Welcome to Comics For Rent: Bonus Week. In celebration of the Fathom Events screening of Batman and Harley Quinn, I’m taking time to cover a few of the movies I overlooked in the main run of this column. Some were oddities that didn’t fit. Others were too bland to say much on. But I’m covering them all the same. So, let’s kick things off with a film that fell between the cracks.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003, 75 minutes)
Plot: Batman tries to figure out the identity of a mysterious new ally using his imagery while fighting The Penguin and Bane.
Source Material: We’re in the DC Animated Universe full stop here. The voices are those from the universe, the style is the DCAU, and the film takes place firmly in continuity. The character of Batwoman is largely a new invention though one of her potential identities has a similar name to the canon Batwoman.
Animation: I love looking at the DCAU. It’s so lush even when it’s clearly done a bit cheaper than before. This is a great looking film with animation that just misses the top tier. Cityscapes are as usual marvels of art deco. The action is stellar. Characters are well designed and expressive. I can see places where the budget wasn’t quite par with say Mask of the Phantasm but still the movie is worth watching just for the animation alone.
Script: With a story by Alan Burnett and a script by Michael Reaves, the film boasts a strong pedigree and it largely lives up to it. This is a fairly formulaic story that borrows an irritating amount from Mask of the Phantasm but it works. It moves quickly with a solid mystery at the core. The characterization is a high point, playing up the idea of Bruce Wayne as a ladies man. I concede I didn’t need the scene between Bruce and Barbara Gordon which sadly echoed in advance The Killing Joke complete with Tara Strong voicing the role but oh well. This definitely passes the “movie” test.
Voice Acting: Good if nothing of note. This is really a chance for Kevin Conroy to shine as a different variant of Batman, warmer and happier. There’s some nice work from Kimberly Brooks, Kelly Ripa, and Elisa Gabrielli as the Batwoman suspects. Kyra Sedgwick is utterly wasted as the “voice” of Batwoman though. Hector Elizondo is an effective Bane.
Final Thoughts: For a movie that seemed a bit odd on release, aimed at kids but not really a kids movie with a solidly adult story, this is a remarkably easy film to rate. I’m going 3/5 but with the caveat that if you enjoy Batman go on ahead and consider it a 4. This is definitely a solid fix of the character. It’s a bit familiar and minor but it definitely engages. It’s what the DTV films do best: A b-experience compared to the As.