Welcome back gang, it’s time for another all-new installment of Stay Tooned Sundays! This week we will be looking at an animated feature that yours truly got to see an advance screening of last month at San Diego Comic Con. If you haven’t yet checked out some of the television related highlights from SDCC, make sure you do so here. In the last STS I said that a particular movie review would be forthcoming, so without further ado, I give you Batman Year One (due to the fact that this movie hasn’t been released yet, I’ll keep it spoiler-lite)!
Title: Batman Year One
Written by: Frank Miller (original story), Tab Murphy (screenplay)
Director: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Company: Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
US Release Date: October 18, 2011
Length: 64 min.
MPAA: Rated PG-13
Batman Year One is based off the amazing Frank Miller comic series/graphic novel of the same name. Being the great Batman fan that I am, I actually haven’t read the book…yet, so I can’t really say how the movie compares, but I can say that from what I hear it’s pretty faithful. As with all the DC animated endeavors, this movie is brought to us thanks to Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, and company. The voice cast of this film is pretty incredible, and includes three time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) as Jim Gordon, Ben McKenzie (The O.C., Southland) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse) as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Katee Sackhoff (24, Battlestar Galactica) as Detective Sarah Essen.
The story follows Jim Gordon as he transfers into the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) only to find the place overrun with corruption. Gordon is at a loss as to what to do, seeing as how the entire department is on the take, from the Commissioner all the way down to Gordon’s jerky partner. Meanwhile, a young Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham after many years abroad, training his body and mind to near perfect levels. Not long after Bruce’s return, he finally realizes his true path and begins a trial and error run at being Batman. During this time, Gordon also seems to find his own way to fight the system by becoming something of a hero cop in the papers, and he quickly gains the support of the people. This support proves useful as it prevents the Commissioner and the other crooked cops from being able to oust Gordon from the GCPD when he refuses to become corrupt like them.
Bruce’s antics catch the attention of one Selina Kyle, and one faithful encounter with him sets her on the path to becoming Catwoman. Throughout the story, Catwoman and Batman have very few interactions, but it’s the media’s spin on Catwoman’s unlawful activities that really start to shape the Catwoman/Batman relationship. Speaking of relationships, Gordon soon finds a new work place ally in the form of visiting police detective Sarah Essen. Gordon and Essen’s relationship grows quickly as they work together to try to weed out the darkness in the GCPD. Story lines finally reach their climax as Gordon’s and Batman’s separate struggles to scourge the city of corruption meet in a head on collision. With both men essentially backed into a corner, they must confront the darkness head on with Gordon’s family literally on the line.
I found Batman Year One to be pretty darn entertaining. I was most surprised by the fact that this story mainly focuses on Jim Gordon with Batman almost playing a supporting role. Gordon gets his chance to shine in the piece and really demonstrates what a true bad ass he can be. It was also refreshing to see a Batman that didn’t have it all together, a Batman that didn’t have all the answers, and a Batman that made mistakes. The movie goes into some deep, dark places in both Bruce’s and Gordon’s minds, and the story is more psychologically driven than any other of the previous DC animated movies. With such an emphasis of character and emotion, I think it really paid off having these very experienced actors, who all did an excellent job with the exception of Ben Mckenzie. While I don’t believe Ben did a horrible job, I just don’t think he was very good at capturing the essence of Batman or Bruce Wayne. It just doesn’t seem to be in him to have the level of darkness and somberness that is the foundation of Batman. Other than this issue, the only other down side I found was that the movie was a bit on the short side. However, the creators of the movie did recognize this problem and did their best to correct it by adding an additional short Catwoman movie to the DVD and Blu-Ray that also stars Eliza Dushku as Catwoman. All in all I think that this movie is a must see for any adult Batman fans looking for a more grown up story. If this is you, make sure to pick it up on October 18.