“The Batman” is one animated incarnation of Batman which passed me by, but he seems to have been the only one I can find who tangled with the Prince Of Darkness himself. Walking a slightly darker path than the more kid-friendly TV series did, this feature-length direct-to-DVD spin-off features not only the title combatants but also The Joker, the Penguin and features Vicki Vale making her first ever animated appearance.
The story begins, as do so many other Batman adventures, with The Joker escaping Arkham Asylum along with the Penguin, both intending to recover a cache of stolen loot hidden in a crypt in Gotham Cemetary. Batman soon intercepts the Joker, who falls to his apparent death in the river after being electrocuted by his own joy buzzer. Meanwhile, the Penguin continues the search for the treasure, prying open crypts with his sword umbrella. But when Penguin accidentally cuts himself forcing opening another sarcophagus, his blood revives the long dead and desiccated Count Dracula, who enslaves the Penguin and sets out to take control of Gotham itself.
There’s a bit of a necessary narrative fudge to explain why Dracula is in Gotham but once you get past that bump, it’s a pretty darn good Batman and Dracula movie. There’s a dark appeal to the idea that Dracula would find the existence of the Batman flattering and believe that he was somehow responsible for inspiring the identity through his legacy. It’s also an interesting development when Dracula begins to attack the local citizenry how quickly the authorities and public opinion turn on Batman, assuming he is responsible for the sudden rash of ‘disappearances’.
Of course, it’s a feature-length tale featuring Batman, so it can’t – by law presumably – pass up the opportunity to tell Batman’s origin story again but there’s an admirable dedication to not over-powering The Batman in the face of a foe as malevolent as Dracula. Batman’s usual tricks and tactics prove ineffective and he struggles to go toe-to-toe with the ancient vampire, raising the stakes more than the run-of-the-mill Batman adventure. Things escalate when the Joker, vampirised by Dracula, returns to the scene and Batman must search for a cure for his victims and a way to destroy Dracula himself, a task which the story pretty much sets up as impossible were it not for the tiny detail that Wayne Industries has been working on a new energy source which may as well have been called Chekhov’s Solar Generator.
The voice cast from the series are dependably solid in their roles and in Peter Stormare, the movie has a fantastic Dracula. It’s a pacey, action-packed horror-tinged adventure for Batman and a great fun entry for the penultimate #Dractober.