(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Batman Beyond
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: 20 years after the Dark Knight’s retirement, headstrong teen Terry McGinnis ends up under the tutelage of an elderly Bruce Wayne as the new Batman, protecting Neo-Gotham from all kinds of new threats and rogues.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Because it’s streaming on HBO Max and it rules as hard as ever!
Here’s my big confession: I never watched Batman: The Animated Series when it was on the air. I was a Superman: The Animated Series fan, and all of the Man of Steel’s sunny, sparkling escapades. My first introduction to Batman was in the Superman-Batman crossover episode, “World’s Finest,” in which we’re introduced to the Caped Crusader as he’s shaking down some lowlife gangsters, to Superman’s chagrin. And I was terrified (I was also like 5 years old). He looked and acted like a villain and I couldn’t fathom a whole TV series around such a menacing meanie.
Cut to a few years later, and I tuned into Kids WB to find something a little darker, stranger, and weirder in the form of Batman Beyond. But at a whopping 7 years old, I was old enough to appreciate the cyberpunk twist on Batman. (And indeed, eager for it, as all kids programming at the time was really into cyberpunk — does anyone remember Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century?) It may sound strange that my first introduction to Batman was through Batman Beyond, later working my way backward to BTAS and the films, but it’s a testament to the sequel show’s originality and novelty that it was able to stand on its own and bring in new fans completely unaware of the Batman mythos.
Batman Beyond is the sequel series that no one asked for, a premise dreamed up by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett after being ordered by network executives to create a show around a teenage Batman that had no established history in DC Comics. What if Batman were a smart-talking teenager with the former Caped Crusader guiding him through an earpiece? It would take place in a far future that is positively filthy in cyberpunk themes, and feature all-new villains and rogues. None of the familiar Bat-family would appear, except as older, weathered versions of themselves. And somehow, it worked. Not only that, Batman Beyond has become a bonafide classic that stands among the best DC animated properties.
The miracle of Batman Beyond may be in how it gracefully explores Old Man Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy, giving an even more snarling performance behind the sound booth), struggling to counterbalance his addiction to crimefighting with the merciless march of age. It may be in the depiction of Terry McGinnis (a joyful Will Friedle) as punkier take on Spider-Man, complete with his teenage double life and penchant for mid-fight banter. Or it may be the inventive rogues gallery, which both plays to the show’s cyberpunk and sci-fi centric focus, and expands upon the legacy of Batman’s most famous villains.
But we all know it was that awesome opening title sequence.
Look at that boy go!
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