Lured by the promise of a very large mob heist stash, both the Penguin and the Joker make good their escape from the notoriously easy to break out of Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane. However while the Joker quickly gets taken out by the Batman, the Penguin suffers a far worse fate. Unwittingly unleashing Count Dracula, lord of the Vampires himself through a chain of unfortunate events, Oswald Cobblepot soon finds himself enslaved to the lord of darkness as he begins his quest to take over the city of Gotham – one body at a time.
Of course Gotham’s resident bat, The Batman can hardly overlook this new turn of events – but just how is the very human bat going to take on the supernatural king of all bats? It is a fight for supremacy with the blood of the very citizens of Gotham as the main prize!
Seeing as there is such a flood of direct-to-video animated movies being released nowadays, it seems pretty certain that DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment has to push through a Batman movie in some fashion – pretty much as it has been doing all along these years anyway. So we get Batman vs Dracula, the latest in a long line of Batman animated movies.
Story wise, Batman vs Dracula carries all the story elements that makes a Batman story a Batman story. We have the necessary traditional super villains in the form of the Joker and the Penguin. We have the fist bruising fight scenes we have come to expect from Batman. We have the necessary detective sequences, the necessary dark shadow scenes and of course, the playboy romances associated with Bruce Wayne and whichever woman the story picks for a change. And obviously no Batman movie would be complete without some references to Bruce’s tragic past.
And because we are dealing with Vampires and Count Dracula himself, we get all the necessary vampire lore like the ridiculously effective garlic, crosses and sunlight. And the blood sucking of course, just lest we forget.
By now you might be seeing the point I’m trying to make. The movie peters out as a standard Vampire flick crossed with a Batman adventure, which ends up being pretty boring because it has been done before to death. Hell, even the way Dracula gets defeated is clich’. It is a pity really because I am a Batman fan, but the writing on this turns out very ho hum I’m afraid. Still, it is a classic yarn and I am sure that kids will pull the maximum enjoyment out of this one.
Interestingly enough, Batman vs. Dracula strays far from the now almost traditional Batman Adventures animated style, something that immediately comes across a little jarring to fans of the long running franchise. Instead we get a rounder approach to animation, though still maintaining the overly simplistic style associated with American cartoons (not that the movie was produced by American animators of course. As with most things animated these days, the movie was indeed farmed out to the Koreans for all the animated work). Computer colouring takes the fore as it does nowadays, breathing bright, colourful life into the scenes and although the animation comes across a little softer than what it should for an animated Batman, all the dark mood and tones of the story is effectively captured by the animators.
It is nice to note that despite the simplified lines, the animators have at least put a little effort into the female character models this time, a breath of fresh air when you compare it to the efforts we last saw in later release, Superman vs. Doomsday movie I reviewed a little earlier. Also, Batman does at least look pretty strong and heroic, despite the fact that he looks like he has a bit of a pudding bowl for a head.
However, the new, more bestial design for the Joker stands out like a sore thumb. A complete move away from the traditionally sophisticated yet mad villain, this version does the character an injustice and it is probably the most problematic design throughout the movie.
Designs and style shortcuts aside, the animation is however nice and fluid with good choreography, flawless cinematic tricks and neat eye candy, the movie is good on the eye and you’ll be hard pressed not to admire it for its flow and stylish beauty.
On the sound front the movie doesn’t disappoint either, with a gorgeously atmospheric soundtrack that befits any Batman movie. The voice acting while not bad, is again a little jarring thanks to the fact that no voices from the animated series reprise their role, leading to a bit of dissonance for fans of the animated series.
Overall, despite the fact that this movie treads well trod ground, and holds no surprises for the long time Batman or Dracula aficionado, the movie does a good job in tying these two long running mythos together and presenting a competent, enjoyable movie experience. It might not take any awards home, but it is a good movie and your kids are likely to enjoy it thoroughly.
Which is all that counts in the end I guess :)
Related Link: http://www2.warnerbros.com/video/batmanvsdracula/