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‘Batman: The Animated Series’ Blu-ray Box Set Review

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Batman: The Animated Series, which originally ran from 1992 to 1995, is arguably the single best adaptation of the world of Batman to have ever come into existence. Mixing 90s cartoon sensibilities with serious radio-style drama, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, as well as writers such as Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, managed to develop an intelligent show for kids that went beyond what was previously thought possible in children’s media.

Taking influence from the pages of comic books and the aesthetics of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, BTAS’s mood, tone, and often stellar storytelling not only stands the test of time, but it could be argued that it’s stronger today than it was back in the early 90s. Perhaps most importantly, the show features the voices of Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker), Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn), Paul Williams (The Penguin), Bob Hastings (Commissioner Gordan) and more, many of whom have become iconic standards for Batman-related media.

Batman The Animated Series

“Batman: The Animated Series”, Warner Bros

The success of Batman: The Animated Series led to two feature-length film releases, two sequel shows — The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond — and the DCAU continuity in general, including shows such as Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited.

And now, after years of an out-of-print DVD box set being the only physical media option, Batman: The Animated Series has been remastered/restored in 1080p on Blu-ray, available as a “Deluxe Limited Edtion” set. Not only that, but the new BD box set also includes the films Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, the 22 episodes of The New Batman Adventures, and a ton of special features.

Bat-clarity

Having grown up seeing the show broadcast or via VHS on CRTs, and then on DVD for years after, the boost in 1080p clarity this remaster brings is mind-boggling.

If you’re like me, it may take some getting used to, as the lack of clarity might have become part of the aesthetic in your mind. BTAS is a mostly dark show, with things coming to form within the shadows, so it played well with its original low-resolution presentation. As is expected with the additional clarity, you’ll see some irregularities with some frames of animation, pieces of dust, stroke-marks, and fluctuations in backdrops and so on — things you were perhaps never meant to see.

Batman The Animated Series

“Batman: The Animated Series”, Warner Bros

The jump to high definition un-obscures the mystery; the virtue (or lack thereof) of this is dependent on each person’s preference, but it’s great to see that unlike restorations by companies like Disney, the effort here is to make the show true to its original format while increasing clarity — with no funny business otherwise. You won’t find the show looking like a weird digitized hack-job, but rather something that intends to preserve the history of this remarkable piece of art.

If you respect Batman: The Animated Series like I do, then you’ll find that this remaster is as good as it gets. With commentary tracks and featurettes returning from the DVD alongside new ones made for this release, it’s a lot of awesome content for fans of the series.

Not-so-Deluxe Packaging

Unfortunately, this Deluxe Edition is a bit drab for the price. Housed in a cheap, flimsy cardboard box that’s sure to get bent, ripped, or otherwise bumped whenever you handle it, the quality seems more appropriate for a disposable display at a store than something you’d buy.

There also seems to be a manufacturing error with this Deluxe Edition, as it comes with three ugly mini Funko Pop figures (Batman, Harley and Joker) that do not evoke a single characteristic of the characters they’re meant to portray nor the art style of BTAS. One can only assume they were placed here as a result of a mix up while on their way to their actual, appropriate destination at the garbage dump.

You also get some neat lenticular cards featuring scenes from various episodes, but these extras are hardly worth the overall $112.95 asking price. You’ll find the discs in a hard-cased “book” that’s much like a miniaturized version of the old DVD release of the show, and you’re sure to have a lot of fun trying not to damage the shiny side of the discs as you awkwardly slide them out of their tight slip “pages.”

Batman The Animated Seires

“Batman: The Animated Series”, Warner Bros

Within this “book” — and the menus of the Blu-ray as well — Warner Bros. still insists on calling The New Batman Adventures the third season of Batman: The Animated Series. While The New Batman Adventures is a continuation of the original series, it’s a separate show with different character designs, direction, and overall tone, so this inaccuracy for the sake of corporate cohesion remains annoying. At this rate, pretty soon Batman Beyond will be referred to as seasons 4 and 5.

Unless you like collecting for the sake of it or simply can’t wait, I’d recommend steering clear of this Deluxe Edition, and instead just get the standard release once it’s out.

(Additional note: the digital version of the box set’s contents, included in the purchase, are actually stuck at 480p. This is apparently an error that WB is working to resolve.)

25 Years Later, and On

Despite a low-effort presentation of the product’s packaging which cheapens the experience of physical media into a checklist of generic, soulless marketing tropes, the content within is cared for with a lot of love and affection.

Batman The Animated Series

“Batman: The Animated Series”, Warner Bros


Batman: The Animated Series
was a once-in-a-lifetime event, a collection of the right people coming together at the right place and right time to make something amazing. The magic that took life twenty-five years ago has never looked so good, and is ensured to be properly viewable for a wide audience for the rest of time.

Another twenty-five years later I’m sure the series will be revered even more than it is today. This box set helps ensure just that.

Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N's views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nightstarx

    November 3, 2018 at 6:59 am

    I think the packaging is fantastic. I did not have ANY problems with shipping, I think the Funko pops are very great looking, and nice, I like everything about the packaging and I think you are complaining about nothing.

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Watchmen

Watchmen Podcast: Breaking Down “Little Fear of Lightning”

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Watchmen Podcast Episode 5

This week, Watchmen delves into Looking Glass’s past and revisits one of the biggest events from the comic: the “interdimensional” squid attack on New York that kills over three million people and psychologically damages millions more. “Little Fear of Lightning” the finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways. And as always, there’s a lot to digest.

Our Watchmen podcast will see Simon Howell and an assortment of guests tackle the entire series (or at least the first season). In this fifth episode, Simon Howell, Sean Colletti, and Randy Dankievitch, take a deep dive into “Little Fear of Lightning” and note some of the more astonishing facts of the episode you might have missed.

And for those of you wondering, in order to keep things simple, we’ve decided to upload each episode to the same feed as our other podcast, Before the Internet.

Listen here on iTunes or listen here on Stitcher. 

You can also catch our show on Pocketcast and on Spotify, or simply listen via the player embedded below.

Before_The_Internet_Podcast-2-1024x1024

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The Career of Seth Rollins: From Face to Heel at Lightning Speed

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It wasn’t that long ago that The Shield debuted on Survivor Series, setting the main event careers of three talented wrestlers in motion. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins all came to the WWE through NXT. In and out of The Shield, each man has held multiple championships and has had great success.

Seth Rollins
The Shield stands together.

These days, look a lot different for the former Shield members. Dean Ambrose left the WWE for AEW to wrestle again as Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns took a step back from the spotlight after warring with cancer. Meanwhile, the career of Seth Rollins has taken a turn of its own.

Becoming Seth Rollins

Colby Lopez joined the WWE in 2010 as part of Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Seth Rollins. He was there when it was re-branded in 2012 as NXT and became their inaugural champion. Seth Rollins turned heel in epic fashion by betraying The Shield and embarking on a huge singles career after his main roster debut.

Seth Rollins heel
Rollins turns heel and betrays The Shield.

Rollins hitting his Shield brothers with a steel chair still rates as one of the most shocking turns in WWE history.

More recently, Rollins had two wars against Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship. Rollins won the Royal Rumble, using the title shot he earned to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. Then, Lesnar somehow won a Money in the Bank match he wasn’t technically involved in. He used that shot to get his belt back. Rollins would then reclaim the title at SummerSlam.

Rollins defeats Lesnar at WrestleMania.

It was a repetitive feud.

Rollins vs. Lesnar Into Infinity

The back and forth between Rollins and Lesnar became exhausting to fans. Not shockingly, WWE viewers were already sick of Lesnar being an absentee champion by the point that Reigns finally took him down. When he reclaimed the belt after Roman’s cancer announcement, the focus turned to Rollins hunting Lesnar.

Even when someone else like AJ Styles or Baron Corbin got in the mix, fans knew they wouldn’t win. It was always going to be about Lesnar and Rollins so fans started to turn on Rollins. His Hell in a Cell match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt was the final nail.

Top Face or Top Heel?

There was a time long ago that fans over the age of eight cheered for John Cena when he came out to the ring. At some point, it became cooler to boo him. The same is true of Roman Reigns, who had to go through a traumatic personal experience to get fans to ease up on him. In both cases, they were the corporate champions chosen to lead the brand.

In reality, fans didn’t really care if they were good wrestlers or not. It’s just something they chafe against.

The boos echoing through the arena are growing louder and louder for Seth Rollins for similar reasons. That’s due in no small part to the long, tedious promos he’s sent out to give to personally connect with the audience. Play that card too often and the opposite becomes true. WWE was frequently guilty of the same thing with both Cena and Reigns.

Rollins cuts another promo.

Watch the video from the night when Reigns made the announcement of his hiatus to fight cancer. Fans were reflexively booing him because they figured they were in for another long promo. The mood changed quickly when Roman started talking about leukemia.

Things Go Wrong at Hell in a Cell

All of this was already building to a head when Hell in a Cell came along.

Rollins faces The Fiend.

Universal Champion Seth Rollins was set to defend his title against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt in the titular main event. Unfortunately, WWE had painted themselves into a corner. They wanted Seth to retain, which he did, but couldn’t use the traditional DQ or count out to do it. Instead, WWE went for some weird finish where Seth hurt Wyatt so much so the ref stopped the match.

Essentially, a DQ in a no DQ match.

Rollins became the focus of much of the rage for the bad finish but the feud between him and Wyatt would continue. Wyatt finally won the Universal Championship and took it back to SmackDown. The side effect of this would be Lesnar returning to Raw with the WWE Championship.

It’s inevitable that Rollins and Lesnar will cross paths for the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, fans will have to choose between the two. They’ll end up cheering Rollins on as the lesser of two evils from their perspective.

The main miscalculation that WWE made at Hell in a Cell is the same one they made with Reigns and Cena. They assumed that being the top face in a match makes you the fan-favorite. Bray Wyatt is, by far, the most over wrestler in the company. People love Firefly Fun House and they love ‘The Fiend.’ Rollins simply couldn’t compete as any ending that wasn’t Wyatt with a belt would not be satisfactory to fans.

Seth Rollins’ Next Phase

Now, Rollins is stuck in a weird limbo. The top face on Raw for management that’s morphing into a heel based on fan opinion. His heel run alongside Triple H was some of his best work and he is still a superb in-ring performer. WWE should let what’s going to happen by letting Rollins perform to his strengths.

Let Rollins burn it down as a heel one more time.

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TV

Watchmen Season 1 Episode Five Review: “Little Fear of Lightning”

Watchmen delivers its finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways.

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Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

“Little Fear of Lightning,” the most masterfully crafted episode of Watchmen yet, is the most Lindelof-ass hour of the series, uniting itself around a single image – the fun house mirror – and projecting out the author’s many, many thoughts on identity, reason, morality… and specifically, justice. The gods are unkind in Lindelof’s work, and the cosmic injustice of Looking Glass’s life is laid bare in “Little Fear of Lightning,” an hour that beautifully walks the line between character piece and narrative fulcrum.

Watchmen is firmly back on track with “Little Fear of Lightning,” a thematically rich hour that firmly embeds itself in the history of its inspiration, and yet never feels handcuffed by it.

Opening on the fateful night of Eleven-Two (the day Veidt’s monstrous concoction was dropped on New York), “Little Fear of Lightning” is an origin story of Matt Jamison-esque proportions. Like Matt on The Leftovers, Wade is a man of faith, to an overwhelming degree: he believes the government’s story of Eleven-Two being an alien attack so much, he lives in paranoid fear of it happening again. He has a special (albeit buggy) security system, attends a support group for other survivors, and even bases his masked identity around the moment where his religion changed from fearing an ethereal white dude, to a big ass motherfuckin’ squid.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

From the episode’s opening scene, “Little Fear of Lightning” drenches itself in Watchmen‘s history; from the Knot Top-ish girl who steals all Wade’s clothes (and promptly dies a gruesome death), to references to Veidt’s old perfume company, the fifth hour of Watchmen lives in reverence to its source material. In a way, it turns Wade – a dude whose obsession and fear ruined his marriage, and left him a paranoid life of bad luck and solititude – into the series’ own Rorschach for a moment, as the man with the uncanny ability to spot a liar suddenly realizes he’s the one whose been played for the past three-plus decades.

Though ostensibly a gentler, slightly more gathered individual, the similarities between Watchmen‘s original protagonist and Wade as “Little Fear of Lightning” continues are potent, and help further the aura of reflection and redefinition (… like a Rorschach test would) that is the episode’s backbone. The first two acts spend the episode neatly arranging the pieces of his strange, quiet life – and the third act brings them all crashing to the ground, forcing Wade to cling to the very few fundamental beliefs he has: mistrust and fear, the very same tools the Seventh Kavalry’s inspiration derived his sense of purpose from.

(I mean, he even eats a can of beans this episode… how obvious could the parallels get?)

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

His final question – the one he proposes to Night just before letting her into Laurie’s trap – is “Is anything true?” It’s a question I imagine most Americans post Eleven-Two (or in our world, 9/11) have had to ask themselves over the years. Steel beams in our universe, sentient tentacles in Watchmen‘s; the point is, whatever the actual facts of either event are, there are always questions bad people are willing to provide answers to.

In this case, it is Ozymandias and Senator Joe Keene that provide Wade with the answers he never knew he wanted; and it is the second time everything in his world is utterly and absolutely shattered. After learning Judd and Joe Keene worked together to form the “peace” in Tulsa – and that the Kavalry is experimenting with an outlawed teleporter, for an “original idea” they have – Wade watches the infamous Ozymandias video, where he details his plans to save the world to future-President Redford.

This all comes after he watches his ex-wife incinerate a puppy in front of him (it was just a little bit too small, after all), and the first girl he’s kissed in ages reveals herself to be part of the white nationalist group he’s been at war with. In a series fascinated with the power of perspective, “Little Fear of Lightning” spends its entire time treating Looking Glass like a Rubik’s Cube, the patterns of his life rearranging over and over until they’re a complete mess of half-truths, disappointments, and traumatic memories, all vying for absolute control of Wade’s sanity.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

There isn’t enough Reflecteen in the world to protect Wade’s mind from the truth, the single most weaponized element of Watchmen‘s 2019 America. From the moment Veidt completed his creature and killed his entire creative team, the truth of what really happened in 1985 has rested with a handful of individuals; one a god, another an imprisoned genius, and a third one of the most pragmatic federal officers in the country. They’ve successfully protected the lie in the name of world peace; but as that dam prepares to break, the Seventh Kavalry is poised to deliver a historical moment of such devastating, unfixable damage, it would be a massacre on a level no physical, traditional weapon could ever replicate, even nuclear (which makes me think about the scientific theories around nuclear winter could mitigating the effects of climate change).

In Watchmen‘s 2019, the government (we can assume) is continuing to drop squid fall on the nation, a little reminder of the thunder brought down in the episode’s opening moments; and as that realization crosses Wade’s fact, it provides deep, necessary context to how the world of Watchmen operates on a fundamental level. The ever-present threat of another disaster serves two purposes; it reminds humans to be obedient and fearful… and it also ensures said population is cognizant of their own mortality, which helps give context to some of the general disregard for the sanctity of life we’ve seen throughout the series.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

“Little Fear of Lightning” is able to do all this, and still leave plenty of room for Tim Blake Nelson to chew up the scenery, as Wade’s world is broken into jagged pieces around him once again, which is just an absolute pleasure to watch. His even-mannered temper, even when everthing is blowing fucking mind, subtly gives room for the thematic material room to shine: his performance is careful and deliberate, but measured in a way to carefully build out the traumatic ironies of his character (and unfortunately, what appears to be a potentially terrible fate).

After a couple weeks of thumb twiddling, Watchmen is firmly back on track with “Little Fear of Lightning,” a thematically rich hour that firmly embeds itself in the history of its inspiration, and yet never feels handcuffed by it. It is a creative tightrope to walk that is downright mesmerizing when pulled off as it is here, a re-purposing of the novel’s ideals and ruminations in ways that feel prescient and fresh, rather than stale and imitative.

Not only is “Little Fear of Lightning” a great hour, but is an absolutely essential one, the moment where Lindelof and company finally spread their wings, briding the gap between past and present, setting themselves free in the process (as the preview for next week’s episode proves; this show is about to get fucking nuts, and quickly). Most importantly, it reminds us the absolute power of truth, perspective, and just how fucked up things can get when “both sides” end up being members of the same team. As normal as it looks on the surface, Watchmen‘s world is a fun house mirror of distorted truths and elaborate, false representations of self: I think Wade might agree the only time anyone is being completely honest with themselves and the world around them, is when we’re completely naked and alone, and there’s truly nowhere to hide.

Other thoughts/observations:

Laurie: “I’m the FBI. We bug shit.”

Deadwood‘s Paula Malcomson plays the woman who seduces (and manipulates) Wade into his meeting with Joe Keene. She is one of my favorite actors, and if you haven’t seen her in the Deadwood movie, you really should.

Ozymandias’ prediction was for Redford to become president in exactly 7 years, which he did. 7 years imprisoned, 7 years until president, all signs pointing to episode 7 as the one Where The Big Thing Happens… Lindelof sure loves patterns and numbers, and this is one of the more fun ones he’s done in awhile.

It appears Ozymandias is jailed on a moon of Jupiter… which isn’t Dr. Manhattan’s favorite planet, which may be a hint towards who imprisoned him. Then again, the Warden mentions a “him” when he talks about the god who abandoned him and the clones.

boy, if this episode had aired six months from now, “squid pro quo” would feel way too on-the-nose.

In this week’s American Hero Story: two heroes have gay sex. Weakest scene of the episode by a long shot, though Wade’s nacsent curiosity gives it a strange hint of subtext.

Keene, grinning: “I’m not a murderer… I’m a politician.”

Ozymandias, in the present, takes a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons, and makes an SOS sign out of his servant’s bodies that a Trieu satellite captures. (It reads “SAVE ME D”… could he be asking Dr. Manhattan for help?)

Angela is certainly in for a fun time, after downing a bunch of pills consisting of her grandfather’s memories while getting arrested. See you on the other side, Sister Night!

Are they going to do anything with Red Scare and Panda? I’m starting to wonder if these two side characters will end up the weakest elements of the series.

In this world, Steven Spielberg directed Pale Horse instead of Schindler’s List – the visual motifs remained the same, only the topic matter of a more recent act of mass murder.

Though the references to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are more obvious (Friends of Nemo, the episode title, etc.), there are hints of Through the Looking-Glass in it, as well, as Wade goes through the literal rabbit hole of America’s hidden truth.

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