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DC’s animated releases have been really hit or miss in the last three years. You had the good Wonder Woman, the very good Green Lantern: First Flight, and the great Justice League: the New Frontier and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Then you’ve also seen such not-so-greats as Superman: Doomsday, the anime styled Batman: Gotham Knights, and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Now comes Batman: Under the Red Hood, which falls somewhere in the middle.

Taken from a tale I only knew in passing, this one proves that even when you do see the body in comics it doesn’t mean it’s dead. Sparing you any of the films obvious spoilers, the Red Hood, an identity of the Joker’s in his earliest career moment (i.e. the one which made him the Joker), is back in town and muscling his way into the drug trade. His deadly methods coerce a number of gang members to side with him against main drug lord Black Mask (picture Tony Montana with his face burned down to the skull). In a double effort to use the history of the Red Hood character and provide a much more interesting protagonist, the Joke plays a substantial role in the plot.

Relying too heavily on flashbacks, the story feels a little meandering, and features too many characters for its own good. Nightwing, the original Robin now grown, shows up to basically do Batman’s talking so he can keep up his grim, silent shtick. The constant flashbacks disrupt the pace of the film and could have been better summed up in about half as many. While appearances like R’as Al Ghul work in a multi-part comic story, it just takes up valuable screen time in Red Hood. I know, too, that Batman’s rogues gallery contains so many, many more interesting antagonists than Black Mask that his appearance frustrates in its banality. He does next to nothing of interest.

The voice acting comes and goes. Bruce Greenwood as Batman seems to be doing a Kevin Conroy impression in most of his performance, begging the question why DC ever casts anyone else. The man has the definitive Batman voice. Warner Brothers should redub all of Christian Bale’s lines as Batman to get them right in the future. John DiMaggio’s Joker take was interesting but I felt he had it about 75% down. His laughter worked perfectly, though, and that’s such a significant piece of the performance that I believe he can perfect it on another try, since Mark Hamill has officially retired the voice. Neil Patrick Harris might be the sole reason for Nightwing’s inclusion in the film. Great though he was, the story portrays the character as nearly bumbling, asking obvious questions and barely keeping up with Batman at all. Harris, though, was great and should be kept on board future Batman or Teen Titan productions as Dick Grayson.

The story wraps up neatly enough, with an easy to spot battle and characters seemingly disposed of whom we know still to fight another day. Overall, though, Batman: Under the Red Hood only partially satisfies as a film, a Batman story or an action cartoon. While the fights moved well and provided some fun moments, there were too many with faceless goons, and even the main antagonists only seemed like minor threats half the time. The story revolving around mentor and student’s paths diverging plays well when not interrupted by brawls involving no one of importance. I would have liked to have seen a tighter, leaner story with fewer superfluous characters and a cleaner resolution, but the film has its number of high points, too, such as good voice work, fair animation and no punches pulled in the action. Hopefully they will give this cast and crew another chance to make their mark on Batman in the future. 3 stars


One Comment

    • The Fortress Guys
    • Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:30 am
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    • Reply

    We agree with you that COnroy does a great Batman. Why indeed cast someone else.

    Good point too about there being too many characters. The film’s hard message was delivered staccato style between “other scenes”.

    It is not for everyone. It is well made with good production values and action, all wrapped up in darkness and tied with a bow of brutality.

    Here is our take with a lot of pics and a little humor if your are interested:

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