By shroudofsorrow 8 Comments
Coming out in 2005 (which would have also been around the time of The Batman's second season), "The Batman Vs. Dracula" is the only animated movie made for the show. Supposedly, there were plans to do another one that was "The Batman Vs. Hush" and would feature Catwoman (hopefully giving the character the attention she was so rarely shown in the cartoon proper). But of course, that animated movie never saw the light of day. This one did though, and in keeping with my review of "The Batman" overall, here is my review of the film:
The Batman Vs. Dracula
Much of what worked to the cartoon's favor works for this movie; while the absence of Ellen Yin is felt (and conspicuous), the movie overall has the same sensibilities, aesthetic, and good action and voice acting that made the cartoon so good. And, it also has Batman adopting specific tools to counter a specific foe, in this case vampires whose superhuman physicality is more than what Batman is used to. And of course, there's the matter of the king of the Vampires.
There are so many depictions of Dracula at this point, but most would agree that the more faithful to Bram Stoker's original iteration, the better. As it is, this take is more based off of the Lugosi and Christopher Lee versions (as the show people admitted). It's not necessarily a bad thing, and while Dracula is here a much more physical presence than he is in the bulk of his live action appearances, that just makes sense here. The Batman is first and foremost an action-oriented cartoon, and it's also a superhero cartoon. A Dracula that gives a lot of talk but not much fight would simply not fit with the format or tone of the show. And so, we get a Dracula who, to put it simply, is made into more of a badass.
It does work though; the superhuman speed and strength is well-conveyed, and at times the count feels almost like a living shadow (especially with how he often wraps his black cape around his person). His fighting style contrasts nicely with Batman's martial arts, and sells the idea that it's two very different creatures of the night doing battle here. The voice actor for Dracula chews the scenery something fierce, but I don't think we really expected anything less, did we?
The rest of the cast is as strong as it is in the cartoon. KMR remains a fun Joker, Tom Kenny is an appropriately obnoxious Penguin, and the voice actors for Batman and Alfred (Rino Romano and Alistair McDuncan) are also just as good. Tara Strong's Vicki Vale really doesn't make much of an impact, but then Vicki Vale is almost always a boring character, so what else is new?
Watching the movie, one gets the impression that the S&P was just a little less strict. Granted, "The Batman" could always get away with it's share of violence (which was good), but the use of blood, blood-sucking, and the staking of Count Dracula in flashback (even if the latter was semi-censored), all make this movie feel just a tad darker than the show, and given the nature of the villains, that's appropriate.
As always, the action is stellar. As I've already mentioned, the power of Dracula is well-conveyed, and Batman's fights with the Vampires in general are good. But the fight between Batman and Vampire Joker in a blood-bank is by far the stand-out. The eerie lighting of the run-down, dilapidated building, Joker's feral nature, and the ending of Vampire Joker going ecstatic after being completely doused in blood, all make for a gleefully dark and appropriately creepy scene. Batman's final fight with Dracula is actually not quite as good overall, mostly being Batman either getting the crap beaten out of him or trying to run away from, the Count. But the pay-off, which has Batman incinerating Dracula before punching him into dust, is an epic finish, and I love the visual of Dracula's skull clattering to the floor, Vampire fangs still intact. Here's hoping that came to be on display in the Batcave.
Special mention should also be given to the visuals overall: the cemetery's design is nicely off-kilter and unsettling (the abundance of crosses actually increasing this effect rather than decreasing it), the elaborate nature of Dracula's coffin being suspended by large chains in the shape of the cross is also an eye-catcher, and of course, the designs for Dracula and the "lost ones" are appropriately menacing. I'm especially fond of the flashback to Dracula's death in Transylvania; the angry mob with torches, the violence of the deed, and the red lighting that gives it a violent and merciless quality, all combine to almost make us sympathize with the villain. Truth be told, some more insight into this Dracula's origins would not have been unwelcome, and certainly would or could have gone some lengths to fleshing out Dracula's character. As it is, he's a fairly stock characterization of Dracula. Cool and menacing to be sure, but one gets the impression that an explanation for how he came to be what he is, and more time dedicated to his late wife who, as Alfred put it, was cupid's arrow piercing his black heart, might have helped make him more interesting.
But, as I mentioned before, this is an action-oriented superhero cartoon we're talking about, and so I guess the writers wanted a more "simple but effective" take on the villain. Fair enough, and again, he is a badass to be sure.
In all, I enjoyed "The Batman Vs. Dracula". The plot is straight-forward but enjoyable, it's an appropriate length, the action, acting, and visuals are all top-notch for the series, and really just the premise of Batman fighting another bat-themed creature of the night for Gotham's soul is such a winning one that I'm all-too happy to sign on. Batman and Vampires mix really well, and this movie is good proof of that.
Final Grade: B+