Again. . .it's five years later and the Batman is alone and even more grim (if that's possible). Now with Jason in his grave and the Joker safely ensconced in Arkham Asylum, Gotham City is being troubled by a new mysterious presence named "The Red Hood" who has terrified the leading drug lords into forking over to him 40% of their earnings. It is at this point that it should be noted that way back in the mists of time, early in the Batman's career, he battled a criminal named the Red Hood who fell wounded into a vat of chemicals and became the Joker. Batman and his former partner Dick Grayson (now the hero Nightwing) visit the strait-jacketed Joker in order to question him about this new version of the Red Hood -- but all the Joker is interested in is taunting Batman about his dead sidekick. During the proceedings, the Batman also encounters criminal kingpin the Black Mask, the Justice League's villain Amazo (whom Batman and Nightwing actually managed to defeat believably) and evil mastermind Ra's al-Ghul. I'm not going to provide any spoilers here but the identity of the new Red Hood is soon discovered. Unlike the original comic book storyline in which the Red Hood's true identity came as quite a shock and a surprise, here in the movie it's fairly obvious and no real sense of mystery is built up before the big reveal. This could be seen as a weakness in the film (and it is) but not as much as you might think as the incredibly short running time of the film (only 75 minutes) leaves little time for such a build-up. This (like many other of the DC animated films) cries out for at least 90 minutes and possibly more to tell the story properly. While the film that exists is actually very good and probably the best of the lot so far, it certainly would've been excellent if given more time to tell the tale. As it is, the film is clear and understandable with a sizeable amount of emotional impact (particularly in the climactic "alley" scene) and is directed by Brandon Vietti extremely well. Vietti is no stranger to DC animation and shows his experience here. The film itself looks better than most of the overly-lit DC animated movies as well; saturated colours fill the screen but the use of heavy blacks and low-key lighting makes the colours pop and creates a suitable atmosphere. Previous DC animated movies, while looking pretty good, suffer from overly-lit colours which subsequently can appear a little washed-out. If the classic 90s BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (the show which kickstarted the current DC animation dynasty as we know it today) taught us nothing else it's that superheroic animation works best when following this darker, Fleischeresque animation style which worked so well for the 40s SUPERMAN cartoons upon which all this is ultimately based. BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD is simply gorgeous to the eye. The voice work is very good as well. The Batman and Joker voices are recast this time and feature Bruce Greenwood as the Dark Knight Detective and John DiMaggio (of FUTURAMA) as the Clown Prince of Crime. Both men do nice jobs with DiMaggio providing slightly gruffer, more threatening vocal attributes with which to illustrate the obvious murderous capabilites of the character. Neil Patrick Harris (don't call him Doogie Howser) voices Dick Grayson/Nightwing while Jensen Ackles (my own personal man-crush Dean Winchester on SUPERNATURAL) naturally excels as the Red Hood. While I have not seen all the DC animated movies I've seen a good chunk and this one is probably my favourite so far. An impressive entry in the series and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
DC ANIMATED MOVIES HAVE BEEN, BY & LARGE, A NICELY DONE GROUP OF FILMS BUT SURELY "BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD" MUST RANK NEAR THE TOP. The direct-to-video DC Comics animated movie adapts the "Red Hood" storyline from the Batman comic book of several years past. However, it starts with the climactic moment of the famous 1980's "Death in the Family" storyline in which Dick Grayson's successor as Robin - Jason Todd - was viciously murdered by the Joker. Now, I don't think Jason Todd as Robin has been established in any previous "DC animated film" so this might be a little confusing to tyro viewers who think Dick Grayson is Robin; however the film does a fairly good job of establishing this is Grayson's successor who is beaten to a pulp by the Clown Prince of Crime. . .and then blown up. Nasty no matter WHO it is and the film doesn't shy away from the brutality while managing to pan away during the worst of the beating with a crow bar. As all this is only prologue to the actual story of the film set five years later, that's all I'm going to say about that.