I was bummed out when BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and JUSTICE LEAGUE (UNLIMITED) were taken off the television. I did give the new BATMAN series a try, but I couldn't really get into it. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that I miss Kevin Conroy's never-to-be-surpassed voice portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Another reason is that the new series just isn't as good as the classic 1990s version. Nevertheless, on a whim, I purchased this animated movie and, to my surprise, ended up enjoying it. The Batman meets his perfect adversarial foil in the sanguinary Count, who taunts our hero: "Try as you may, you cannot out-bat me." This version of the Caped Crusader might be younger and, therefore, not as experienced or battle tested, but the same intensity and obsessive brooding are present. Definitely, he broods more here than he does in his regular series. True, Rino Romano isn't Kevin Conroy, but there's an earnestness and a certain timbre in his voice that made me not be as critical as I might've been. By the same token, Kevin Michael Richardson isn't Mark Hamill, but I actually relished Richardson's different take on the demented Joker, whose latest incarnation here seems to be more formidable than ever.
The storyline: The Joker and the Penguin's escape from Arkham Asylum accidentally leads to the resurrection of Count Dracula. Soon thereafter, Gotham citizens, dubbed the "lost ones," alarmingly begin to vanish. When the Batman investigates, he ends up clashing with the original bat-man, who then proceeds to convincingly stomp on him in their first tussle. Nevertheless, the Dark Knight is intent on not only defeating the master vampire but also on curing his infected victims. However, as the plague of vampirism continues to contaminate Gotham and the ranks of Dracula's children of the night swell, the Batman realizes that time is indeed drastically running out. But can his specially crafted arsenal of garlic bombs and antidote bullets save the night and Vicki Vale, on whom the Count's covetous eyes have set? And where do the Joker and the Penguin fit in all this bloody mess?
At 84 minutes, BATMAN VS. DRACULA is an eerie, atmospheric film which might prove to be too intense for the tots. There are moments rife with neck-sucking and visions of blood rampantly gushing, pouring, and dripping. But the more adult audience will find this dark adventure of the Batman to be diverting stuff. There are neat battle sequences between Drac and Bats somewhat done ala MATRIX style. These confrontations are executed in such a way that the viewer is made fully cognizant of just how vulnerable the Batman is and how precarious is his situation as he tries to hold his own against the supernaturally powerful Dracula, who can willfully disrupt the senses and move in a literal blur.
BATMAN VS. DRACULA is perfect Halloween fare; in fact, this dvd was released about two weeks before Halloween. The voice acting is good, if not stellar. The animation is decent, on par with the Batman's current series and is reminiscent of the JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES, which isn't that surprising when you factor in artist/animator Jeff Matsuda, who had a hand in crafting both shows. Anyway, it's a pretty entertaining animated movie, and, based on my enjoyment of it, I just might have to give THE BATMAN another chance.