Batman the Animated Series has recently been re-released through the Apple store. As a fan from the 90s, I immediately downloaded the show for a measly $12.95, a bargain price given the quality of the show. This vision of Batman is pure noir, with aspects of Tim Burton’s style packed in a serial format. While seemingly designed for children, it contains sophisticated and mature dialogue enabling a wide range of people to enjoy the series. The producers aptly named the show “dark deco”. The show is widely recognized as an excellent animation, winning Emmys for writing, music and production.
The dialogue is superb and the characters are given real depth, all the more impressive considering the show is bereft of a story arc. There’s no overarching narrative in this show, each episode is standalone and can be taken at its own terms. The serial aspect also pays homage to Batman’s comic book roots.
I particularly enjoy the noir touches, the no nonsense gritty dialogue, the dark tone and strong reflections on characters constantly in reflection. The noir genre throws up ambiguity around good and bad; the villains in the show are generally depicted as evil and needing to be stopped, although their reasoning for doing what they do is thoroughly and satisfyingly explored. There are no easy answers. This is not straightforward good and bad, black and white. Batman by nature is an ambiguous character.
The show was created and released in the early nineties, cashing in on the interest in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. The show goes through all the Batman villains – Joker, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Two Face – who reappear through the four seasons as they go in and out of Arkham Asylum. Batman occasionally teams up with Robin, but more often works alone in the shadows.
Despite knowing the general formula which gets repeated each week, the show manages to draw you into the action incredibly well as Batman yet again finds himself in a Houdini situation. I found myself wondering how he’s going to escape again and again.
Another outstanding element is the music, perfectly composed and delivered in this show. It really is a knockout punch. The voice acting is superb, with Mark Hamill as the Joker (best known as the goodie-two-shoes crop-dusting universe-saving Jedi Knight from Star Wars). While Hamill did not continue his success on the silver screen he has moved onto voice acting and gaming projects with much talent and integrity.
Since the show’s creation, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has reinvigorated the Batman franchise. The Dark Knight brought in over a billion dollars in ticket receipts and the final instalment this July is likely to have similar returns. Batman is alive and well, no doubt helped by the many brilliant artists who have perpetuated the legend in amazing and original ways. We acknowledge that the Batman and Robin film may have fallen slightly short in this respect!
The myth lives on, the legend lives on. Shows like Dexter lie in the vast shadow cast by the caped crusader who remains perched over the anonymous dark city, our protector fighting another night.