving Penguin opportunity to get to the cemetery. A little mention here about the way the Joker has been done. I’m used to the voice of the Joker being fairly high pitched, here Richardson re-works the voice into more of a low growl, with certain shifts to a higher pitch and it really works, the Joker here sounds utterly psychotic – as he should.
Batman almost captures Joker, but he falls from a bridge, his electrocution devices shorting in the water as he sinks, making Batman believe him to be dead. Penguin, however, has another problem when he realises that there are many tombstones with crosses. He picks a tomb he believes to be correct. The interior of the tomb is protected by a huge cross suspended on chains, which he cuts. He opens the coffin, cutting his hand, to find not loot but a chained, desiccated corpse. He gets blood on the corpse, which reanimates and hunts him. Luckily for the Penguin a night watchman gets in the way and becomes Dracula’s first victim – slaking the vampire’s waking thirst. Penguin is captured and hypnotised into being his daylight servant.
There is a piece of exposition where Dracula wonders how his remains were relocated to Gotham – though it is generally unsatisfying. Obviously the filmmakers didn’t want this to be a blank concept, but the explanation adds nothing to the film.
Gothamites begin to vanish as Dracula begins creating an army of the undead, and in the movie they are known as the Lost Ones. Batman is blamed for the disappearances by the press, as a witness saw a large bat shape take one of the missing citizens. Here the film hits a rating quandary, can Batman go around staking all these vampires? The answer is no, he has to develop a cure for vampirism - done, as he explains, as although vampirism is supernatural it is passed through blood and can be cured like a disease of the blood. Then again, he still has to defeat Dracula, a creature stronger, faster and more intelligent than he is.
Joker returns from his watery grave and is vampirised. He immediately goes to raid a blood bank and this leads to one of the best sequences in the movie as Batman and vampire Joker fight it out. If you thought Joker psychotic when alive it is nothing to when he is undead – just wait for the scene where he laps blood from the floor. The sequence itself is very stylised. There isn’t a blood bank in the world that stores its blood in high shelves, unrefrigerated in glass vials – but I can see why it was done like this as it added to the visuals greatly. Batman eventually captures Joker and it is his blood he experiments on as he looks for a cure.
There is also a plot featuring Vicky Vale (Tara Strong) and Dracula wanting her to make a bride. No simple vampirism for Vicky, however, Dracula will drain her soul to reanimate his true bride Carmilla Karnstein.
There were a couple of moments that gave me pause. Dracula’s tomb is connected to catacombs and Batman comments that this is how Dracula must have been getting around, in order to avoid the crosses in the cemetery. Yet the crosses didn’t seem to bother him when he hunted the Penguin at the head of the feature. There is also a moment when, in the bat-cave, Dracula throws the bat-mobile aside like a child’s toy. Impressive visual but Batman had taken the bat-mobile to the cemetery and left it there – had it auto-piloted back? These are only minor things however.
All in all this is an impressive feature, probably more fun if you enjoy the batman story/character than not. However, as someone who always did enjoy batman (in his various incarnations) I’ll give this movie 8 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Click here for the official site, with two trailers.