HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts
HTS Overall Score:80
“Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts” falls outside the norm of the recent DC output. Lately 95% of their animated films have been based off of the 52 reboot universe, which has garnered us some fun stories in the movie universe, but an absolutely insufferable comic book universe. Obsessed with making things as “Nolanish” as possible, the 52 reboot has been filled with misery and a lack of humor that made DC great to begin with all those decades ago. “Animal Instincts” goes back to those roots and feels much like the 90s and early 2000 era of animated films, with glib dialogue and cheesy one liners that reek of the old days. I caught a very “Batman Beyond” vibe to the movie and while it has some downfalls, is a return to a time when comic book movies were fun and not slathered in 9 layers of angst and depression.
Crimes are happening all around Gotham city, as a crew of animal villains, calling themselves the Animilitia break into and try to rob various items. Consisting of Killer Croc, Cheetah, Silverback and Man Bat, the beastly set of villains are being tracked by some of the DC universes finest. Batman (Roger Craigh Smith), Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal), and Nightwing (Will Friedle), have tracked them for a while, only to team up with The Flash and Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos) in an effort to find out just what they are up to. Things get a bit hairy when the villainous four bring in backup in the form of robotic animal androids that have enough strength to stand up to our heroes. All trails lead to one place, the brand new aviary in town, built by one Mr. Cobblepot (Dana Snyder).
Upon Further investigation, it becomes clear that Mr. Cobblepot has more up his sleeve as Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen recognize the robotic animals under Cobblepot’s ownership as the very same ones that attacked them in their combat with the Animilitia. Now it’s time for the 5 heroes to confront the mysterious aristocrat and his animal minions and find out just what’s at the heart of the matter. The only problem is that they may find out that there is more at stake than just a madman robbing buildings.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44721[/img]The DC animated universe has been giving us their all the last few years, with some obviously entertaining animated films based off of the 52 reboot universe. “Animal Instincts” takes a step outside that shared universe and takes us back about 15 years to the “Batman The Animated Series” and “Batman Beyond” days. Ironically the voice of Nightwing is played by Will Friedle, who also voiced Terry McGinnis/Batman in “Batman Beyond”. The lines can be sometimes rather cheesy and the childish, but it was pretty obvious from the get go that this one wasn’t going to be as PG-13 as the others were. It feels more like an old Batman animated TV show more than anything, and I say that as a positive comment. Sure the lines are cheesy, but the humor and joy of the old Batman shows are back in spades. Nightwing, Flash and Red Robin are cheeky and mouth as ever, spouting out one liners and insulting each other like no other. Batman is his brooding and morose self, while Oliver Queen is the sleek playboy that he was in the day.
What adds a layer of fun to the movie is that a lot of the OLD characteristics of our heroes are there, and it’s almost nostalgic and filled my heart with joy to see those old characters brought back from misery and the oppressively crushing tone of the 52 reboot. Green Arrow has his old multi use arrows, from boxing glove tipped arrows, to exploding ones, or ones that release a net even. Batman has his old habit of wearing different suits and armor upgrades that fit the situation, and even the old yellow utility belt is back for a spin. Red Robin and Nightwing are more of the later 90’s/2000 era, but they’re a good addition to the team. Wally West as “Flash” is the best in show though, as he was always a lighthearted smart mouth and while he feels a bit underpowered here, is charming and full of that old comic book cheese.
There is a few downsides to “Animal Instincts”, the main one being that it can be a bit too simplistic at times. It’s a dual edged sword, as that simplicity was a mainstay of the comics and certainly adds to the charm at times, but it also feels a bit TOO simplistic and childish. The voice acting was solid on the heroes side, but the villains felt like they got the short end of the stick with poor voice acting all around. Killer Croc was the worst, with Silverback being a close second. Cheetah wasn't too bad and neither was Penguin, but overall it felt as if the majority of the good casting was given to the superheroes.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44729[/img]What’s this? A DC animated film that looks REALLY good? This whole set feels like a deviation from Warner’s and DC’s M.O. The DC animated films have always looked pretty good, and even very good, but this is the first that looks REALLY good. Colors are bright and vivid, with good color saturation and excellent animation. It reminds me of a TV show at times by the artwork, but the lines are good and there doesn’t appear to be any digital manipulation. The BIG elephant in the room with these animated films from DC is the heavy banding that accompanies them. There is some banding present in “Animal Instincts”, but it’s VERY much subdued and only rather minor. I noticed it on occasion, but the blatant, in your face, banding that I’m used to with these releases is not present. Black levels look deep and inky with solid detail all around. I’m very VERY impressed with this combo pack. My hats off to warner for the lack of banding especially.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44737[/img]Warner’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless audio track is rather impressive, showcasing some really good channel separation, excellent surround usage and a very solid LFE channel. Dialog for the film is clean and legible at all time, with a nice balance with the action oriented effects. The movie has more than its fair share of explosions, fist pounding and general sounds of action mayhem to keep all channels filled, but the surrounds really have some nice detail to them. A thunk of a batarang, or the impact of a laser on a background pillar are all readily located easily and score fills out the track quite nicely with a sense of excitement. The Bass is impressive and gives a nice throbbing low end to the explosions and general ambiance. I was a BIT disappointed that it wasn’t as deep and heavy as some of the DC animated lineup, but this one definitely felt more like a TV show budget rather than a full featured movie budget, so it is understandable. Overall, it’s a good track and fits the movie quite nicely.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44745[/img]• Tease of Fifty Shades Darker
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While the “Batman Unlimited” universe is not as angsty and mature as the new 52 universe that is being focused on lately, it still is a fun family friendly animated movie that feels more and more like the Timm universe with each passing film. The inclusion of long time animated vocalist Will Friedle is a bonus point for that, and while the movie is not as good as “Animal Instincts”, “Mechs vs. Mutants” delivers more than I expected after the very underwhelming “Monster Mayhem”. Audio and video are great, even for a DVD, and despite my disappointment of this release not receiving a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, it’s still well worth checking out if you’ve enjoyed the last two installments. Recommended for a watch.
Starring: Roger Craig Smith, Will Friedle, Laura Bailey
Directed by: Butch Lukic
Written by: Heath Corson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, German DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 72 Minutes
Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD & Digital HD 5/12/15
Buy Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Check it Out
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