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Batman Live @ Xcel Energy Center
September 13th, 2012
Batman Live is a hard show to review. The show is two hours of action packed, stylized fun but offers little in terms of substance and may be a little overstuffed.
The story of Batman Live tracks the transformation of Dick Grayson into Batman’s young ward, Robin, after the death of his parents at the hands of the Joker (rewritten from the character’s usual origin story for the sake of a more self-contained plot). Also involved is a plot by the Joker to take over Arkham Asylum and release its inmates. However, this story never fully develops and seems to only exist to give the show’s rather sizable cast of villains something to do (Grant Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, this production is not).
That said, to emphasize the plot at all would be a disservice to the concept behind Batman Live. The show is entirely style over substance and takes a fair amount of suspension of disbelief to enjoy (Early on, Batman and Catwoman fight atop buildings which, if actually to scale, would be hundreds of yards apart, and the characters appear to have the ability to fly). Thankfully, the style is spot-on. While one-on-one combat sequences were occasionally a little stiff, the show shined in the choreography of larger groups, particularly when Batman takes on a number of the Joker’s orange baton wielding henchmen.
The show uses a bat-shaped screen for its backdrops. At various times throughout the show, the show uses this screen as something of a motion-comic, a feat which never ceased to grab my attention. These breaks provided a welcome injection of energy to a show too often slowed down by unnecessary pomp and stilted dialog. When the wants to convey Bruce Wayne’s inner turmoil and rage, it actually has the character explain to Dick Grayson that he is angry about his parents’ murder.
While Batman Live’s writing doesn’t offer much to its colorful cast of characters, many of the show’s performers make the most out of their limited opportunity. Of particular note is the wonderfully hamish and over-the-top take on the Riddler (I wasn’t given a cast list). Harley Quinn is also a delight in her role as comic relief. Oddly enough, the limited material seems to apply to the show’s titular character as well. Jack Walker never seems comfortable in his role as Batman or Bruce Wayne and is, unfortunately, given the bulk of the show’s clunky dialog.
None of this is to say Batman Live is unenjoyable or even a particularly bad show. I mentioned the show is hard to review because it’s not meant to be dissected in the same way Chris Nolan’s films are because it simply can’t hold up to the scrutiny. A good review should give readers the context they need to better appreciate the product, but there is not better appreciation in BatmanLive. There is no deeper level. It’s a shallow production that offers much in the way of visual aesthetics but adds nothing to the character of Batman. Kids will love the action in Batman Live, and Batman fans might too, just so long as they don’t expect too much out of it.
- It really seemed like the plot just got in the way. In order to get Dick Grayson into Wayne Manor, Police Commissioner Gordon actually forces Bruce Wayne to take the orphan in against his will. I’m not sure what legal authority he has to do this but at least it got Batman and Robin together. (Mitch)
- Another to add to the list of visual delights: Seeing the Joker’s blown up caricature on a hot air balloon. Between it and the inclusion of Harley Quinn, the show seems to draw a good amount of its Joker from the DC Animated Universe. (Mitch)
- At times, it’s totally aware of its limitations and acts tongue-in-cheek about the concept. But this didn’t seem to always be the case, as some scenes may have taken a little too seriously. This confused the issue when trying to decipher whether or not they actually thought the Joker’s “magic tricks” would provide legitimate entertainment to the all ages audience. (Chris)
- The heavy-handed dialog really created an issue logically for characters trying to maintain a secret identity. “THIS IS FOR JOHN AND MARY GRAYSON. YOU KILLED THEM. THEY ARE THE PARENTS OF ME, ROBIN, A.K.A. DICK GRAYSON. BRUCE WAYNE IS BATMAN.” Okay, I may have embellished a little. (Mitch)
- Despite all of the show’s limitations, it was certainly better than Batman and Robin. Batman Live is, after all, meant to be a circus. (Chris)
Written by Mitch Skinner, Radio K volunteer, with assistance from Chris Dale.