It’s Halloween night in Gotham City and Scarecrow, Clayface, Silver Banshee and Solomon Grundy have hit the streets to stir up trouble! Batman is on the trail of the city’s spookiest villains while, further complicating matters, the clown prince of crime himself, The Joker, is ruling over this mysterious crew of misfit criminals. It’s up to the Dark Knight to stop this gruesome gang before they unleash “digital laughter,” a computer virus that’s part of a diabolical plan to jeopardize all of Gotham City’s vital technology. Batman, Green Arrow, Cyborg, Nightwing and Red Robin must combine forces to battle these baddies and save the city.
All you need to know about 'Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem' is that Batman rides a robotic dinosaur that shoots lasers. Yes, that's right…a freakin' laser-beam shootin' dino with the Dark Knight at the reins. Don't worry, it will all make sense when you see the movie, but it's an example of the kind of fun the creators/animators are willing to have with these new 'Batman Unlimited' titles that they wouldn't dare risk ticking off fans with in their more somber, serious animated releases.
If you saw the first title in this series, Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts, you are already aware that the 'Batman Unlimited' universe isn't based on any comic book or story that proceeded it – it's just a new idea from DC/Warner Bros. that was essentially created to promote a new toy line (and the toys created to promote these home video releases). It's set in a Blade Runner-like Gotham City of the future, and confirmed on the bonus materials here (for the first time, I believe) is the idea that 'Batman Unlimited' is essentially a prequel series to 'Batman Beyond'.
This latest 'Batman Unlimited' release is set during Halloween, as supervillains Solomon Grundy and Silver Banshee escape from Arkham Asylum and go on a driving spree through the streets of Gotham. Scarecrow soon arrives on the scene to break up their little joy ride, and it's not long afterwards that viewers learn that The Joker himself is behind this gathering of evil and has a new diabolical (okay, it's actually rather silly) plan to take over the city. The Joker kidnaps a young expert videogame programmer and uses him to create a computer virus that will take over all the technology in Gotham.
On the hero side of things, Batman is not only joined by Red Robin, Nightwing, and Green Arrow (all of whom were part of the prior 'Batman Unlimited' title), but Cyborg also joins in on the action this time around, and actually plays a primary role in the victory against the Joker at the end of the movie. With so many heroes and villains in an 80-minute title, there's not a whole lot of screen time to go around, although I will say that villain Solomon Grundy and hero Red Robin seem to get most of the attention when the movie isn't focusing on either Batman or The Joker.
The movie isn't afraid to have fun with its presentation, not only having a face-off between the good guys and bad guys occur on the grounds of a carnival (Batman meets up with Solomon Grundy in the Tunnel of Love), but even having Batman and The Joker squaring off in virtual reality (where that robotic dinosaur comes into play, just in case you've been wondering). The voice acting here is solid, but primarily done by career voice-over talent rather than by any 'name' mainstream actors (although actress Kari Wuhrer does voice Silver Banshee). All of the voice actors who had characters in the Animal Instincts release return here, including Roger Craig Smith as Batman. Troy Baker voices The Joker, and does so in a quality very reminiscent of Mark Hamill (Baker has also replaced Hamill in the new Batman videogame releases).
The key word to remember when it comes to 'Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem' is 'fun'. If one keeps in mind that this release is primarily geared towards youngsters and should be kept separate from DC's other more 'adult' animated releases, there's enjoyment to be found here. I liked this 'Batman Unlimited' title a bit more than the first one (most likely because this one features The Joker), and look forward to future releases in the series…if only to see how they can top Batman riding a laser-shooting dinosaur.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem' arrives on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The eco-friendly Elite keepcase houses the single-layer 25GB Blu-ray on the inside right and the dual-layer DVD on the inside left. An insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie is also included. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slick slides overtop. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray (the DVD, however, contains front-loaded trailers for Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery, LEGO Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!, and 'Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run'.). The main menu is a standard Warners' design, with a still of Batman riding the robot dinosaur seen on the box cover and menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
You don't score any bonus points for guessing that this animated release from DC/Warner Bros. has some banding issues. That's pretty much par for the course – a result primarily of the way DC animates their movies. However, much like the prior release of Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts, the image here is free from any other issues, such as macroblocking. The colors used here are really wonderful as well, although I suppose die-hard 'Batman' fans may be less thrilled with a Gotham city full of bright colors and high-tech, but that's the world that has been established here.
Unlike some of their PG-13 releases, in which DC seems to intentionally blur and/or put a haze over the animation to give it a more 'realistic' look (which I hate), here, everything is sharp, well-detailed, and colorful. While the animation style certainly is more along the lines of a TV animated series than a theatrical movie, most fans should be pleased with the presentation.
Warners has a lot of fun with its primary English 5.1 DTS-MA Master Audio track for the movie, which, in addition to its crisp and clear dialogue, contains a lot of surround immersiveness, some enjoyable directionality, and even a number of low-end LFE moments. It's one of those tracks that are aggressive without being overbearing, and I appreciated the fact that everything was mixed properly, so the action scenes don't sound 10 times louder than dialogue-driven sequences.
In addition to the English lossless track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in Spanish (Latin) and French. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), and French.
Batman has been so 'dark' in so many of his iterations these days, it's nice to see a series of animated releases that just wants to have fun with the character. Yes, these 'Batman Unlimited' titles are geared toward a younger age group, but grown-ups can find a lot to like here too. And Batman rides a robot dinosaur that shoots lasers – how can you not want to see that? Recommended.