Nov 28, 2011 11:39 AM EST
Batman: Year One Is DC Animation At It's Best
DC has done some amazing work over the recent years bringing many of their beloved characters to the small screen in animated features. Some of the most notable are Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and soon Catwoman. The newest to be released is that legendary story, Batman: Year One.
To begin, the story was first printed back in the 80's and was written by Frank Miller. Most of you know Frank Miller's work even if you are not a comic fan. His most noted work, which was successfully adapted, was the blockbuster 300. Year One is an introduction of sorts and follows Bruce Wayne's first year as being Batman. It is an origin tale of sorts as many notable characters from Batman's history do make an appearance. Selina Kyle, who will become Catwoman as well as Jim Gordon and Carmine Falcone are some of the major players in this story.
As the film opens, Bruce Wayne is returning to Gotham after being away for 12 years studying abroad. At the same time, Jim Gordon, a Chicago cop is also arriving in Gotham though this is his first time here. Each man sees the city a certain way; Bruce sees it as a city that has become corrupt and violent while Gordon sees it as his punishment for making a large mistake in Chicago. The film moves in a series of jumps, from one date to another. It begins at the start of the year, slowly moving the story and developing its characters. As Gordon adjusts to the corruption that has taken over the police force, Bruce continues to train, waiting for that moment when he can begin his crusade.
During an excursion into Gotham's east end, Bruce winds up getting in over his head when dealing with a young prostitute and winds up getting shot by police. After escaping his captors and barely making it home, Bruce finally receives the answer he was waiting for when a bat breaks into his study. This moment is a turning point for him as he has the final tool to begin his crusade. Time moves forward again and Gordon has moved up in the force thanks to his ethics and resistance to the corruption around much to the chagrin of his peers. At this point most of the police force as well as the media is aware of a man dressed as a bat, roaming the streets at night attacking criminals.
It is only when he turns his sights on the corrupt politicians and their consorts that Batman is finally taken seriously. Now an all-out war has begun and if he isn't caught it won't be long before the city is taken down along with him.
The film is a direct translation of the source material, nearly following the book shot-for-shot. The only noticeable alteration is the lack of narration. In the book, much of it is narrated by both Gordon and Wayne. This comes from Frank Miller's love of early detective novels and it plays well in all his stories. At first it seems to take away from the film, but as you watch you realize that having so much dialogue overlaying every scene would actually hinder the flow of the film. Other than that, there is little else that has changed. So fans that are familiar with the book will recognize much of what transpires throughout the film.
The voice direction leaves a little to be desired. Brian Cranston does the voice of Jim Gordon, while Ben McKenzie plays Bruce Wayne. Cranston does a satisfactory job with the material, but it is McKenzie that really slows things down. It is hard to imagine his voice as Wayne and more importantly as Batman. We've all come to expect Batman to have a gruff, husky voice and McKenzie doesn't seem to have the chops to pull that off. The other notable voice here is Eliza Dushku who plays the part of Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She does a good job with the part and it is worth pointing out that she will again be voicing Catwoman for her solo feature. Lastly the animation here is quite impressive; at no point does it appear choppy or slapped together. There is a beautiful fluidity to all the characters motions, whether during a fight scene or otherwise. That shows a true commitment from the people involved to bring audiences the best experience possible.
So if you're looking for a good Batman tale while we await the final chapter in the Christopher Nolan series, go buy Batman: Year One now available on Blu-ray.
-- Chris Rebholz
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