Another storm is brewing in Gotham and it's not only raining cats and dogs but evil Cyber Animals! When the city is plagued by a slew of bizarre crimes committed by the animal-inspired villain squad, known as the Animilitia -- made up of Silverback, Cheetah, Killer Croc and Man-Bat -- Batman must swing into action to investigate. These animalistic villains bring new and exciting challenges for the hero of Gotham, and Batman must find a way to bring these criminal creatures to a halt! But could the Animilitia be working for powerful businessman Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin? How does The Penguin's new invention of robotic Cyber Animals fit into the mix? In the end, it'll take all the combined forces of Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing and Red Robin to fight off these Animal Instincts.
Unlike most of the original DC animated movies currently being released, where the intended audience is young adults and grown-ups, 'Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts' is geared more towards the younger Batman fan. In fact, the movie itself isn't based on a comic book series or another animated title, but rather a toy line of action figures that Mattel produces under the 'Batman Unlimted' name. With that in mind, you might think this title is just a money grab that includes the hope of selling a few more toys. Well, it may very well be that, but it's not totally without merit, either. In fact, 'Animal Instincts' is fun to watch, even though it's pretty thin in the overall plot department.
There's a ton of action in this movie…so much that things barely come up for air. It all starts off with Batman fighting it out with a robotic dog on the streets of Gotham. While Batman is doing his thing, Nightwing (the former Robin, Dick Grayson) is busy fending off baddies Killer Croc and Cheetah. Eventually, other heroes and villains join in the fun. On the good side of things, Batman and Nightwing are joined by Green Arrow, the Flash, and Red Robin, while the rogue's gallery of villains also includes Silverback, Man-Bat, and the Penguin – the latter of which is responsible for the various robot creatures that Batman and his pals have to face off against in this movie.
Also of note is the setting of the movie, which takes place sometime in the future. While the names of all our heroes and villains are the same (and appear to be the same age they are in other modern-day adaptations), the Gotham City here is more of a Blade Runner version than we've seen in any other incarnation. There are even flying police cars that look very much like the 'spinners' seen in Ridley Scott's film.
Even though there's a lot of action in the movie, parents don't have to worry too much about any bloodletting, as what we get here is pretty tame. Adults should also get a kick out of the movie's sense of humor, as there's some entertaining back and forth among the characters here, which was probably added by the creators just to keep older audiences engaged in the story.
'Batman Unlimted: Animal Instincts' is the first in what DC and Warners hopes to be a continued series of such releases, with the next chapter, Monster Mayhem, due later this summer. Of course, how many of these titles we'll see depends ultimately on the sales numbers, but if the next release is able to balance both the geared-toward-kids theme with the humor and fun for all ages that this first title does, I suspect this may prove to be a successful product for the folks at Warner Bros.
The big question though is if this title is worth a purchase or just a rental. I'd say definitely rent first, regardless of whether you're taking a look just for yourself or if you've got youngsters you're sharing this with. It's an enjoyable enough watch, but I'm not sure how re-watchable this might be (given that many kids like to watch stuff over and over again, you'll probably find out pretty quickly their interest level). But the bottom line here is that 'Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts' is a surprisingly quality release that, despite being based on a toy line, turns out to be pretty fun.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack of 'Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts' is unleashed on home video in an oversized cardboard box that includes an exclusive 'Fire Bat' action figure, which honestly is one of the cheapest toys I've seen a studio release with a movie and obviously just an attempt to try and get the kiddies interested in Mattel's line of 'Batman Unlimited' toys. The box includes the sealed/shrinkwrapped movie as well, just as you'd find it if it were sold separately outside of this larger box.
The discs for this release are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, with the dual-layer DVD on the inside left of the case and the 50GB Blu-ray on the inside right. The case also includes an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet copy of the movie, as well as an insert containing a coupon for $5.00 off any Mattel Batman item (which expires on 12/31/2015). A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray are front-loaded with a trailer for Season 3 of 'Ninjago'. The main menu is a standard Warners' design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
There's both some good and some bad when it comes to the video quality of this release. The bad is that, like almost every animated title from DC/Warners, this one comes with some noticeable banding issues in the transfer. The good news is that, unlike most other DC/Warners animated releases, we don't much in the way of microblocking or jagged edges that many of those other titles have. In fact, I was hard pressed to find any microblocking at all here. There are a couple of instances of aliasing and/or noticeable jitter in the image, but not enough that it becomes a huge distraction to one's viewing.
The nicest thing that we get with 'Batman Unlimted: Animal Instincts' that most of the DC animated releases don't have is a bright and beautiful color scheme. For whatever reason – perhaps because those other DC releases are geared more toward older teens and adults – the colors always seem to be toned down and a general 'haze' put over the image to give things a 'grittier' look to them. Thankfully, that's not the case here, resulting in this being one of the better-looking animated titles I've viewed from the DC/Warners line.
The principal audio track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that sounds pretty good, and shows off a bit as well. The majority of the dialogue comes from the center channel, although the right and left speakers are occasionally used for voices in the distance and/or the echoing of the center channel dialogue. The rears are prominent in a lot of the action sequences of the movie (of which there are many) and most noticeable when used for directionality issues. There's some LFE use as well, primarily (as one would suspect) during any explosions or crashes that occur during an action scene. As animated titles go, this one is fairly immersive, and I could detect no noticeable problems or glitches with the track.
In addition to the English lossless track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), French, and German. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), German, and French.
Although it's based on a series of Batman toys from Mattel, 'Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts' is no mere money grab from the folks at DC and Warner Bros. It's a pretty entertaining kids-themed movie, which still has plenty of stuff for the adults to enjoy. It's something you'll want to watch before making a purchasing decision, but it's surprisingly fun. Rent it.