THE BATMAN RETROSPECTIVE: "The Bat in the Belfry"
Author: Bill Ramey (Follow @BATMANONFILM)
Retrospective Date: June 26, 2017
Original Review Date: September 12, 2004

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INFO
Season: 1
Episode: 1
Original Airdate: September 11, 2004

CREDITS
Written by Duane Capizzi
Directed by Seung Eun-Kim

CAST
Rino Romano as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Kevin Michael Richardson as The Joker
Alastair Duncan as Alfred Pennyworth
Steve Harris as Detective Ethan Bennett
Ming-Na as Detective Ellen Yin
Victor Brandt as Rupert Thorne

RETROSPECTIVE: After watching "The Bat in the Belfry" for the first time in many years, I was too hard on this episode in my original review from 2004 (which you'll find below). The Joker's aesthetic aside (I never came around to The Joker’s “look” in this series), I liked this episode a lot looking at it with a pair of fresh (and older) eyes. The opening segment (ala the “Warehouse Scene” in BATMAN BEGINS) is really darn good and the entire episode did a fine job of setting up this animated Batman series and its world.

I came to be very fond of THE BATMAN. And though it had a great run of five seasons, I was sad to see it go. But, it was followed by BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, so I wasn't sad very long. - Bill "Jett" Ramey

ORIGINAL REVIEW: When I first heard about that a new animated Batman series was in the works, I was excited. I like the premise: a “Year One-ish” series starring a younger version of The Dark Knight. Honestly, I thought this show -- which would be titled THE BATMAN -- was going to be a prequel of sorts to the great BATMAN: THE ANIMATED series of the 90s. Even when I found out that I was mistaken and this news show would have nothing to do with BTAS, I was still very much intrigued and looked forward to checking it out.

In THE BATMAN, we find, um, The Batman in his third year of crime-fighting in Gotham City. This Batman is in his mid to late 20s, so he’s younger than he’s been featured before (even younger than Christian Bale’s Batman in BATMAN BEGINS).

Episode 1 is titled “The Bat in the Belfry” with The Joker (more about him in a bit) as the featured villain.

The Batman’s first appearance (prior to the show‘s intro) is done rather well, as he appears unseen in the shadows while taking down Rupert Thorne and his gang. In fact, this scene is reminiscent of The Batman’s first appearance in the live-action film BATMAN BEGINS.

The plot is also makes one recall another live-action Bat-film, 1989’s BATMAN, as The Joker intends to fly a hot air balloon filled with Joker Gas and release its contents on Gotham. This episode also marks The Batman’s first encounter with The Clown Prince of Crime.

I found “The Bat in the Belfy” OK. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t totally wow me either. I like the younger Batman and Bruce Wayne as he is still learning quite a bit about what it takes to be Gotham’s protector. THE BATMAN‘s version of Alfred comes across more of the surrogate father than his earlier animated incarnation.

I could nitpick the episode apart but I’ll focus on what I perceive to be this episode’s biggest faults: the overuse of Bat-gadgets and The Joker.

An example of #1 is this “Bat-Wave” contraption which is sort of a modernized, “cool” version of The Batsignal. I got the impression that while The Batman is still certainly young and learning, he relies way too much on these sort of gadgets as opposed to his physical and detective skills.

And as far as The Joker is concerned, didn’t much like him. I have no problem with THE BATMAN’s creators giving us their version of this iconic Batman character, as long as it stays true to the spirit and core qualities of The Joker. I’m probably being petty, but the aesthetic bothered the hell out of me. His clothing was flat goofy right down to the shoes on his feet…um, wait, he doesn’t wear shoes! His hair looks like green dreadlocks and what’s the deal with the big red eyes?

“The Bat in the Belfry” is a good start for THE BATMAN and good enough to warrant a look at subsequent episodes. - Bill "Jett" Ramey


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