26 June 2010

The Batman vs. Dracula

Spoilers Ahead

So, I was all set to settle in and watch this week's episode of Moonlight when, while idly scrolling through the other channels to see what else was on, I stumbled across The Batman vs. Dracula. Not only did I not know it even existed despite it being a fairly recent (2005) release (yes--I am embarrassed for myself) but it was just about to start. Clearly the vampire gods had spoken. Moonlight would have to wait.

The story itself is pretty standard superhero fare: the good guy has to face a supervillain as well as seemingly insurmountable odds. Only in this case the supervillain is Dracula and the insurmountable odds are his army of minion vampires. Penguin and the Joker serve as fairly minor distractions and there's a subplot about Bruce Wayne's inability to form human connections. I particularly enjoyed the parallels drawn between the Dark Knight and the Prince of Darkness, both being bat-men. Batman's vampire-like attributes were what drew me to him in the first place and are what have made him my favourite superhero (sorry, Wolverine). It's nice to see him up against the real thing.

I have to say, there's some really nice animation to be found here--the sort of thing 3D and CGI will just never be able to compete with. There's excellent use of shadow and camera angles. The scenes between Dracula and Batman are brilliant, and Bruce Wayne's dream sequences aren't too bad, either. There's also an exceptionally creepy scene as the Joker is soaked in a rain of blood. The animation more than makes up for the weak spots in the writing (Dr. Alucard--really? Not to mention letting Vicky go home alone at night when Bruce and Alfred know full well that Dracula and his minions are out there).

Dracula and the vampires look good, definitely on the scary side. Dracula alternates between his vampire and human appearances; as a vampire he looks like a cross between a bat and an animated corpse (as do all the vampires), when human he's rocking the classic Bela Lugosi-Dracula look (hollow cheeks, slicked-back black hair, cape). Personally, I've never found Dracula to be particularly compelling. It doesn't help that you know he'll be defeated. This Dracula isn't really creepy or charming enough, but he does get some good lines, and has a decent accent (nothing over the top or cheesy, but authentic sounding). He's also the only vampire with any sort of personality. Overall, they did a good job with him.

As for the other characters, they were all well done. I know there's some controversy over the portrayal of the Joker. He's not my favourite but I liked him (and there's something to be said about not recognizing the actor behind the character; Mark Hamill has a lot of fans but I always just hear Luke Skywalker). One quibble I have is with Bruce Wayne--he looks, I don't know--soft? He doesn't seem like he could step into Batman's shoes. I know, I know--that's part of the disguise (like Clark Kent's glasses) but I guess I want to be able to see a hint of the bat inside Bruce. Maybe I'm asking too much.

Overall, this is a good effort, and one that both Batman and vampire/Dracula fans should not miss. Much as I like Moonlight, I'm glad I decided to put it off this time.

Fang Files

Appearance: Animated corpse: grey skin, skeletal features. Clawed fingers, pointy ears, prominent fangs, white-grey hair. Eyes glow blue (red when using powers of hypnotism). Dracula can switch between appearing human or as the vampire. Vampires cast no reflection.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing, and sense of smell. "Vampire Vision": can clearly see veins and heart within a human body. Ability to hypnotize humans. Ability to cling to walls, ceilings, and move along them. Ability to jump from great heights. Resistant to pain, injury. Dracula can also turn into mist and animals, and can fly.

Weaknesses: Garlic, sunlight, crosses. Need a human servant to protect resting place by day. Serious over-confidence.

Mythology: Standard Dracula--not much deviation. A drop of blood is enough to bring his skeletal, staked corpse back to life. To turn a human a vampire only needs to bite them; the human turns almost immediately. While humans can be cured of vampirism, there is no cure for Dracula--he is a supernatural being.

Sound Bites

Alfred: Sir, you are brooding. More so than usual.

Penguin: (to Dracula as he gazes at the television) You like? It's a plasma screen--as in blood. Oh, the girl. You have been in the grave a while, haven't you, master? (Eyes Vicky Vale) Nice jugulars.

Joker: (opening Dracula's coffin) That's one good-looking corpse.

Dracula: (to Batman) I will drain you dry and use your cape as a dinner napkin.

The Batman vs. Dracula. Written by Duane Capizzi and Bob Kane (creator of Batman). Directed by Michael Goguen and Seung Eun Kim. From Warner Brothers/DC.

A fan put together clips and set them to music, and since he did a pretty awesome job I thought I'd share. One caveat: the climax of the movie is revealed.

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