Suck it, Metalocalypse. You don’t got shit.
Picture this: it’s 2019. An elderly Bruce Wayne has retired his Batman alter-ego after an almost failed attempt to rescue a hostage in which he was forced to resort to using a gun to save his life when a mild heart attack left him at the mercy of the captors. Fast forward twenty years: Wayne has lost almost the entirety of Wayne Enterprises to Derek Powers, a ruthless businessman and radioactively altered villain, and lives alone in his mansion, the last bastion of his wealth, depressed and jaded.
Enter Terry McGinnis, a hotheaded high school student with a penchant for justice . . . and fighting. McGinnis’ father, who works for Wayne-Powers Enterprises, learns too much about Powers’ experiments with illegal chemical weapons, and is subsequently killed. McGinnis, who has accidently stumbled onto the Batcave at Wayne manor before, breaks in and steals a futuristic batsuit to exact his revenge for the murder of his father. Eventually, Wayne and McGinnis end up working together, with Wayne offering advice and expertise to the inexperienced McGinnis, and McGinnis as the new Batman, returning to the streets of a futuristic Gotham. Such is the premise of Batman Beyond.
Continuing in the dark, explorative vein of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond turns its sights on the elderly Bruce Wayne, delving into his character after a lifetime of fighting an unending war against crime and corruption, highlighting a key turning point in his life and its results on his psyche. Angry and reclusive, Wayne wants nothing to do with Batman — allowing relics of his years as the Dark Knight to collect dust in the Batcave — until McGinnis’ tragedy resonates with his own, prompting him to take McGinnis under his wing. However, Wayne isn’t kind to McGinnis; rather, he shows little sympathy to McGinnis’ life, keeping him on a very tight leash, straining his relationship with his family, girlfriend, and friends. Despite this, Wayne trusts McGinnis deeply, disregarding McGinnis’ criminal past.
Batman Beyond envisions a cyberpunk future world of vast, unending cities, massive robots, genetic splicing and mutation, and rampant crime. Exploring themes as simple as fear and helplessness to more complicated issues such as the future of technological progression and its effects on crime, Batman Beyond is a considerably grittier show than its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series. While the show was conceived as a children’s program, it is anything but. With a grand array of new villains as well as nods to older, classic antagonists, Batman Beyond doesn’t shy away from violence; it embraces Batman’s new sci-fi abilities and throws everything its future can hold at him, resulting in unpredictable enemies whose limits are unknown.
Have I mentioned the soundtrack? If you weren’t already convinced of this show’s metal cred, you will be. Batman Beyond’s soundtrack is a balls-to-the-wall smorgasbord of groovy industrial thrash metal, setting the dark, aggressive, cyberpunk mood of the show perfectly. In the same way Mad Max: Fury Road used the flame-shooting guitar player to pump up an inevitable badass action scene, Batman Beyond’s soundtrack escalates scenes with massive explosions, violent punch-em-ups, and loads of tension, and serves to energize the viewer. Don’t believe me? Check it:
While Metalocalypse, as enjoyable as it is, is content to merely lampoon metal and its stereotypes, Batman Beyond embraces metal in its entirety, though not in such a ham-fisted way as Metalocalypse. Batman Beyond is metal in its dark themes of fear, violence, aggression, dystopia, genetic warfare and alteration, and, most of all, in its soundtrack. The visuals, the story, the music, all combine to create a vastly underrated cartoon that is more than worth the watching.