It’s funny how many times the Dark Knight and the Mystery Incorporated gang have teamed up or crossed paths over the years. They couldn’t be more worlds apart from each other and at the same time be a goofily great fit. If my memory serves me right, a good number of their team ups were during The New Scooby Doo Movies. Those episodes featured appearances from the popular Batman villains like the Riddler and the Penguin. Much like the show, those episodes were extremely goofy in stark contrast to today’s gritty portrayals of the caped crusader.
Ever since their early team ups, the Scooby Doo franchise has more or less kept its core formula and tone intact. The only exception was Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated which took the franchise in a rather surprisingly serious direction (Also by far the best iteration of the franchise in my opinion. A review for another time perhaps…). On the other hand, Batman’s early beginnings with the likes of Adam West’s cheesy (Yet Iconic) portrayal and Super Friends took a turn after Batman: The Animated Series. Things got progressively darker and ‘gritty’ has now well and truly become the by word for anything Batman; so much so that any jokes in Batman related content are treated as blasphemy or labelled cringe worthy.
When Batman: The Brave and the Bold was announced near 2008, I was very sceptical. I just couldn’t picture Batman and the comedic in the same series. It however, turned out to be a brilliant series and is such an under rated gem. Every episode of the series introduced a new character or team-up and in the process introduced a lot of diversity to the show. Many of these team ups paid homage to all kinds of different characters and added to the unique feel of the show (Sherlock Holmes & Batman, anyone ?). Unsurprisingly, there was an episode which involved Scooby Doo as well and directly took clips from The New Scooby Doo Movies. The self-aware humour coupled with the mystery gang’s goofiness gelled well and made for some thoroughly entertaining fare.
So how does this movie match up ?
Much like the brave and the bold series, this movie is filled with cameos, tropes, easter eggs and homages to classic characters. The dialogue writing is as witty and funny as ever. It felt good to once again watch the ludicrous antics of this version of Aquaman. Characters such as Black Canary, Question & the Riddler also make appearances and play an integral role in the movie. The dynamic that the DC heroes share with the mystery incorporated gang is also brought out extremely well in the movie.
And what about the plot ? The film’s plot is actually one of its weaker elements. Normally, that’s a recipe for outright disaster but it doesn’t really hinder the watching experience if you’re in it purely for the laughs. Mixing elements of Scooby Doo and brave and the bold in a plot can make for some whacked out story telling. The plot involves some kind of crimson ghost wanting to take revenge on batman for an apparent past sin on the part of the caped crusader. It is also revealed that Batman has one unsolved case from his archives and that this ghost may have something to do with it.
So where does Scooby and gang figure in all of this ? That is exactly why this movie exists. The implausible pairing of these two franchises is what makes this plot look thin at times despite its entertainment value.
While this movie can hold a lot of value for ardent fans of both these franchises, it can feel disposable at times. It must be noted here that there are multiple plot twists throughout the film. These twists can have a similar feel to the classic Scooby Doo trope of having a villain unmasked several times (Although not the same thing !!).
There were also some interesting character dynamics that could have been explored further. There are instances when the film plays around with the idea of Daphne falling for Batman and Fred being infatuated with Black Canary. These relationship dynamics could perhaps have been played up a bit more to add an extra dimension to the movie.
All in all, this is a pretty entertaining movie and in many ways brings out the best of both franchises. However, it would be fair to say that this film falls short of the boundaries it truly could push if it wanted to. One gets the sense that the creators were holding back and playing it safe in certain places. The film could probably have taken more risks with innuendo, character dynamics and the plot, thus giving the movie a layered feel while not deviating from its roots. This is where the recent Adam West Batman homage movies really scored and the original brave and the bold series as well.
Having said this, it is interesting to see what direction DC’s animated movies will take in the near future. Movies like this and Batman and Harley Quinn have certainly set the stage for revisiting these classic animated properties. I would be more than happy to see more brave and the bold movies in the future and explore newer team-ups and crossovers. Jinkies !!