Saturday, March 31, 2012

Batman Year One

Movie Review                                                                                                                                                   31/3/12

Starring the voices of: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku
Directed by: Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery

A few years back, my best friend gave me the graphic novel “Batman: Year One”, by Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli, for my birthday. This was and still is one of the defining titles in Batman mythos, widely accepted as the Batman origin story. Indeed, this was the inspiration for Chistopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Viewers will recognize several moments such as the ultrasonic-frequency-beckoned swarm of bats, and even the appearance of Lt. Gordon.

This is a very faithful adaptation, but consequently also a very lean one, having the shortest running time of any DC animated movie. Whole scenes and dialogue are lifted right off the comic book page. It’s a good thing, except that one realises when something is left out. The movie also looks fantastic and is beautifully animated, sticking closely to Mazuchelli’s distinct visual style, but also refining it somewhat.

This is as much Jim Gordon’s story as it is Batman’s, so much so that Bryan Cranston as Gordon is given top billing, something that works for and against the film in varying degrees. At times it seems the focus is placed too strongly on Gordon, but then it is important to realise that until the publication of Batman: Year One, Gordon had mostly been a one-dimensional supporting character, no more than a cop for Batman to talk to.  Here, Gordon is portrayed as human and fallible, and almost as interesting as Batman himself.

The voice cast is good, if not fantastic. Bryan Cranston’s Gordon is every bit the hardened veteran cop as he is the vulnerable and idealistic do-gooder. It’s a relatable performance that has the right amount of everything. Ben McKenzie works as a younger Batman than we’re used to, but misinterprets “ominous” as “flat” a little too often. Eliza Dushku’s slightly husky tone makes for a sexy Catwoman, and Katee Sackhoff brings a balance of femininity and toughness as Det. Essen.

Batman Year One is not the knockout punch that Batman: Under the Red Hood was, but it’s good in a throwback way, and is different enough from Batman Begins that viewers won’t get déjà vu.  And all things considered, it numbers amongst the better DC animated features.


The main extra is the DC Showcase short “Catwoman”, which mainly consists of Catwoman dancing around a stripper pole – not that I’m complaining, by the way. There’s also a commentary, several sneak peeks at other DC Animated movies, and a round-table discussion of the creative team. “Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to his dark roots” is a retrospective documentary about how Batman Year One changed the game for DC Comics.

                  EXTRAS: 3.5/5 STARS


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