When you sit back and think about how the concept which gave birth to Batman Beyond could’ve otherwise panned out, it’s very possible the project may have ended up being a train wreck. After all, when Bruce Timm and his colleagues were called into network executive offices over twenty years ago and were told to develop a show about a “teenage Batman,” the whole thing could’ve easily spiraled out of control.
Well, fortunately for us all, it was the same capable hands that had already brought us the grand slams that were Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series continuing the established legacy. And as fate would have it, one of the most beloved and original DC animated shows ever created came out the other end of the aforementioned meeting.
For those unfamiliar with Batman Beyond, the basic premise is this: Fifty years after the events which transpired in Batman: The Animated Series, a young man named Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) takes up the mantle of the Dark Knight in a Blade Runner-esque Gotham City that’s still no stranger to widespread criminal activity. And in doing so, he’s mentored by his predecessor, Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy), who now has a dog as his only companion. Suffice it to say, the two need each other when first meeting more than they’d think, what with Terry’s own father being murdered.
In the eyes of this critic, the two-part series premiere, “Rebirth,” remains one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. It’s no wonder that it was initially released on DVD as Batman Beyond: The Movie back in the day, and should still do its job of enthralling newcomers upon their initial viewing.
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Throughout this epic, 52-episode journey that spans four of the six discs included in the Blu-ray set, Terry does battle with a wide array of new villains plaguing Gotham. Yes, there are some returning foes in unforgettable installments such as “Meltdown” and “Out of the Past,” which featured Mr. Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul, respectively, but the new Masked Manhunter is dealt his own contemporaries, with Blight, Inque and Shriek being but a few of them.
Aside from the adventures just mentioned, I’m also very partial to “The Call.” Those already up to speed should remember this is when Terry was invited to join the Justice League of tomorrow. It’s actually kind of funny because this particular two-parter predated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, so Timm and company learned what to do and what not to do when they eventually started developing those team-ups. Anything involving Inque also pleases me, as she’s my favorite of the future wave of evildoers.
When it comes to the overall presentation, rest assured that Batman Beyond has never looked better. The colors are vibrant, and the sound quality is top notch. I’m glad the latter holds true, factoring in how the techno-metal score still pleases my ears every time.
To briefly stay on the topic of visuals, I’ll confirm that the original 4:3 aspect ratio is preserved, though not every single episode went through the painstaking high definition remastering process. As it turned out, the film for some episodes had became too damaged or dirty over time, so those have been “smart rezzed.” But if you were to ask me, you most likely won’t notice the difference, as pretty much everything looks sharp.
Moving on to the fifth disc, that’s where you’ll find the bulk of the bonus content. The stuff native to the previously released DVD box sets remains intact on the other discs, but this is where you’ll find new material like “Nostalgic Tomorrow – A Batman Gathering” and “Knight Immortal.” The former is an absolute must-see, reuniting cast and crew as they discuss much trivia over nearly an hour, whereas the latter is a retrospective celebrating 80 years of the Dark Knight.
You’ll wrap up your binge with Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, a flick which I firmly believe stands the test of time as one of the best animated Batman movies ever made. The version offered up here is the PG-13-rated Director’s Cut, although I wish WB would’ve thrown in the PG cut for the sake of completion. I say that because there are notable differences between the two, and also because I’ve never owned the PG version.
It’s not often I mention packaging and other goodies in Blu-ray reviews, but I think it’s worth doing here. If you lay down money for the set limited to 50,000 copies, then you’ll also become the proud owner of an exclusive Batman Beyond Funko Pop! figure, as well as four lenticular cards.
Having said all this, I’m happy to finally add Batman Beyond: The Complete Series to my Blu-ray collection – and you should do likewise. It’s my desire that both Superman: The Animated Series and The Batman are those next to follow suit, so I hope the folks at Warner Home Entertainment take each into consideration.
Much like its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond offers up a dark, captivating saga worthy of an eighty-year legacy - but with a futuristic twist.