Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"The Batman vs. Dracula" (Michael Goguen, 2005)



Directed by Michael Goguen
Sequences Directed by Seung Eun Kim, Sam Liu and Brandon Vietti
Written by Duane Capizzi
Based on the DC Comics Character Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Based on the Dracula Characters Created by Bram Stoker

Executive Produced by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan
Produced by Duane Capizzi, Michael Goguen and Kimberly Smith
Art Direction by Rick Morales
Editing by Christopher D. Lozinski

Rino Romano … Bruce Wayne/Batman (voice)
Peter Stormare … Dracula (voice)
Alastair Duncan … Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson … The Joker (voice)
Tom Kenny … Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (voice)
Tara Strong … Vicki Vale (voice)

Gotham City is terrorized not only by recent escapees Joker and Penguin, but by the original creature of the night; Dracula.



Despite the questionable quality of “The Batman” television series, producers of the show had managed to gain enough momentum (more due to the success of “Batman Begins”) to warrant a direct to video feature based on their Saturday morning efforts.

As is expected, given both its title and affiliation with the show, 2005’s “The Batman vs. Dracula” is an odd one packed to the brim with tired clichés and the usual flourishes of simple-minded plot and flat dialogue that populate the show upon which it’s based. However, as minor as they may be, there are a few points that make this piece slightly stronger than its television counterpart.

In an undetermined point within the timeline of “The Batman” (Batman’s sole involvement probably puts it somewhere within the first or second season), the dastardly Penguin (Tom Kenny) is planning a breakout of Arkham Asylum to find a treasure of gold hidden in Gotham Cemetery. But the odds are prematurely stacked as the Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson) beats him to the punch, enacting battle between the two rogues as they scrap their way to the loot.


While Batman (Rino Romano) tangles with the Clown Prince of Crime, Cobblepot makes it to the cemetery only to accidentally unleash the dark overlord of the Vampires; the one and only Dracula (Peter Stormare), whose tomb had been uprooted from Transylvania and transplanted into Gotham.

As Dracula begins a supposed kidnapping spree of ‘Lost Ones’ (in truth, they’re victims of Vampirism being driven underground to serve their master), Batman works to fend off the Police who believe him responsible for the disappearances, not to mention the reporter’s intuition of the lovely Vicki Vale (Tara Strong).

What makes the film standout, aside from the obvious inclusion of Dracula (which I can only assume is a longshot nod to visionary artist Andy Warhol’s “Batman vs. Dracula” short film in the late 60s.) is its darker nature given his presence.

As a result, “The Batman vs. Dracula” is far darker than the show. The police actually use automatic gunfire in pursuit of Batman as opposed to those funky laser pistols Detective Yin and Bennett used.

And, of course, there’s blood; lots of blood. The benefits of the liberties the team was given on the project no doubt.
One of the standout points of the film easily has to be the Joker turned into a Vampire. To actually have a scene built upon the parameters of “The Batman” in which Batman battles an infected Joker trying to steal from a Blood Bank; that’s fairly intriguing. The site of the Joker, imprisoned in the Batcave and feeding on bags of Bruce Wayne’s own willingly given blood is also quite shocking given the simpleton nature of the series.


Another highlight is the inclusion of Vicki Vale. A far better love interest within the show then Catwoman, it’s a genuine presence that works in the picture’s favor. Tara's performance also gives the character a very feminine quality that works well.

The finale of the film, however, is at fault; mainly because it drags. Batman’s final assault on the tomb, rescuing the Lost Ones and then leading Drac back to the Batcave to do him in with a Solar Weapon feels like it takes forever.

The cast is decent enough with standout performances from Kevin Michael Richardson and Tara Strong (Tara provided the voice of Batgirl in “The New Batman Adventures” back in the late 90s).


But the clear star of the cast is none other than a welcome Peter Stormare, who’s earthy yet haunting tone as Dracula easily makes him the most engaging character in the piece, despite a few points of hokey dialogue (“I’ll use your cape as a dinner napkin!”).

Some of the conventions and plot points working to make the story fit are just laughable and feel overtly contrived, like having Dracula wander around Bruce Wayne’s party with the alias Alucard (you get it? If you don’t, shame on you!)

The music of the film is nothing interesting. Hell, they couldn’t even bother with using the Edge’s theme which is, from my perspective, the best piece of music they had going for them with the show.

Mildly intriguing animation and storytelling can’t really save it but “The Batman vs. Dracula” is worth the look for any die-hard fans (more fans of Vampires than of Batman, I’d say). Ultimately its emphasis on action should appeal to its target audience but aside from that, there's little to discover.



No comments:

Post a Comment