Friday, September 3, 2010

'Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman' (2003)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Kelly Ripa and Kyra Sedgwick
Written by Alan Burnett
Directed by Curt Geda

Any franchise has its ups and downs, really.  "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" is one of the downs for the DC Animated Universe.  This direct-to-video adventure doesn't really have much to offer longtime fans of the series, wasting its impressive cast on poor animation and a lackluster plot.

The story opens on a gun running operation in Gotham that's broken up, explosively, by the mysterious new 'Batwoman' (Kyra Sedgwick).  Her methods are effective, but reckless and dangerous.  The city, and Batman (Kevin Conroy), disapprove.  It turns out that the gun smuggling is just a small part of a large operation headed by the Penguin (David Ogden Stiers), Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) and Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson). 

That operation gets slowly blown to bits by Batwoman, causing Penguin and the others to grow frustrated and desperate to get their weapons out to the buyers.  Batman closes in on the identity of Batwoman just as Penguin's gang tries their biggest run yet, recruiting Bane (Hector Elizondo) to provide extra security.

There's not much to "Mystery of the Batwoman."  Batman barely spends any time looking into the Penguin's massive gun-running operation, instead using most of the movie's run time trying to figure out who Batwoman is.  It might be new Gotham PD detective Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), or perhaps WayneTech researcher Dr. Roxanne Ballantine (Kelly Ripa) or even gangster's daughter, Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks).  The movie tries to throw out a lot of red herrings to keep the audience from guessing who is actually Batwoman, and the ultimate revelation isn't so much of an "ah-ha!" moment as the producers would like it to be.

So the story isn't much to write home about, but the real offense here is the sub-par animation.  There's something just entirely... wrong with it.  Timing constantly seems off, movement is stiff and awkward, and characters contort in strange ways.  It's certainly not up to the standards set by the other animated movies in this franchise, or even the TV series.  It makes "Mystery of the Batwoman" a chore to watch, even more so than the mediocre writing.  An animated movie with crappy animation isn't worth much.

The cast is up to it.  Kevin Conroy, as I've often said, is a joy to listen to as Batman.  David Ogden Stiers makes a fine Penguin (though my familiarity with the series makes this change a bit jarring), and other returning characters like Alfred (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) and Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo) are just right. 

"Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" is a waste of a great cast.  A mediocre script and poor animation drag it way down, sapping any of the fun that could've been had right out.