Nov 7, 2011

[Movies] Batman Year One (2011)

The original Batman: Year One comic book story arc by Frank Miller was an amazing return to the early years of Batman and a chance to catch a glimpse of his early growth as a character. It remains to be an excellent example of comic book writing done right without the need to extensively reboot or change a character to explore his history.

Since then, there have been many other comic books that have tried to apply similar treatment to their characters in the hopes of gaining some of the same success managed by this 4-issue story.

Fast forward to the present and it turns out that DC opted to tackle this classic story as its latest offering as part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line of direct-to-video animated movies. While I've often discussed the predominantly negative opinion held of the direct-to-video market, DC has done a pretty impressive job of keeping the level of quality high for these movies whose popular often transcends traditional age brackets for cartoons.

Batman: Year One is a 2001 animated movie quite closely based on the original comics. It was directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu with a screenplay by Tab Murphy.

The movie takes place just as a younger Bruce Wayne (Benjamin McKenzie) returns home to Gotham after years of intensive training and study. He's determined to start his personal war on crime as a way to avenge the death of his parents. At the same time, Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Bryan Cranston) is also newly arrived in Boston from Chicago together with his wife. He's shocked by the level of crime and corruption in the city, including his rather abusive partner Detective Flass (Fred Tatasciore), who regularly abuses his power as a member of the Gotham Police.

Bruce eventually makes an initial attempt at gathering intelligence on his potential targets but this leads to an altercation with several prostitutes, including Selina Kyle (Eliza Dushku). Bruce eventually manages to escape the goons and the police and thus he realizes that he needs a way to strike fear into his opponents no matter how well-trained he is. On the police front, Gordon finds himself fighting a war on several fronts with many others in the police force being uncomfortable with his drive to weed out the corruption in the department.

Batman: Year OneImage by arellis49 via FlickrThe movie is a fairly accurate adaptation of the original comics - not just in terms of story, but also in terms of scenes and framing. The team behind the movie put a lot of effort into recapturing a lot of the panels as sequences in the movie, which certainly added to the feel of things. In this regard I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

The voice casting seemed a bit off, and I say this not just because Kevin Conroy wasn't involved in this project. Their choice for Bruce Wayne / Batman seemed a bit wrong, although it's a bit of a challenge for me to pinpoint precisely why. In many respects, Bryan Cranston sounded more like Batman than McKenzie did, which is rather funny when you think about it.

The animation style was somewhat similar to the 1990's look of Batman: the Animated Series, although with a distinction of having all the characters just have dots for eyes. I liked the lines of the characters for sure - then again, I'm also a rather big fan of the 1990's cartoon as well. It ads a nice mix of retro futurism and style to the whole movie, this helping you as a view appreciate that it's set in the past.

I did't care much for Dushku's Seline Kyle though. Oh well.

On the whole, Batman Year One is a rather mature animated movie and is in no ways just something for the kids alone. It's a great story brought to life on the small screen and is more than worth the DVD cost. It gets 4 cases of goons still getting the jump on a fairly inexperienced Bruce Wayne out of a possible 5.

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  1. I like the story of this movie. It's like watching the animated version of "Batman Begins" with a little twist about how Bruce became Gordon's buddy.

  2. Yupyup! Batman Year One is definitely a classic in terms of its core comic book story. Was generally glad it was adapted into an animated feature.