Running time: 75 mins
Director: Brandon Vietti
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris
Genre: Comic book, Action, Animation
No man has exclusive rights of the cape and cowl, though Kevin Conroy has been responsible for some truly exceptional work. Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days, Star Trek) takes up the challenge of protecting
against a new enemy with traits that are all too familiar. Gotham City
Vietti’s tale of the Dark Knight opens with a sequence fitting of the guilt and brooding origins of the character with more than a slight nod to Batman: A Death in the Family as Robin is beaten and then killed in an explosion at the hands of the Joker (Di Maggio). The animation style is highly detailed, organic in nature yet stylish in it’s own way. It has none of the flair of Batman: Gotham Knight nor the Art Deco echoes of Batman: The Animated Series and in considerably darker than Superman/Batman:Public Enemies yet it has considerable style in it’s attention to detail.
dangerous, dark and dirty, coated in graffiti and neglect and is all the more
welcoming for it. Rarely has an animated
city at night looked so beautiful, tranquil yet fearsome. The animation of Batman is relatively
unchanged, similar in style to both Batman:
The Animated Series and Public
Enemies. By and large animators are
reluctant to update the drawing style of Batman (to make him similar to his
live action counterpart) as the more detail there is to consider the more
chance there is to go wrong.
The narrative of Batman: Under the Red Hood has several key sources of influence. We’ve already mentioned A Death in the Family and with The Dark Knight offering no fresh insight into the origin of the Joker the film falls back on the classic tripping hazard/boiling acid origin that Tim Burton’s Batman opted for. Narrative arches dealing with human trafficking, drug deals and grief are not commonly found in animation, Under the Red Hood has a lot darker tone than most Batman animations, certainly a lot more adult and challenging that Public Enemies or Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. It’s a welcome addition to the more challenging adult geared animated films that are gradually finding and keeping an audience in recent years.
Bruce Greenwood does a great job as Batman. You probably wondering “what is there to do other than know your lines and deliver them with a gravelly tone?!” and in some respects you’d be right but when you consider how Conroy has owned the role for two decades and Under the Red Hood being a high profile dark animation with a strong cast you’ll see what is meant. Greenwood is an accomplished actor, has been for years, there will be some out there looking for faults – adamant that the role was Conroy’s (by right).
Greenwood delivers the
dark gravelly Batman well but he also has moments of light and shade. In scenes with Nightwing (Harris) he’s momentarily
sarcastic and familiar, also contemplative in the Batcave as he switches from
fighter to detective. More outings as
The Bat-Man are a must, more please Bruce…more!
Neil Patrick Harris is a clever piece of casting (as Nightwing), many
Batman fans have called for him to have some form of role when word was that
The Riddler would appear in The Dark Knight Rises. Alas this came to
nothing but he’s done himself no disservice in a very uncharacteristic
performance. If you weren’t to know it
was him you certainly wouldn’t have guessed and with Nolan/Bale on the way out
of Gotham and a potential reboot around the
corner The Riddler/Robin/Nightwing could still be on his horizon. I’m a fan of Supernatural, though seasons six and seven have been unbearably
underwhelming I still like to see the actors who have given me five seasons of
happiness do well so was pleased to see the casting of Ackles (Dean Winchester)
as Red Hood. He’s an interesting
antagonist according to Batman legend.
Many villains have adopted his disguise in order to remain anonymous and
Ackles (with his character having several narrative twist and turns) does a
great job playing in “the moment” in order to create a character that’s true to
the story on multiple viewings. There’s
a tragic ruthlessness to this sociopathic vigilante as he looks to snatch the
torch from Batman and control rather than clean the streets of Gotham. It’s all
incredibly Shakespearian and wonderfully put together. The inclusion of the Joker, played wonderfully by John Di Maggio (Futurama) and Ra's al Ghul voiced by the amazing Jason Isaacs in supporting roles only goes to show how incredible this film is. My only wish is that Isaacs has more Ghul on screen in future films as he's a truly remarkable actor.
Batman: Under the Red Hood is very much the equal peer to Batman Begins, it’s as dark and as challenging to the preconceived codes and conventions of the medium. A fantastic, atmospheric and deeply psychological thrill ride and will have done more for Batman animation than any of the DC Universe crossover films have ever done.
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