Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
Starring: Kevin Conroy, David Ogden Stiers, Kyra Sedgwick, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Kimberly Brooks, Kelly Ripa, Elisa Pensler Gabrielli, Hector Elizondo
Directed By: Curt Geda
This should finish up my Batman animated movie watching. There are a couple Batman Beyond straight-to-video movies that I've heard are pretty good, but I never got into that show, so I don't think I'll check them out. There's also The Batman/Superman Movie, but that's really just three episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, so I don't consider it a real movie.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman is a continuation of the Batman: Gotham Knights television series, which follows from Batman: The Animated Series and The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The series is from the same creators as TAS, featuring the same "dark deco" aesthetic, and the same voice talent. The character design of the series and this movie is a little different, while they use the same painted backgrounds for Gotham, they employ a more minimalist style for the characters with a lot of clean lines. As far as the cast for this movie, Kevin Conroy is once again the voice for Batman/Bruce Wayne, Efrem Zimbalist Jr is Alfred Pennyworth, Bob Hastings is Commissioner Gordon, Robert Constanzo is Detective Harvey Bullock, and John Vernon is Rupert Thorne. Robin is now Tim Drake, not Dick Grayson (who has become Nightwing, but is not featured in the movie), voiced by Eli Marienthal.
As the title suggests, Mystery of the Batwoman is a mystery movie about a new Batwoman vigilante who comes to Gotham, employing questionable tactics that puts her on Batman's radar. It's then up to the World's Greatest Detective to figure out who this new player is and what her motives are. The movie does an excellent job with the mystery, introducing the Batwoman (voiced by Kyra Sedgewick) in a pre-title sequence action scene, then introducing three new shapely female characters that could be Batwoman, new police detective Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks), the spoiled daughter of gangster Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Wayne Industries' new scientist Dr. Roxanne "Rocky" Ballantine (Kelly Ripa). Any of the three could conceivably be the new Batwoman (who is established not to be Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl), and it's up to Batman and the audience to figure out who it is.
The villains of the movie include Thorne and Duquesne, along with The Penguin (David Ogden Stiers), and the villain known as Bane (Hector Elizondo). This is an intelligent Bane, like in the comics, not like in the Batman-movie-that-shall-not-be-named, so instantly that makes this movie cool. The movie is full of cool things, and is a lot sexier than one would expect in a children's animated movie (albeit one with a PG rating). Nothing overt, stuff that would go over the heads of a young audience, but there is a concerted effort to inject this movie with some sex appeal, and is as successful an attempt as you're going to get from a straight-to-video offering based on a Saturday afternoon cartoon show. Basically, the movie plays very much like a James Bond film, complete with the pre-title sequence and unique title sequence, femme fatales, and the suave main character. I'm sure none of the Bond-esque moments are coincidental, but they play very well all the same.
The movie is very exciting and an excellent Batman adventure. The characters all ring very true to their comic book counterparts, and feel as three dimensional as would live action characters in an action movie. It's a story mature enough to please an older audience, while still being a fun story for kids. I'd put it on par with Mask of the Phantasm in terms of quality, just not as cinematic in its scope, and far better than Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero. An excellent addition to the Batman mythos, well worth the 99 cents I spent to rent it and one I'd consider adding to my collection in the future.
Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero (2003)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Batman: The Animated Series - Volume One
Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Two