Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts

Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is odd to say the least. Cobbled together from a variety of Batman storylines over the years, Batman Unlimited cherry-picks pieces of DCU continuity to offer a new (but not really fresh) take on the characters involved. Set in the not-so-distant future of Gotham City (with a definite Batman Beyond vibe) the straight-to-video movie opens with Batman (Roger Craig Smith) clad in a Beyondish red and black costume before eventually donning his more classic colors.

The film centers around the a group of animal-themed villains in Silverback (Keith Szarabajka), Cheetah (Laura Bailey), Killer Croc (John DiMaggio), and Man-Bat (Phil LaMarr) all working together as "the Animalitia" under the leadership of the Penguin (Dana Snyder). The Penguin also has an army of robotic animals who range from nearly unstoppable to easily destroyed (in the climax our heroes easily dispense with a number of the creatures while they struggle to deal with even single one for most of the movie).

Despite Batman and his friends' previous experience at dealing with the other villains in the group this is the Penguin's first foray as a super-villain (which, given the character's lengthy comic history seems odd). To save Gotham from the Penguin's plan to crash a comet into the city Batman will rely on the help of Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal), Nightwing (Will Friedle), Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos), and the Flash (Charlie Schlatter).

It's an odd assortment of characters. Silverback, Nightwing, and Penguin all mirror New 52 versions of the characters while Red Robin (in his cool pre-New 52 costume), Cheetah, Man-Bat, and Green Arrow are closer to modern pre-New-52 versions. The Flash is never identified but seems to be closest to the cocky Wally West version from Justice League Unlimited. And this version of Killer Croc would seem to be more at home in the Arkham Asylum video game series than a made-for-DVD film decidedly made for younger audiences. The odd mix, and bizarre storyline, certainly gives the movie a unique feel, and because of that I'll admit to enjoying it more than the New 52 tie-in releases, but Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is far from the best DC Animated can offer.

Available on both DVD and Blu-ray, extras include a featurette on the film's villains (centered mostl on the Penguin), a collection of animal-themed DC Nation Shorts, trailers, and a pair of Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes "Super-Batman of Planet X!" and "Gorillas in Our Midst!" The Blu-ray also includes DVD and digital copies of the film.

[Warner Home Video, Blu-ray $24.98 / DVD $19.98]

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