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Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman(2003)
The Dark Knight is back in this all-new feature-length thriller! The Penguin and Rupert Thorn are criminal cohorts with a scheme to sell illegal weapons... But there's a new Super Hero in Gotham City who has other plans for the evil entrepreneurs - Batwoman! With high-tech gadgets and powerful punches, Batwoman proves to be a formidable crimefighter - the only problem is that the Dark Knight has no clue who she is! And when Batwoman crosses the criminal line, Batman must identify whether or not this new player is really an ally! Join the world's greatest detective in this exciting new adventure that will keep you guessing until the mask is pulled off!
For more about Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman and the Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray release, see Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Kelly Ripa, Kimberly Brooks, Elisa Gabrielli, Kyra Sedgwick, David Ogden Stiers
» See full cast & crew
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray Review
"Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman! What is it about this city!? The water?"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 22, 2013
First things first. Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman isn't in the same league as fan-favorite Mask of the Phantasm (or Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker for that matter). It's a lesser Dark Knight animated feature, one that will lurk forever in the shadow of Phantasm, which isn't just one of the best DCU animated Batman outings to date but one of the best Batman films period, animated or otherwise. That doesn't mean Mystery of the Batwoman isn't without its charms, though, or without its flaws. It bobbles between misfire and worthy contender, and remains one of the more problematic entries in the small-screen Gotham universe.
Psychologically damaged criminals and masked vigilantes are a dime a dozen in Gotham City, a fact not lost on Dark Knight Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy), boy-wonder sidekick Tim Drake aka Robin (Eli Marienthal), perky Batgirl Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) or the foes the Bat-fam faces in Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. High society crook Penguin (David Ogden Stiers). Crime boss Rupert Thorne (John Vernon). Musclebound brute Bane (Héctor Elizondo). And gangster Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson). But the latest threat to Gotham's safety isn't a villain at all, it's a crime-fighting newcomer who calls herself Batwoman. And who is this Batwoman? Therein lies the mystery. Is it Duquesne's rebellious daughter Kathy (Kimberly Brooks), left bitter after the death of her mother? Dr. Roxanne Ballantine (Kelly Ripa), brilliant but clumsy Wayne Tech developer? Or maybe Detective Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), Harvey Bullock's (Robert Costanzo) new partner? Each one fits the cowl and cape in one way or another, and yet Batman slowly realizes none of them do. So, again, who is Batwoman?
The reveal is actually... surprising, which comes as something of a relief after 45-minutes of weebly wobbly storytelling and clue tracking. Mystery of the Batwoman is filled with things that don't belong. A budding romance between Bruce and Kathy. A touch of corny comedy and one-liners. An inconsequential Alfred (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) and a trivialized Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings). A teamup between third-tier villains Penguin and Bane. (Apparently Arkham's nastiest nasties were too busy with Asylum Game Night to take a shot at escaping.) And a lack of dramatic finesse makes comparisons to Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: The Animated Series unfavorable. The action is fierce and the in-costume Bat interventions fiercer, but little else resonates. That all changes, though, with the unmasking of Batwoman. (It's not a cheap twist either, a la: it's Clayface! The likes of which would have been a complete left-field disappointment.) Over the course of the third act, everything comes together suddenly and nicely, elevating Mystery of the Batwoman from weirdly erratic Scooby-Doo homage to hard-hitting, Alan Burnett-penned, Bruce Timm-inspired Dark Knight actioner.
By endgame's end, it's all water under the bridge, and comparisons to better animated Batman adventures -- the what could have beens -- are the only real negatives that linger. Conroy delivers. (Has he ever failed us?) The mystery pays off wonderfully. Batwoman turns out to be a fantastic new character, with wits, wiles and a killer right hook. The animation is solid (minus a few glaring issues, more on that in a moment.) Even mashup villain club Penguin, Bane and Thorne get a promotion from misguided combo to functional league of evil, while the rest of the movie falls into place with ease. The real mystery is how the first chunk of animated feature has such trouble finding its footing and setting its tone when the obvious solution (take it darker, more serious, more hard-boiled) would have brought it more in line with the acclaimed series and movies that came before it. If Burnett and company were looking to pull off something slightly different, they succeeded. Unfortunately, "different" isn't what Mystery of the Batwoman needed. A dose of the familiar, a hint of classy and a darker Dark Knight venture would have taken the movie much farther.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray, Video Quality
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation is beaten, bloody and bruised. All of its wounds trace back to the original animation and video source, but the persistent issues abuse and even cripple the image too often (and jarringly at that) to be summarily forgiven. (Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4.) Pixelation runs rampant; first, subtly, along thin lines, then more egregiously, reducing entire shots to pixelated, standard definition, DVD-rip eyesores. Banding is also out of control, even if it's largely inherent to the source. Dark skies, shadows and light gradients suffer the most, although much of it is minor and easily overlooked. Other anomalies creep in, but nothing quite so distracting. It's a shame too. Mystery boasts bold colors and primaries, dark black levels that evoke comicbook inkiness, vibrant contrast and exacting, crisp-to-a-fault detail. There's a lot to love with the image, I'll be the first to admit. But there's a lot to loathe too, making this one of the more inconsistent high definition DCU animated presentations.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mystery of the Batwoman's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is more satisfying, but source shortcomings prevail again, limiting the fullness and immersiveness of the soundfield. Front-heavy and flat on the whole, action scenes are really the only things that offer the kind of sonic prowess that's worth getting excited about. Low-end punch hits hard with every exploding ship, roaring engine, meaty uppercut and swift kick, and voices are crystal clear, despite hovering above the soundscape rather than being grounded within it. That said, rear speaker activity is a bit too light and two-dimensional (even for a 2D toon), directionality leaves something to be desired and prioritization is all over the place (particularly when it comes to Lolita Ritmanis' under-supported score). Even so, the lossless track is an accurate representation of the movie's sound design, meaning without a complete overhaul and remix, it couldn't sound much better than it does here.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman is a decent animated Dark Knight adventure, but it's child's play compared to meatier, grittier Batman series and movies from the era. Its appearance on the BD market bodes well for other long-awaited releases (namely Mask of the Phantasm) but Warner would have better served releasing this one after more desired fan-favorites, not before. Worse still, the AV presentation is too hit or miss to resonate. The culprit is a problematic source, but the distractions are many. None of it completely spoils the proceedings; the prevailing issues simply drag the Mystery down a few notches. All told, there's little reason to avoid Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, and yet little reason to rush out and buy it.
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