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ANIMATED RELEASE REVIEW

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs Mutants
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: August 30, 2016 - Digital; September 13th, 2016 - DVD

Synopsis: The Dark Knight is back doing what he does best – protecting the citizens of Gotham City – in the third installment of the Batman Unlimited series, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants. When evil scientist Mr. Freeze activates his latest invention on two of Gotham City’s most formidable criminals – Killer Croc and Bane – things go from bad to worse. Turning them into super-sized mutant monsters, the Super-Villains start bashing through the streets of Gotham City with no end in sight. It’s up to the Caped Crusader and his Super Hero team to save the day by putting the giant robot mechs in their place – but it will be an uphill battle as they face off against enormous foes.

The heroic voice cast features Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed games) as Batman, Chris Diamantopoulos (Episodes, Silicon Valley) as Green Arrow, Will Friedle (Batman Beyond, Boy Meets World) as Nightwing, Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder, Kick Buttkowski) as The Flash, and Lucien Dodge (Pokemon, Bleach) as Robin. The villainous voices are led by Oded Fehr (The Mummy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) as Mr. Freeze, Dana Snyder (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) as The Penguin, Carlos Alazraqui (Reno 911, Handy Manny, The Fairly Oddparents) as Bane, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Batman: Under the Red Hood) as Killer Croc, Dave B. Mitchell (World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor) as Clayface and Troy Baker (Batman: Assault on Arkham) as Joker. Phil LaMarr (MAD TV, Futurama) joins the Batman Unlimited series as Dr. Langstrom.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is produced and directed by Curt Ceda from a script written by Kevin Burke & Chris “Doc” Wyatt. Executive Producer is Sam Register. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan are Executive Producers.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs Mutants Animated Release Review
By James Harvey

Huge mutants and massive robots duke it out in the frozen wasteland of Gotham City in the latest Batman Unlimited animated feature, and it’s easily the best installment of the franchise to date. The third animated movie in the line brings revamped character designs and new foes to the forefront, but also some startlingly well-handled pacing and a pretty fun story.

The movie kicks in to high gear right away, with Batman – in his awesome mech suit – duking it out with Killer Croc in the middle of Gotham City. After an awkward and abrupt end to the cold option, and some new nifty opening title credits, the movie flashes back two weeks to fill in how Gotham ended up being invaded by giant mutant variants of some his biggest foes. In short, The Penguin convinces Mr. Freeze to head to Gotham to test out his new mutation formula, unbeknownst to Freeze that Penguin wants to use it to rule the city. After breaking out specific occupants of everyone’s favorite insane asylum, the plan is hatched and Gotham is encased in ice while giant monsters terrorize the citizens. And, naturally, it’s our heroes to the rescue.

As with previous Batman Unlimited animated features, the plot is light and breezey. Harmless fun action meant no more than to show off cool gadgets and create some epic fight sequences. And, without questions, the action in this movie easily tops the two previous Batman Unlimited titles. Fight scenes jump back and forth between smaller-scale tussles and epic robotic throwdowns. The scale is much grander and the choreography more elaborate and, at times, skillfully animated. Yes, the quality of the animation dips on occasion, but overall, it’s a nice looking feature that rivals, and maybe even surpasses, some of the recent efforts in Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Animated Original Movie line.

The big villains spotlighted in this release include Killer Croc, Bane, Chemo and Clayface, all controlled – in one form or another – by The Penguin and Mr. Freeze. The designs for all the characters are surprisingly low-tech. Just slightly modified costumes for those in tights, and the monster types are, suitably, amped up and a bit more extreme. Killer Croc is as far mutated as he’s been in animated form here, while Clayface’s design is a bit of a departure from what we’ve seen in the past, though his mutated form slightly resembles the The New Batman Adventures take, just infused with some lava. Similarly, Mr. Freeze appears as a softer version of his The New Batman Adventures design. The Penguin retain the same look from his previous appearance in the Batman Unlimited series.

And keeping with character designs, all the heroes get slightly revamped, with modifications made to all their costumes. It’s nothing massive, just small tweaks made here and there. Green Arrow’s design is simplified, dropping a lot of the futuristic-ish designs for a more classic approach. Nightwing’s design tames his insane hair and brings a bit more black to the tights. Batman has a shade more blue and The Flash’s look is tweaked to look a shade more like the classic costume design. They designs are all marked improvements on the original, honestly. And yeah, the design for the two big mechs – Batman’s and Green Arrow’s – both look awesome. Even Gordon gets tweaked a little.

That said, it’s a fairly simple movie – good guys versus bad guys and that’s really it (and it works perfectly). Save for a few character nods, the film focuses on giving us the fisticuffs and bright colorful gadgets that, I assume, are the main reason for these movies for exist in the first place. But still, there’s actually some nifty world-building teased in the movie, with a visit to Arkham proving very noteworthy for Batman fans. A small selection of major Batman villains make brief cameo appearances, and, honestly, makes a pretty interesting case to see some street-level adventures set in the Batman Unlimited universe. The Mad Hatter, Two-Face and Hush are the most notable.

Save for a handful of new talent, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs Mutants brings back a host of talents reprising their roles from the previous installments, all of whom hit their marks dead-on. However, Oded Fehr voicing Mr. Freeze is a fantastic casting touch, and Lucien Dodge makes an excellent debut as Batman Unlimited’s version of Damian Wayne (who’s understandably toned down from his other incarnations). Roger Craig Smith brings a nice, stern tone to the role of Batman, and Will Friedle is always a joy to hear as Nightwing. Curt Geda brings a steady hand as director and producer of the feature, working off a fun script by Kevin Burke and Christ Wyatt. Unfortunately, there’s nary a female character to be found – save for a short Arkham cameo by Cheetah – so these films ever remain a boy’s club. It’s unfortunate the film series hasn’t really rattled free of that yet.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs Mutants’ story is on par with previous efforts in this line. It’s fun, light-hearted stuff that doesn’t take itself seriously and expects the viewer to just roll with whatever it dishes out. It’s pure popcorn fodder and avoids and complexity or complicated character arcs to just push out the action. While Mr. Freeze does go through a bit of a story-arc, and actually makes some surprisingly redemptive steps toward the end – something the previous titles never did as villains here are as one-dimensional as possible – no real dramatic character changes are made. Batman and the ‘new’ Robin strengthen their partnership a little, but nothing really rises above the superficial level. And, for this film series, that works just fine. That said, we do get the odd character moment that elevate things a shade. There’s a great one with Robin – now Damian Wayne – having a nightmare about his “grandfather” – something fans of the comics and the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line should recognize.

Just to nitpick, Red Robin’s complete absence is oddly overlooked, and isn’t even referenced in passing. There’s one moment early on where Damian wishes he could talk to Nightwing about training to be Robin, but Tim Drake gets no shout-out at all (which is odd, since it seems like that would be the most obvious place to drop his name). There’s no need for Tim Drake to appear in this movie, true, and these movies aren’t exactly strictly beholden to continuity, but it’s a sudden jump to go from Monster Mayhem, which prominently featured Drake, to Mechs vs Mutants, where he’s not even mentioned. However, I assume Nightwing’s “new Robin” comment is meant as a roundabout reference Drake’s absence. Like I said, a nitpick.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is available to own on DVD and Digital HD, and, unfortunately, comes lacking of any bonus content save for a bonus episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold. That said, the HD digital edition of the movie looks and sounds fantastic. Yes, it would've been likely even better on Blu-ray, but it's a fair if somewhat disappointing substitute for those with HD capabilities. The DVD release of the movie is adequate, presenting a solid standard definition transfer and, basically, nothing more. It's a shame that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has let this film series fall off to the wayside, but the lack of popularity around the Batman Unlimited line is likely the main culprit for the disappointing home video release of such a fun movie.

Easily the best Batman Unlimited animated feature to date, Mechs vs Mutants is an enjoyable jaunt through a futuristic Gotham City where even Commissioner Gordon isn’t surprised to see rampaging monsters and giant robots duking it out in the middle of the city. Featuring a few cool cameos and some good character moments, it should definitely satisfy fans of the franchise. If you enjoyed the first two Batman Unlimited and the over thirty animated shorts, there should be no disappointment to be found here. A fun script, solid directing, a great cast and excellent fight scenes all come together to form an entertaining, light-hearted adventure that Bat-fans young and old should be able to enjoy. Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs Mutants is definitely Highly Recommended!

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