“The Batman” is one of the only series featuring Batman that hasn’t been animated by the well known and widely accepted form of Bruce Timm’s design, and as a series it’s always been a very poor successor in simple fact that it’s only basically been invented to cash in on “Batman Begins”. The series was created and rushed in to premiere showing on the WB network months before “Batman Begins”. The series as a whole is terrible; it’s bland, lifeless, and often uneventful. “The Batman vs. Dracula” is the first animated film from the Batman franchise that didn’t feature artwork from Bruce Timm et al. But this isn’t the first time Batman and Dracula have crossed paths, any respectable comic fan knows that Batman and Dracula are pure rivals, and this makes the distinct hinting that this is the first time they’ve ever crossed paths.
I wasn’t willing to even watch this animated film, but it being Halloween and all, not to mention curiosity got the best of me, I gave it a shot. Surprisingly, I was actually entertained and pretty much liked what I saw. For a series that’s made it a point to be as dark and edgy as possible without being violent (that can’t happen), I was surprised how brutal and utterly intense this strived in being. For a child who wanted to see this, they could get a bit frightened by the imagery, but for adolescents, I imagine they’ll eat this up with a spoon. In this film, Dracula works as the anti-thesis to Batman. Batman is the dark knight facing a real dark knight, a night warrior fights a real night warrior, a predator versus a true predator, a young blooming vigilante versus a millenia old demonic entity with experience and skills Batman has no true knowledge of, even at the climax.
The Penguin and Joker break out of Arkham and attempt to escape the Batman who is on their tail. The Penguin manages to escape and is looking for hidden cash that is buried in a graveyard. Becoming very frustrated, he breaks open any coffin and stumbles upon a skeleton, but not before accidentally slicing his hand open with his weapon. He inadvertently drops blood upon the skeletal remains and releases Dracula from his slumber yet again. Dracula is on an utter feeding rampage across Gotham, but the one being blamed for the kidnappings is Batman. Not to mention, old Drac has his eye on Bruce’s main squeeze Vicky Vale. The animation that just didn’t work for the series, works here to a great extent presenting some amazing vampire designs, including the pre-human demonic form of Dracula, and wait till you get a load of the vampiric form of a certain Clown prince.
Dracula in his human form has the elegance and mystique of Lugosi and sheer resemblance and ferocity of Lee. And what sold me on this depiction was that he was voiced by none other than the ubiquitous Peter Stormare (the best thing in “Constantine”) who performs with as much gusto as you’d expect. The best reason to watch this, if anything is for the performance by Stormare who is just perfect in his role. What also sets this apart from the series are the animators willingness to allow a certain degree of violence without hardly ever copping out. They manage to show actual blood dripping from someone, and there’s actual blood sucking from the vampires here, which was a welcome change of pace for once. And in the less is more category, what we don’t see ends up being pretty interesting we as many times hear the plunging of fangs in to another’s skin.
There is much beautiful imagery here to boot, such as Batman and Dracula dashing across rooftops by the light of a silvery moon, Dracula disappearing within the shadows of daylight, and in one truly excellent scene, Batman is being chased and fired at by a SWAT team and as they’re chasing him, they’re being rapidly picked from the ground by Dracula in the background. It’s beautifully done. “The Batman vs. Dracula” is ultimately a very dark and grim albeit predictable bit of horror escapism that I really enjoyed in the end. The story presented is a story that is so utterly predictable and by the numbers, I was basically guessing what would happen before it did. Dracula emerges, Batman is blamed for the kidnappings, he’s on the run, he gets his butt whooped by Dracula upon their first meeting, Dracula waxes poetic, Dracula romances Bruce’s main squeeze ala Vicky Vale who just happens to remind him of his past love, and now seeks her out.
It begins and ends with so much predictability it never even tried to give us a storyline that could demonstrate originality. Had Batman ever actually turned in to a vampire, it would have been the perfect dramatic twist for an otherwise competent animated film. Though incredibly predictable and by the numbers, this is a really good and fun animated action horror combination that picks up the slack with Batman as he’s supposed to be while fighting Dracula as he’s supposed to be. Stormare approaches the role with enthusiasm making this all the more watchable.