First, let me say that I’m not a fan of “the Batman” animated series. It’s not solely because I prefer Bruce Timm’s and Paul Dini’s Batman: the Animated Series, it’s because I’m not big on the art design and the intentionally campy plots. There are elements of the show which I like, though. Much to my amazement, “the Batman vs. Dracula” features all the elements from the TV series I liked and practically none of the things I hated.
The Joker and the Penguin simultaneously escape from Arkham Aslyum, both having their sights set on a treasure hidden within a crypt in Gotham Cemetary. The Batman moves into action, singling-out the Joker. Penguin makes it to the cemetery but accidentally unearths the wrong crypt. Within the vault he finds a coffin chained-up and figures it’s the one containing the treasure. Bad move. The Penguin reawakens Count Dracula, who immediately begins amassing his army of the night. The Batman has his work cut out for him, as an army of vampires soon lay siege to Gotham City. Complicating matters is Bruce Wayne’s relationship with news reporter Vicki Vale, which is being strained by his alter ego. It also would seem that Dracula intends to resurrect his former bride, Carmella, and Vicki Vale just happens to be a dead-ringer.
The plot may sound a bit cheesy, but it actually carries itself quite well. The Batman vs. Dracula is a very loose adaptation of “Red Rain”, a Batman graphic novel in which the Dark Knight faces off against Count Dracula. This film and Red Rain only share a few similarities, but the homages are more than welcome.
Also, this film rarely goes out of its way to soften up the presence of vampires or their blood-sucking origins. As a matter of fact, this is quite easily the goriest pieces of Batman animation ever produced. Gallons of blood are spilled during the course of this movie, though they manage to work around people getting killed rather well. There’s a scene in which the Joker (now a vampire) breaks into a blood bank and begins guzzling viles upon viles full of the sticky red plasma. And it gets even messier from there (I won’t ruin one of the darkest scenes in the movie for you).
The animation for the film was produced by one of my all-time favorite animation studios, Dong Woo. They have such a beautifully fluid style of animation and it really shines in this movie. The fight scenes are some of the best they’ve produced, using the supernatural abilities of Dracula and the other vampires to their full potential. The animation direction is packed with energy and rarely are scenes static or boring.
The voice acting is one of the things I liked about “the Batman” television series, so of course, it’s one of the things I liked most about this film. Batman is voiced by Rino Ramano who manages a youthful and dark voice. Tom Kenny, AKA Spongebob Squarepants, takes on the role of the Penguin. He plays a version more akin to the one seen in “Batman Returns” and less like the stuffy millionare aristocrat from the comics. It’s actually pretty good, as he channels a Mr. Magoo impression for the voice. My favorite voice, however, is easily Kevin Michael Richardson as the Joker. Richardson is most typically recognizable for having a comicly deep voice; he’s the last person anybody would think of to play the Joker. Which is why casting him for the role was a stroke of genius. He ranges from this ugly, angry, psychotic low tone to a cackling hyena at the drop of a hat. It adds a great level to the Joker and only makes him sound even more insane.
Now, this movie wasn’t perfect. I can’t say I like the designs for many of the characters. The art design was done by the same guy who did the Jackie Chan Adventures; his style is very “cartoonish”, and at times, rather ugly. There’s also a scene where Dracula uses the alias of “Alucard” to mask his identity…for all of ten seconds. And, finally, I found it a little too convenient that Wayne Industries had just created a machine that could collect and store sunlight at the same time Dracula rises from the grave. But this is Comic Book Land we’re talking about, and these sorts of “coincidences” are fairly common place.
Honestly, the Batman vs. Dracula takes just about everything positive from the television series and leaves behind most everything that sucks. It’s the one piece of “the Batman” animation I highly recommend people seek out.