THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"BATMAN UNLIMITED: ANIMAL INSTINCTS"
Own it on Blu-ray Combo, DVD & Digital HD 5/12
Batman has had many iterations over the decades. It speaks to the enduring quality of the character that he can be interpreted in different ways and visualized in varying styles. Currently, Mattel has a very popular line of toys, the “Batman Unlimited” series, that feature some sleek costume designs for the Dark Knight and his friends. The toys have now inspired a spinoff movie entitled Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts, which comes to DVD, Blu-Ray combo pack, and Digital HD on May 12.
Gotham's resident eccentric, Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. the Penguin), is bitter about how the city's elite look down on him. In response, he creates what he calls an “Animilitia” consisting of several animal/human hybrids that do his evil bidding, committing various crimes around town. They include Killer Croc, Cheetah, Silverback, and Man-Bat. The Animilitia also commands a fleet of “cybernetic carnivores” (robot animals) that terrorize Gotham. Batman knows they must all be stopped, so he assembles his team – Red Robin, Green Arrow, the Flash, and Nightwing – to fight these fearsome villains.
Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is more kid-friendly than some of the other recent animated Dark Knight adventures, such as Batman vs. Robin. It's entirely appropriate for ages five and up. (And, in fact, my six-year-old son went crazy for it.) The colors are bright, the fighting is confined only to times when it's needed for self-protection or to right a wrong, and there's a positive message about teamwork. Plus, the various animals, both humanized and mechanical, are suitably imaginative foes for the heroes to battle.
Because it's aimed at a young audience, the plot isn't terribly deep. Even so, there's a lot of creatively-designed action in the film, punctuated by moments of light humor. The emphasis is on creating a fun adventure that doesn't take itself too, too seriously, and on that count, the movie definitely succeeds. With a tight 77-minute running time, Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is a perfectly acceptable way to introduce children to some classic superheroes or develop their already-existing interest. And if they make you watch with them, don't be surprised to find yourself getting into it.
( out of four)
The Blu-Ray contains a few bonus features that offer up some additional fun.
“The Penguin: High Society Criminal” is a 13-minute segment that looks at Oswald Cobblepot's function in the Batman universe over the years. Various experts are on hand to discuss this beloved villain. “From the DC Comics Vault” runs 46 minutes and presents two episodes from the animated Batman TV series The Brave and the Bold. The episodes are entitled Super-Batman of Planet X and Gorillas In Our Midst. “DC Nation Shorts,” meanwhile, is a collection of ten shorts from Cartoon Network, including a couple involving the Super Pets. Last, but not least, the Blu-Ray is packaged with an exclusive “Fire Bat” toy.
A digital copy of the movie is also in the pack. Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are excellent.
Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is unrated, but contains mild violence. The running time is 1 hour and 17 minutes.
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