Set in a Utopian, futuristic version of Gotham City, due to his old age, Bruce Wayne becomes unable to fulfill his role as Batman. Twenty years later, Terry McGinnis, a troubled but good-natured high school student ends up taking over the responsibility. With an all new cast of villains, Terry McGinnis has to become Batman, while also dealing with the personal toll becoming of the cowl.
Spoiler Level: Medium
There are very few times when watching a series I become so utterly floored by the project that it remains in the back of my mind well after I’ve watched it. When I first watched Batman Beyond, immediately I was encapsulated in the universe in which the series is set, and then interested in all of the different relationships between the different characters. The series, ultimately, is one of the best animated television programs of all time. It’s one of the few shows I’ve watched, interestingly enough, where watching it doesn’t feel at all like a children’s program. Not only is the show able to attract both audiences, it feels more geared towards an adult audience with its heavy use of adult themes.
This is obvious given the fact that it’s the sequel to the highly critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated series and The New Batman Adventures; it made sure to take the neo-noir atmosphere of Batman: The Animated Series. The show’s art style is incredible, and to this day, I’ve never seen anything with that level of technical quality. There’s a compelling mix of neo-noir, sci-fi, and cyberpunk elements. The show also has a mastercrafted color scheme, utilizing the color blue, for example, expertly, to highlight certain character and environmental features. For the time, the animation itself is also fairly solid. The fight scenes and character movements are all really well animated. The show’s facial movements aren’t anything extraordinary, but that’s to be expected.
There was something incredibly unique about some of the character designs. With his sleek black design, Batman’s never looks better. As far as the other character’s designs, similarly to Batman: The Animated Series, they’re overwhelmingly palatable, and oftentimes visually pleasing to look at. This series, comparatively to Batman: The Animated Series, is slightly better at this aspect, and the characters end up looking a little better.
Not only is the setting of the show impressive, as is the writing. The creators were able to write heavily emotional moments and scenes really well, which is a huge feat, especially for a children’s program. When the series wanted to make you laugh, cry, feel scared, etcetera—you genuinely felt that way, which is impressive, especially for a cartoon. The character of Bruce is exemplary of that. Bruce is incredibly guarded, and after everything that’s happened in his life, has a hard time expressing his emotions, and yet there are moments in the show where he does, even in the most slight of glimpses, which really allow for heavily emotional moments within the narrative.
Something particularly interesting was the use of older Batman. Older villains occasionally appear, but in unique and oftentimes disturbing ways. For example, Bane appears in one of the episodes and, although only included for a brief moment, was incredibly impactful by how he was presented. Basically, Bane looks feeble and decrepit, and requires a large machine in order to be able to stay alive. He is completely unresponsive. While brief, this particular scene is a very unique and powerful way to show the effects of drugs on the body, and ultimately the effects of crime in total. The once powerful villain is displayed as weak and powerless. It made me shudder while watching it.
The use of Terry’s personal life was also done really well. Oftentimes, shows that focus on teenage characters either rarely focus on the school aspect of their lives (Twin Peaks and Hemlock Grove to name a couple). Or, they’ll focus entirely on that aspect (For example Saved By the Bell and Lab Rats) Batman Beyond had a perfect balance of discussing the high school life of Terry McGinnis and how that affects him, while also focusing on the city of Gotham at large. While this doesn’t necessarily make the show any better, it was an aspect of the show that was nice to see.
As far as something a little more important, the show’s newest cast of villains was also fairly interesting. While they didn’t have deep or complex backstories all of the time, when they were given backstories, they were incredibly interesting. For example, there was the Terrific Trio. The next part is a spoiler, so if you don’t want spoilers, go to the next paragraph. The Terrific Trio are a group of three superheroes that were a result of a genetic experiment. When they find that they will never return to human form they end up going insane. There are several messages that these villains portray. There isn’t just the idea of being a superhero that end up being questioned with these characters, but also the question of the ethics of the advancements of science that’s also brought up. It’s incredibly special for the series to be able to do both within the narrative, which is really impressive.
While there are plenty of really positive aspects of the show, there are some negatives, which are important to discuss. Firstly, there is only a slight amount of diversity in the backstories of all of the villains. Almost always, it’s genetic mutation, oftentimes due to radiation, that villains becoming who they become. Unfortunately, this same reasoning as to the villains actions does get boring after a while, and a little more diversity as to the backstories to the characters would’ve made the show a bit better. Also, some of these villains end up coming across as a bit cheesy, partially due to the fact that they’re almost always created as a result of genetic mutation. The character of Blight, for example, the main villain, was mainly portrayed less like a lot of the more emotionally complex villains shown in the series, and more as a stereotypical rich, cackling, black cat petting super villain, which was rather disappointing given the more interesting villains that did appear.
Furthermore, while a lot of the art is good, there are certain character designs, particularly for the villains, that end up looking a bit strange. For example, The Royal Flush gang all had somewhat odd and unappealing designs. While they weren’t the most unappealing characters of all time, they certainly weren’t the most appealing either, and didn’t allow for the audience to entirely appreciate seeing them on screen as a result. They were fine characters overall, yet the way that they looked certainly didn’t add to their allure.
There was also the development of Terry as a troubled teenager that didn’t fully come across. It’s mentioned that he’s been to a juvenile detention center, yet he’s never really shown doing anything that would be considered terrible given the narrative, at least not enough for one to consider him “troubled”. Sure, before he becomes Batman, he beats up a couple of dastardly figures, yet this behaviour is never described as inherently evil or good, and so it’s difficult for me to see these behaviours within that light.
Overall, for any fans of Batman out there, or any fans of animation as a whole, this is a series you must watch.
Batman Beyond: Cyberpunk Batman?
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9.8/109.8/10
- Acting - 9.5/109.5/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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