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Batman Beyond: Season Three

Warner Bros. (2000), Warner Home Video (March 20, 2007), 2 discs, 273 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Not Rated, Retail: $26.98

Storyboard:

Terry McGinnis, the “Batman Of The Future,” continues his battles against high-tech supervillains, meets the Justice League, and faces off against a talking gorilla.

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The Sweatbox Review:

With its final pick-up of thirteen episodes, the producers of Batman Beyond had the opportunity to explore more of the original Batman’s past should they choose, but as this collection shows, they kept the focus on young Terry McGinnis. Somehow they avoided the temptation throughout the run of the show to show us a “Penguin of the future,” a “Killer Moth of the future,” and so forth. (Thank goodness!) Instead, they used their last season to make only a couple of pit stops along Bruce Wayne’s past while allowing Terry to continue his own path as Batman.

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Disc One
There are episodes, of course, which do deal with staples of the current DC Comics universe, but extrapolating them to 50 years from now. The Royal Flush Gang, for example, is a perfect use for this device, as they are comprised of a generational crime family. King’s Ransom brings us up to speed with Batman Beyond’s Royal Flush Gang, who have stooped to accepting jobs from young Paxton Powers. Adding interest to the proceedings is the obvious marital friction between the King and Queen, which proves as destructive to their plans as Batman. The former Ten also returns, and the resolution to the story may feature the end of the Gang for good… or maybe a new beginning. Untouchable tries to do more with its story than many shows would have, but it remains a mediocre outing. The simple outline has to do with a repulsion suit from Wayne-Powers R&D being used to commit crimes, while Terry meets a girl who has had limited experience being outside due to a medical condition.

I preferred the next entry, Inqueling (nifty play on words, there), which shows us that Batman’s enemy Inque has a whole back-story we never suspected. Although the animation on Inque does not seem as impressive as it was in the first season introduction of the character, this episode scores with a creepy twist or two. Big Time is just a little less impressive, but does well with a story of an old acquaintance of Terry who has recently left jail. Unfortunately, despite Terry’s best efforts, his friend continues to make poor choices and this leads to a grotesque transformation.

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To me, the next episode is the gem of the set. After Terry takes Bruce to a hilarious presentation of Batman: The Musical for his birthday, Bruce returns to the Batcave to reflect on his past loves. Talia, the daughter of Bruce’s supreme nemesis Ra’s al Ghul, has come to offer birthday greetings and make him an offer he has difficulty refusing: a trip to the Lazarus Pit and the restoring of his youth! This episode has so many great moments, and I don’t wish to spill any of them. Paul Dini did a bang-up job on this script, which is full of winning ideas and witty lines. The story takes more than one unexpected turn, on its way to becoming one of my favorite Batman Beyond episodes. Even if it had ended after Batman: The Musical, it would have been always remembered as the series’ funniest episode, but after the farcical opening it also becomes one of the series’ most dramatic and boldest episodes.

Okay, then there is Speak No Evil… Actually, for a story about a talking gorilla and Batman going up against unethical scientists and poachers, it wasn’t too bad.

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Disc Two
Ah, but now we get to the coolest part of the set, for we have reached The Call, which is a two-part episode that sees Superman come to the show in order to invite Terry to join Justice League Unlimited. More than any other episode, this story more closely ties Batman Beyond to the greater DC Universe. Superman now looks a little grey, but still leads a team of superheroes that includes a young Asian Green Lantern, the offspring of Hawkgirl (Warhawk) and Aquaman (Aquagirl), an Atom-inspired hero called Micron, and Barda of the New Gods. Terry is needed to detect a traitor in the ranks, so he investigates the rest of the team while struggling to gain their trust. In a neat casting decision, Christopher McDonald plays Superman here; this may seem like an odd choice (choosing McDonald rather than Tim Daily or George Newbern, who played him on other animated DC shows), until one recalls that he played Superman’s biological father Jor-El on Superman: The Animated Series. The surprise real villain of this episode is a great nod to the comics (not to mention a particular episode of S:TAS) and just goes further to show that the writers and producers know their stuff when it comes to the source material.

Unfortunately, The Call is a tough act to follow, so we return to Terry’s friend Big Time in Betrayal. Big Time is still making bad choices, and hasn’t learned yet that Terry has moved well beyond his delinquent days. While not a bad episode, it is mediocre.

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Curse Of The Cobra— another two-parter— gets things back on track, at least initially. The first part sees Terry sent to a dojo for further martial arts training, and he befriends another student. Zander is a star pupil, but is oddly sheltered, being the “chosen one” of his people. The depth of Zander’s uniqueness becomes very evident as his true background is revealed. Part One has numerous nice character moments for Terry and Zander, who falls for Terry’s impertinent female buddy Max. If Part Two had kept the momentum, this would have been a great story. It’s too bad, then, that the story devolves into a silly and nonsensical plot about the Cult Of Kobra trying to heat the Earth so that a new race of dino-humans can survive. I thought the whole point of cold-blooded animals was that they could better adapt to temperature changes in their environment. Still, there is more good than bad in this story overall.

Countdown is a call-back to Season Two’s introduction of the robot Zeta, who was spun off into his own show. Zeta comes to Gotham with his companion Ro in search of a scientist, but as usual, government agents are hot on their trail. Zeta, while disguised as a human, is mistakenly saved by the delusional anti-technology terrorist Mad Stan. When Mad Stan realizes his error, he sends Zeta out with a bomb strapped to his body, and Batman must find Zeta before the bomb explodes. The final episode of the series is Unmasked, which judging by the title sounds quite promising. The truth is, however, that this is no stunning finale to either the series or the season. It is just another episode, which didn’t even originally air on Kids WB since the show was cancelled before it could be televised. Worse, it’s a flashback episode, with Terry telling Max of a time where he compromised his secret identity, with a near-disastrous outcome.

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So, there you have it. Batman Beyond ends with a bit of a whimper, following a couple of bangs, the odd boom, and a few clunks. None of the episodes are really stinkers, but there are a few mediocre ones among a few good ones and a couple of great ones. Looking over the length of the series, I would have to say that the first season was still my favorite, but the rest of the series kept up the quality pretty well. Like the other DC animated shows, this one kept the emphasis on story, but could deliver on action when it had to. It should be noted that Batman Beyond probably reached its greatest height with the direct-to-video Return Of The Joker (especially if you view the Uncut version), and the show did get a more proper send-off with the Justice League Unlimited episode Epilogue. It’s too bad that Epilogue was not included here, but then it is hard to imagine anyone picking up this set who has not already gotten the Justice League Unlimited “Season One” DVD set.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

It’s almost as if everyone involved decided that the audio commentaries had gotten stale, as this set (as well as the last Justice League Unlimited set released the same day) has none of them. I always liked the audio commentaries, but have to admit that the producers were not particularly good at them. So, in this set we have comments from the producers edited down into nice-size chunks that convey lots of good information without the usual pauses, tangents, and “um”s. Inside Batman Beyond Season 3 (9:29) (actually, they call it “Volume” 3 on the menu) is a panel discussion moderated by Jason Hillhouse and featuring Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami, and Paul Dini. They hash out the season in general, only discussing the final episode with any specificity.

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For more specific discussion, look at Close Up On… (19:46), where Timm (with an older haircut now), voice actor Will Friedle, Paul Dini, Butch Lukic, and James Tucker talk about four different episodes— Out Of The Past, The Call, Part 1 & Part 2, and The Curse Of The Kobra, Part 1. These concise discussions worked very well, and I found their talks on each episode full of good information.

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A small collection of trailers for Warner DVDs and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie rounds out the set.

Case Study:

Warner stays consistent with its packaging, giving Season Three the same shiny slipcase-over-thin-digipack presentation that Season One received. This means you have to put up with overlapping discs, but the artwork on the digipack and the set’s cover is all very nice.

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Ink And Paint:

Holy interlaced jaggies, Batman! Warner always seems to do interlaced transfers for the DC animated shows, and here it bugged me more than usual. I found it hard to grab screenshots for this set, because so many frames had yucky lines running through them as a result of the transfer process. Playing at normal speed, there is a roughness to the outlines that makes the picture disappointing though not terrible. The source material, at least, it suitably clean and colourful, and the actual compression work avoided any compression-related artifacting.

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Scratch Tracks:

The 2.0 Stereo tracks (in either English or French) do not shine quite as much as in the more bombastic Justice League shows, but they do still show off a nice blend of cutting-edge music and tech-inspired sound effects. No subtitles are offered.

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Final Cut:

It’s not quite a home run, but Season Three of Batman Beyond does contain enough good episodes to make this a recommended purchase. Even those who never fully warmed to the show will find enough nods to present-day continuity to make this set of interest. The streamlined extras are satisfactory, given that we have already had two previous sets to explore the show, though it would have been nice to get some artwork or scripts (you see, BCI is spoiling us!). The biggest drawbacks of the set are the interlaced transfers, which is saying something when one episode has Batman battling a talking gorilla. If your affection of the show did not entice you enough to pick up Season Two, I’d still recommend picking this one up just for the fun and drama of Out Of The Past, as well as the Justice League’s appearance in The Call.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
SOUND TRACK
OVERALL DVD

 

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