By Chaz Lipp
Only a month after the superb Batman vs. Robin, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment offers Batman fans another feature-length animated extravaganza. Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts, however, isn’t the dark, PG-13 film that Batman vs. Robin is. A conscious effort was made by Warner Animation and DC Entertainment to craft a true family-friendly Batman film with Animal Instincts. While it’s decidedly lighter and lacking in depth when compared to the best DC animated films, the first Batman Unlimited feature (a sequel is due later this year) is a fast-paced, fight-packed blowout that features numerous classic characters from the DC Comics Universe.
Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is available to own on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD beginning May 12, 2015. As a very cool bonus, an exclusive Firebat figure has been included with both the Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD editions.
Animal Instincts finds Gotham City threatened by a rampaging animal villain squad called Animilitia, each of whom presents a clear and present danger to the city’s residents. There’s very likely a distinct connection between this animal hit-squad and one Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin (voiced by Dana Snyder). Batman (Roger Craig Smith) and a team of superheroes – including Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos), Nightwing (Will Friedle), Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal), and the Flash (Charlie Schlatter) – have no choice but to get to the bottom of it. Flash gets the funniest lines, while the plight of Man-Bat (Phil LaMarr) provides the film with some pathos.
Screenwriter Heath Corson and producer-director Butch Lukic faced the formidable task of making a Penguin origin story feel fresh. Some of the plot points won’t come as shockers to more seasoned viewers, but Animal Instincts is really aimed squarely at a younger audience. Still, the larger plan that Penguin has in mind for wreaking havoc on the people of Gotham is quite an exciting, sci-fi surprise. A bit too much of the brisk 77-minute runtime is given over to extended fight sequences, but all in all the film is a blast of lightweight, escapist fun. This is a bit more in line with Batman: The Brave and the Bold from a few years ago, though that series boasted a higher quotient of sly humor. The production values are strong, however, making Animal Instincts worth checking out for DC Animation fans of any age.
Excellent technical specs make Warner’s Blu-ray of Animal Instincts a treat to watch and listen to. This is an ultra-colorful movie and the high definition presentation allows for the colors to be seen in all their vividness. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is pretty super, too. This isn’t as elaborate a mix as heard on Batman vs. Robin, but it seems pretty clear it wasn’t aspiring to be. The fight scenes pack plenty of sonic resonance and Kevin Riepl’s score is highlighted very well.
The only extra specifically dealing with Animal Instincts is the featurette “PENGUIN: High Society Criminal” (13 minutes). Given the Penguin-centric plot of Instincts, it makes sense that they should explore the character a bit. It’s a fun piece that will appeal primarily to younger viewers new to the origin story of Oswald Cobblepot.
DC Nation Shorts is a Cartoon Network series and its title is pretty much self-explanatory. There are ten episodes collected here (annoyingly, there is not ‘play all’ function), each one running about two minutes: “Justice League of Animals: Snack Run,” “The Bat Man of Shanghai: Catwoman,” “The Bat Man of Shanghai: Bane,” “The Bat Man of Shanghai: Bat Man,” “Plastic Man: The Bat and the Eel,”“Super Pets: The Jokes on You,” “Super Pets: Have Your Cake and B’Dg Too,” “Super Pets: The League of Just Us Cows,” “Super Pets: Krypto vs. Streaky,” and “Super Pets: World’s Finest Bark.”
Under the heading “From the DC Comics Vault,” we find two Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes: “Super-Batman of Planet X” and “Gorillas in Our Midst.” There are a few trailers upcoming Warner Animation titles.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack of Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts includes a standard DVD and Digital HD copy. In addition to the Firebat figurine, they’ve even thrown in a coupon good for or $5 off any one Mattel Batman toy.
Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts Images: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment