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Since 1992, Warner Brothers has released two animated BATMAN films; with the third to be out late 2000. In this section, Jett reviews the animated Bat-movies--past and future.

MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993)

Starring the voice talents of:

Batman/Bruce Wayne.....Kevin Conroy
Andrea Beaumont.....Dana Delany
Alfred Pennyworth.....Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
The Joker.....Mark Hamill

Due to the fact that I have not seen this film in a while, I am going to view it a few times before I write my review. Look for it in the next couple of weeks.

SUB ZERO (1998)

Starrng the voices of:

Batman/Bruce Wayne.....Kevin Conroy
Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze.....Michael Ansara
Richard Grayson/Robin.....Loren Lester
Alfred Pennyworth.....Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

CREDITS

Written by.....Randy Rogel and Boyd Kirkland
Produced by.....Boyd Kirkland and Randy Rogel
Music.....Michael McCuistion
Directed by Boyd Kirkland

Animated or not, this is one the best Bat-films to date. It is much, much better than the similar, live-action BATMAN AND ROBIN, which was released just a bit earlier. Too bad that the production teams of the live-action films never learned anything from their animated counterparts.

This Batman film has The Batman pitted against his nemesis Mr. Freeze, who has returned to Gotham and kidnaped Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. In a desparate attempt to solve the mystery of her kidnapping, Batman and Robin discover that Barbara's disappearance is all part of Freeze's plan to save his dying wife Nora. Freeze wants Barbara for a organ transplant; even if it means her death.

With a final, action-filled finale, Batman and Robin embark on an exciting rescue mission which leads to a final confrontation between The Batman and Mr. Freeze.

This was an excellent film, and as I said earlier, SHOULD have been BATMAN AND ROBIN. The action starts at the very beginning with Batman and Robin catching to crooks on an attempted getaway, and continues almost non-stop throughout the film. Freeze, voiced by Michael Ansara, is perfectly portrayed as the tragic soul that he is--far, far superior to Arnold's version in B&R. The biggest positive of this film--as is with all the bat-animatd efforts--is that the filmmakers have the ultimate respect for the characters and the fans. Never does it slip into camp or silliness; as the live-action films ultimately did. Filled with superior animation, a solid story, and strong voice performances, this is a must-see for all Bat-films; and is one of my favorite Bat-films.

Jett's Score:
3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER (2000)

Starring the voice talents of:
Batman/Terry McGinnis.....Will Friedle
Bruce Wayne/Batman.....Kevin Conroy
The Joker.....Mark Hamill
Barbara Gordon.....Angie Harmon

CREDITS
Produced by:.....Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, Bruce Timm
Written by.....Paul Dini
Directed by.....Curt Ceda

The third animated Batman film is not "classic" Batman, but based on the popular BATMAN BEYOND animated series. As in the series, we have a new Batman, young Terry McGinnis, who is mentored by the original Dark Knight, a now 80-something Bruce Wayne.

The film begins with Bruce Wayne finally returning to be the active head of Wayne Enterprses. As the ceremony get's underway, an attact by the Jokerz ensures, but let this time by none other than the Joker himself! Although he should be in his 80's as well, the Joker seems to have hardly changed at all. And this fact is not lost on the orginal Batman.

As Terry tries to uncover the Joker's secrets--particularly just how he returned--he get's no help from Wayne. In fact, Wayne now demands that Terry give up his turn as The Batman. Barbara Gordon, once Batgirl, also recommends that Terry give up the Bat-suit and stay out of the Joker's way. Obviously, there is something more to the story. When informed by Bruce that the Joker is long dead--and this must be some sort of imposter, Terry speculates that Bruce killed the Joker long ago. But as we soon find out, this Joker knows too much; way too much to be a simple fake. When Bruce is almost killed in one of the Joker's latest attacks, Batman vowes to avenge his mentor and take the Joker down for good.

I first must say that I only viewed the edited version of the film. And yes, I know of all the cuts, word/phrase changes, etc. But I found this to be a really excellent film. The story was clever and top-notch. Paul Dini showed again that he probaby knows Batman better than anyone. (Thank goodness he was put in charge of the live-action BATMAN BEYOND.) The voice work, particularly Kevin Conroy as Wayne, and Mark Hamill's Joker is above the mark. The animation, while not theatrical-Disney quality, is far better than that of the series. It feels like a film; not a extended version of the TV show.

While the edits were demanded by WB animation to make it more suitable for younger audiences, I never once felt as if I was watching kiddie-fare. And I have no problem with the edits. They, for this reviewer, did not take away from the quality of the story. The only edit that may have made the film a bit stronger was the way the Joker dies. It is changed from the original to the released version. The others are virtually unnoticeable. Would I have liked to have seen the other version released? Yes. I wished that WB had released both. Which in fact, may still happen. But I liked the film. I liked it a lot and was not dissappointed. I thik a lot of people (especially a big, redheaded dude) have gotten worked up over nothing. Now I will admit I say that without having seen the orginal version as of yet. And I wish I had not known so much of the plot twists. But if these edits make this film THAT much better, then it must be SUPER kick ass. Because I liked it, and rate it highly.

Jett's Score:
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

UPDATED 12/27/00! Jett views the "uncut" version!

The above review was for the released version of this film. And by all means, I liked it very much. And I was glad to have seen it before I viewed the original cut of this film. So let me first address the 2 major concerns with the editing: 1) Does the editing completely change this film? No it does not. And, 2) Is the unedited version better? Yes, a bit better indeed.

First of all, most of the edites or changes are fairly unnoticable. There are a few diaglogue alterations that if you didn't know better, you wouldn't even notice. And some scenes, mostly fight scenes, are a little bit longer. The scene where Bonk is gassed by the Joker is longer and has been altered. In the edited version, you know he dies, but it is doen off-screen. In the unedited version, the Joker asks the gang if they are "with him" and when he asks Bonk, he says "Oh, dead! HAHAHAHA!" It is a tad more disturbing than in the released version, but still nothing to significantly alter the quality of the film.

However the one scene that has been changed, and where the most edits are found does indeed alter the film and make it better. Of course I am talking about the flashback scene where Tim Drake is captured, tortured, and brainwashed by the Joker. First of all, the Joker is shown with electric tongs shocking Tim. I thought the released version was better for NOT showing this; leaving more up to the imagination. All blood is removed on both The Batman and The Joker. And finally the most significant change: the way the Joker dies. If you bought or have viewed the film, you know that the Joker is accidently electrocuted after being pushed by Tim/JJ. In the unedited version, Tim/JJ shoots the Joker and impales him with the "Bang" stick. The Joker says, "That's not funny" and drops dead. To me it showed that the Joker is so insane, so sadistic, that even Robin/Tim was pushed to kill him for what he had done to him. And for that one scene it is a better film.

Now let me say this. My kids have the released version and we watched it together. I had already viewed it, so I had no reservations about then watching it. And parts of it scared them. So, even with the edites, this film is not at all "kiddie-fare." And for that one scene mentioned, I will not let them see the original. I think WB was justified in the call for changes, but I think both versions should have been released; as will eventually I have heard. But both versions are solid, well done, and entertaining.

Jett's Score:
4 out of 5 stars