Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman 2003
It feels like animation month here is already starting to wind down and as I write this, the month isn’t even half over yet. While I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch in some of the more grown up animation as well as the previous Batman animation, this was a much more welcome return to form. Mystery of the Batwoman was essentially the last project to come out of the Batman: The Animated Series era that more or less bridges a bit of the gap between the New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond even though both of them had been off the air for a couple years before this project was completed. At its heart, like the title says it’s a mystery where Batman as well as the villains try to figure out who this Batwoman is, and as I always do I will be discussing her identity so here’s your spoiler warning.
The film kicks things off with a nice little action scene introducing us to the Batwoman before getting to the opening credits. Though the actual opening credits gave off a very different vibe than any of the previous Batman TV shows, it loses some of the dramatic tension of the usual score and replaces it with more of an air of a light mystery. One nice moment that comes right after those opening credits is when Alfred hangs a lampshade on the design choice for Batwoman’s costume which looks like a grey version of Catwoman’s costume with more bat-styled ears when he says that it’s obviously Selena Kyle, but she doesn’t even make an appearance in this movie. Instead we’re introduced to three possible suspects for the Batwoman in short order that each have their own motives to become a vigilante. It also helps that it’s not actually possible to determine which one of them is the Batwoman based on their voice because Batwoman is actually voiced by a fourth actress. And somewhat surprisingly the reveal is that all three of them are the Batwoman, taking turns based on their expertise as well as a way to throw off Batman’s own investigations.
What does make this film interesting is that this is a rare instance where it’s such a female-driven story line in a typically male-dominated rogue’s gallery where there’s often only room for one female villain and/or Batgirl. The only other exception to that rule that comes to mind is the animated series episode Girl’s Night Out that teamed up Harley, Poison Ivy, and Livewire to face off against Batgirl and Supergirl. Not only that, but even though they are all new characters, they’re each given their own separate development and motivations that aren’t entirely generic. There was also one odd moment that felt very superfluous to the story where Batman’s first instinct is to call Barbara Gordon asking about this Batwoman. At this point she has already gone off to college and there’s this odd flirtatious vibe that Barbara has towards Bruce while on Bruce’s end he plays it off as comical avoidance. Apparently this is a callback to a moment in Batman Beyond that referenced Barbara and Bruce having at least a brief romance, though it’s unclear if this point in the timeline if that moment is already in the past or if it is still to come.
The mystery angle itself is handled well enough, though many of the clues and misdirects are clearly obvious to the audience, there’s not much to go on until Batman has nearly figured it out that the Batwoman is being shared by all three characters. We have Rocky voiced surprisingly well by Kelly Ripa as the comically awkward science nerd who has developed this shape-shifting material that Batwoman uses at one point to trap Penguin. She also happens to have an ex-con boyfriend who was either framed or mistakenly convicted because he was involved with Penguin. Meanwhile, a new mob boss introduced for this film Carlton Duquesne has a daughter who is Batwoman number two aka Kathy Duquesne and probably the one with the most screen time as she is the reluctant mob daughter who resents her father for getting her mother killed just by way of being in his line of work. She’s still a thrill seeker at heart and ends up having romantic ties with Bruce Wayne after he started investigating her and ended up caught in her whirlwind. The last suspect is also the one with the least screen time as a new Gotham Police detective Sonia. Most of her time early on is just being partnered with Detective Bullock, though she does get a brief moment before the reveal where she reminds Batman of a time when she was a young girl and Batman saved her from her parent’s home that had been set on fire. That fire just happened to have been set by the third mob boss on the scene brought back from the early Animated Series Rupert Thorne. So there’s this nice entanglement where each woman is tied to a different mob boss who also all happen to be working together on a big arms deal, but while it seems complicated, it doesn’t seem overly complicated as it all unfolds.
With all of this entanglement going on with the villains and the Batwomen, you might think that Batman would get the short shrift in this situation, but he’s still given plenty to do with his various investigations during the first half of the movie along with his romantic ties to Kathy Duquesne. And in the latter half, he’s the one who the Batwomen finally call on for help when they realize they’re in over their head after Penguin calls on the help of Bane. Everything comes together quite well in this film, from the action to the mystery and all the characters are well defined with the possible exception of Rupert Thorne. But even Penguin and Carlton Duquesne have slight moments of development as Penguin himself has gotten them in over their heads as Batwoman’s sabotage will not only rob him of a huge payday, but also put him in hot water with the overseas criminals that he’s been dealing with. And Duquesne has not only the obvious connection with his daughter, but because of that connection he becomes suspect within the paranoid group of mobsters. All the voice work is spot on as usual, even with the change in Penguin from the animated series regular to David Ogden Stiers, and they even have Kyra Sedgewick as the fourth voice of the Batwoman when any of them are wearing the mask. If there’s anything bad to say about this film, it’s just that even though it does a good job in nearly every aspect of this film, it doesn’t do anything to push it that extra mile to give it a wow factor. But it’s still worth noting for being a superhero movie with this much female talent in it that doesn’t suck. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.