I went out and purchased BATMAN: MYSTERY OF THE BATWOMAN
as soon as the DVD was released. The fact that it was set in the 90s animated Bat-universe was good enough for me to plop down $20 for it. Plus, my kids love the “cartoon” Batman (As do I), so it certainly wouldn’t sit and collect dust.
I’ve been a BIG fan of all the animated Bat-flicks. It’s not secret that I believe most of them are superior to the live-action BATMAN films of the previous series -- sans BATMAN ‘89. While BATWOMAN is not as good as its three predecessors (MASK OF THE PHANTASM, SUBZERO, and BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER), it is still a solid and enjoyable Bat-movie.
A new vigilante has emerged in Gotham: The Batwoman. She is not part of the “Batman Family,” so to speak, and The Batman (Kevin Conroy) himself isn’t happy about her appearance in Gotham either. So who is this “Batwoman?” And that is the question -- as implied in the title of the film, MYSTERY OF THE BATWOMAN.
Like all good mysteries, there are suspects. One is Gotham PD cop Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), who has some dealings with The Batman. Secondly, you have Dr. Ballantine (Kelly Ripa -- yes, THAT Kelly Ripa), a new research scientist at Wayne Enterprises. And finally, there’s Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks), the daughter of a Gotham mobster. Kathy (who is clearly modeled after actress Halle Berry) also serves as a love interest for Bruce Wayne. While the love story works well within the plot, if you prefer your Batman loveless and alone, this story arch will not be your cup of tea.
A bit of Bat-trivia for you all: The Kathy Duquesne character is homage to Kathy Kane, “Bat-Woman” from the Batman comic books during the 50s and 60s.
Anyway, back to our review. Each of these aforementioned women could be The Batwoman and all three have motives. Detective Alcana was saved by The Batman when she was a child -- did she follow in his line of work? We learn that Dr. “Rocky” Ballantine has a boyfriend in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Is she out to clear his name -- and for revenge. And Kathy lost her mother thanks to her father's criminal activity -- is she trying to do him and his business in?
Think you can figure out this mystery? Well, to make things more complicated and throw the viewer off, The Batwoman (in costume) is voiced by actress Kyra Sedgwick -- not Ripa, Brooks, or Gabrielli. So could it be someone else entirely?
Are there any classic Bat-rouges in this film you may ask? You bet: The Penguin (David Ogden Stiers), Rupert Thore (John Vernon), and Bane (Hector Elizondo). Of course, they’re up to no good. Cobblepot and old man Duquesne are in the mix together, while Bane has been brought in as an enforcer.
A quick note on The Penguin. He is written quite well and Stiers does an excellent job voicing him. But the way he is drawn is, well, “old fasioned.” He again is presented as the dude in a tuxedo, top hat, monocle, umbrella, etc. Meh. Now, I don’t want to see the "Burtonized" (No offense intended to you fans of RETURNS) version of the character, just something different. A nice black suit and tie perhaps? I don't even mind the umbrellas. Bane however, is done very good all the way around.
For good measure, Bat-characters you would expect to be in a BATMAN film (based in this animated Bat-universe) are here as well: Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings), Alfred (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) -- it is implied that there is/was something going on between Bruce and Babs -- and Det. Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo).
I’m giving this Bat-movie a C+. All in all, MYSTERY OF THE BATWOMAN does The Batman proud and is a film that most fans will enjoy.
Oh, one last thing. There are several "bonus features" included on the DVD. The best was a Batman short I believe called "The Chase." No dialogue, just a game of cat-and-flying mouse set to music involving The Batman and Catwoman. And one word of caution, DO NOT watch the extras before you view the movie.