Beware the Batman Is, Shockingly, Not Terrible

Beware the Batman logo; Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network

This article was going to be about how terrible the CGI in Cartoon Network’s new Beware the Batman looks. However, to my surprise watching “Hunted”, the premiere episode, it really did not bother me as much as I expected.

I am still puzzled by the decision to go all-CGI. I realize shows like Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Clone Wars have been successful enough to prove it a viable model. However, the fact is, that while Pixar has the money and time to make really quality CGI animation, that is not an option for television. The problem is texture, in particular with clothing, which tends to all look like spandex, which can be distracting. What we are left with is animation that is already dated by about 10 years the moment it is released, in comparison to what we are used to seeing in cinemas and video games. The alternative, 2D animation, even if on the cheap side, would look much more timeless – proof positive being Batman: The Animated Series, which I have been re-watching of late, and which still holds up completely (and would be far cheaper to do now, due to the new technology). See, for example, the title sequence below, or if you want to watch a full episode, I would heavily recommend “I Am the Night”, which is as serious a take on Batman as anything Nolan ever produced.

The plot of Beware the Batman‘s first episode feels brief, the story being only lightly wrapped up. This, once again, does not compare favorably to the classic animated series I mentioned before. It may be, however, an indication of more of a continuous storyline than that incarnation, which mostly ended each episode with a return to the status quo. Looking ahead to the available details of upcoming episodes, the format of “villain of the week” appears to hold true, but there are indications that the focus will switch to character interaction. As an example, the third episode will feature the first appearance of Anarky, who has been described by producer Mitch Watson as the Moriarty to Batman’s Sherlock. However, if the plot synopsis available online indicates their confrontation is relegated to a “meanwhile”, the main plot of the episode apparently being about putting Batman putting his new sidekick, Katana, introduced at the end of this episode, to the test.

Overall, however, the show feels exciting. The writing is clever and quick. Batman himself is still, it seems, learning some of the ropes, and is not quite as confident as he is often portrayed. It is unclear in the show how well he is known in Gotham City yet, or what his relationship with the police is. Gordon is also a lieutenant, not the commissioner. Alfred, on the other hand, is more rough and physical, taking more of an active interest in Bruce’s training. I can see the show trying to introduce more detective elements, even though it often gets carried away with running from explosions.

I will actually be quite curious to see where this series goes. In particular, if it chooses to go the route of multi-episode story lines, I may end up being a fan of it. Though, once again, it would help if everything in the show didn’t look like it was cast from plastic.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? What were, or are, your expectations for it? Will you give the next episodes a shot?