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Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review -- Batman: Year One

Hey!  Another DC Comics direct-to-DVD animated film came out a couple of weeks ago.  And I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it.  So let's get to my review of....

Batman:  Year One

Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery

Starring the voices of Ben McKenzie, Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco, Jon Polito, Jeff Bennet, Steve Blum, and Grey DeLisle.

Backstory:  I tend to repeat myself whenever one of these DC animated films comes along, and that is, I'm getting very disappointed in their choice to just focus on Superman and Batman.  There's so many great "lower A-list" and "upper B-list" characters that could sustain a film, but apparently, Superman and Batman are the only ones with enough "mainstream appeal" to make this project profitable.  And, my disappointment reached new heights when it was announced that they'd be doing Batman: Year One, Frank Miller's legendary retelling/updating of Batman's origin tale.  Seriously, so much of Batman: Year One inspired Batman Begins that how could you do a Year One adaptation without it seeming like a Batman Begins rehash?  Well, my copy arrived from Amazon.ca a few days ago, so let's pop it in and find out.

Plot:  Lieutenant James Gordon, still recovering from a police scandal in Chicago, arrives in Gotham City for a new posting with the GCPD and a chance at starting over.  Meanwhile, after 12 years of traveling the world, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne finally returns to Gotham City.  Wayne, himself, has been working on his own plan to help clean up the streets of Gotham, and he seems ready to enact it.  Gordon soon finds himself quickly being the only honest cop in a police force that's corrupt to the core, and he's soon put to work on a special task force to bring in this vigilante that the press has dubbed "The Batman."  Can Gordon remain the only honest cop in Gotham City?  Will Bruce Wayne's plan succeed?  Will these two be able to strike up a partnership and bring hope to this troubled city?  

What I Liked:  This is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the original graphic novel.  I'm glad that the story's action centerpiece -- a tense standoff between Batman the Gotham SWAT team in a burnt-out apartment building -- survived unscathed.  Probably the best voice acting in this film comes from Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Sackhoff as Detective Sarah Essen, Gordon's partner.  They really put emotion into their roles.  And the animation, as always, is of very high quality.

What I Didn't Like:  The voice acting of our two leads -- McKenzie as Batman and Cranston as Gordon -- is...not the best.  They both sound really sleepy in their roles.  This being a Frank Miller comic, when they do wake up, they seem to take their acting cues from Sin City.  In fact, in most of his scenes, McKenzie seems to be playing Batman as though he's Dwight McCarthy, or at least Clive Owen's portrayal of him in Sin City.  

Final Verdict:  Meh.  It's OK, but it could have been better.  And, surprisingly, it didn't feel like a Batman Begins rehash.

2.5 Nibs

Bonus Features:  There's an interview with the current creative team working on the Batman comics, a running commentary with film`s directors and producers, a featurette about returning Batman to his dark roots, a preview of the next direct-to-DVD film, Justice League:  Doom, 2 bonus episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and they resurrect the DC Showcase concept to bring us an all-new short film all about Catwoman

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