Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" (Curt Geda and Tim Maltby, 2003)


Directed by Curt Geda and Tim Maltby
Story by Alan Burnett
Screenplay by Michael Reaves
Based on the DC Comics Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Executive Produced by Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan and Sander Schwartz
Produced by Alan Burnett, Margaret M. Dean, Kathryn Page and Curt Geda
Art Direction by Thom Enriquez, Curt Geda, Gary Graham, Eddie Lin, Tim Maltby, Phillip Norwood, Jeff Snow and Matt Youngberg
Casting and Voice Direction by Andrea Romano
Editing by Margaret Hou
Original Motion Picture Score Composed by Lolita Ritmanis

Kevin Conroy ... Bruce Wayne/Batman (Voice)
Tara Strong ... Barbara Gordon (Voice)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. ... Alfred Pennyworth (Voice)
Bob Hastings ... Police Commissioner James Gordon (Voice)
David Ogden Stiers ... Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Voice)
Hector Elizondo ... Bane (Voice)
Kelly Ripa ... Dr. Roxanne 'Rocky' Ballantine (Voice)
Kimberly Brooks ... Kathleen 'Kathy' Duquesne (Voice)
Elisa Gabrielli ... Detective Sonia Alcana (Voice)
Kyra Sedgwick ... Batwoman (Voice)
Eli Marienthal ... Timothy 'Tim' Drake/Robin (Voice)
John Vernon ... Rupert Thorne (Voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson ... Carlton Duquesne (Voice)
Robert Costanzo ... Police Detective Harvey Bullock (Voice)
Cherie ... Iceberg Lounge Vocalist (Voice)

The Dark Knight must contend with a mysterious female vigilante who emulates him, but to a more ruthless degree, as he investigates a weapons smuggling ring overseen by the Penguin and Rupert Thorne.


"Batman: The Mystery of the Batwoman" is about as entertaining as animated Batman movies get.

Not as much darkness admittedly up front, but the fun is still intact.



There's a new crime-fighter on the streets of Gotham. She dresses like a bat but she's not a grown-up Batgirl. And Batman is denying any affiliation with her. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne has to deal with the usual romances and detective work. But the Penguin, Bane and the local Mob makes things more than a little complicated while trying to oversee a weapon’s smuggling ring for the foreign country of Kaznia.

Between juggling these new developments and threats, Bruce might be in over his head when three beautiful and mysterious women in both his and Batman's lives.


Kathy Duquesne, the wayward daughter of local gang muscle Carlton Duquesne. Dr. Roxanne Ballantine, one of Wayne Enterprises’ new scientific research upstarts with a proficiency in metallurgy. And newly transferred Gotham Police Detective Sonia Alcana.

Anyone in town could be the mysterious Batwoman, and with her recklessness and specifically targeted vendetta against the Kaznian smuggling operation, that puts her in the crosshairs of crime…and puts Batman and Robin on the case.

“There are many species in which the female is deadlier than the male.”

While still true to the feeling of the comic books and the legacy of this animated Batman, the animation is done with a lighter spirit than in the animated series. Bruce Wayne looks much like he has before, but now he appears somewhat less imposing. Here, Batman seems to be played more like an adventurer than a crime fighter. He’s righting wrongs, sure, but there’s a spring in his step.

The Dick Grayson Robin has of course been replaced by the less edgy, more youthful Tim Drake Robin.

Give that this was released three years after “Return of the Joker,” it’s almost heartbreaking to watch from the angle of Batman and his allies considering what the Joker will come to put them through (if this fits on the timeline at all, I mean.)

Everything about the film just feels a bit lighter than air; even Bruce Wayne gets in on the adventure with some action beats of his own. For once, it’s refreshing to see Wayne be allowed to have some fun out of costume.

And of course what sets this piece apart is the decision to finally let Bruce find himself a romance that neither falls apart by the end of the film or gets his Batman persona involved, with Kathy discovering his identity.

"Mystery of the Batwoman" is modeled in the same vein as the revamped Kids WB! episodes of Batman, which were dubbed "The New Batman Adventures."

It's charming to think that "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" compliments the first 70 episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero" compliments the 15 episodes of "The Adventures of Batman and Robin." So in turn, "Batwoman" rightfully compliments the 24 episodes of "The New Batman Adventures." And come to think of it, "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" compliments "Batman Beyond."

It all goes hand in hand.
The cast here is absolutely extraordinary, as are with all of DC's animated features; From the always brilliant Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Bob Hastings to the somewhat celebrity additions of Hector Elizando, Kyra Sedgewick and Kelly Ripa. There's not one weak link in the prominent cast of characters here, at least not for me.

I was personally thrilled that the producers and writers decided to bring back ganglord Rupert Thorne, a prominent character from the original animated series on FOX that all but disappeared in "The New Batman Adventures." It was a very cool throwback to see him again, and to hear John Vernon portray him once more.
I was also delighted with the imaginative and exciting set pieces and a lot of the humor really works.


There’s a great moment when Batman is searching the Duquesne household, stumbling upon Kathleen’s artwork and sketches, when one of Carlton’s boys walks into the room. Turning, Batman simply stares him down for a moment until finally the goon closes the door. When he’s approached by another man patrolling the home, he’s asked if there’s anything wrong…and he informs that there isn’t, clearly seeing no viable reason for getting beat up by Batman that evening.

A lot of the dialogue is also quite snappy; almost in a romantic comedy mentality that fits the lighter atmosphere of the movie.


"Funny thing. I get up this morning and I think 'Something's wrong.' And then I realized...no gunfire, no explosions, no goons out to do me in. Everything was peaceful and quiet and...that's when I realized how much I missed you."

The Penguin here is also as dapper as ever, and that leads to some great dry-wit moments for him.

“Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman. What is it about this city, the water?!”

The fight between Batwoman and Penguin at the Iceberg Lounge has a wonderful sense of movement to it.


There’s also a great moment here when Batman swoops in, saving Batwoman at the last moment before Penguin shoots her; when he lands, he quickly dispatches the first of the goons without even acknowledging him.

The film also has its share of tender moments; specifically the character development with Kathy Duquesne and her mother; their mutual passion art and life in general, which is only shattered by the gang violence of her father when her mother is shot and killed by sniper.

It's a tragic back story that fits right in line with most characters' backgrounds in Batman.


The finale of the piece is rightfully bombastic.

What I really loved was the idea of it taking place on an ocean liner. That choice of location, for some reason, felt really inspired to me. It’s different and as a result, it works quite effectively. Batman's final confrontation with Bane is also well staged, paced and animated.



The plot, given its parameters, is still quite clever and overall it has a brisk and cheeky sense of humor. This is definitely a movie no fan of Batman should be without, I think.

Keep your ears open for a really catchy song performed by pop vocalist Cherie called 'Betcha Neva' which is featured prominently through-out, even featuring an animated version of the singer in a scene in the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge nightclub.



The film also excels with a sultry jazz score composed by Lolita Ritmanis, which sounds tremendous throughout the piece. I'm especially fond of the 'Batwoman Theme,' which is probably the most prominent music cue in the film with its saxophone melody.

Ultimately the film is a bit lighter hearted, and the moody atmosphere is gone in favor of brisk and dynamic storytelling and locale. Gone are the Gothic Citadels so prominently featured in the original series, replaced with towers of glass and granite, making Gotham look very much more like Metropolis.

But the film is still Batman and it's still a lot of fun. While I personally feel there's more to offer in other interpretations of the character, this still has it where it counts and remains a delightfully thrilling portion of Batman's illustrious animated history.

Just great, great fun!



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