Dushku, Bryan Cranston, Katee Sackhoff
Format: Animated, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: October 18, 2011
Run Time: 64 minutes
The graphic novel, as they say, is always better but this full-length
made-for-DVD animated adaptation of the ‘Eighties comic isn’t half bad . . .
In the hoopla surrounding Frank (300,
Sin City) Miller’s influential Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
comic Miller’s own 1987 Batman: Year One graphic novel (or comic arc
to be more accurate) is often forgotten, even though it was probably a
bigger influence on Christopher Nolan’s
Batman Begins movie than Returns. For starters an action sequence
in which Batman (Christian Bale) is trapped in an abandoned apartment
building by trigger happy SWAT team members is taken almost verbatim from
Miller’s Year One - right down to Batman using a sonic gizmo to
attract a swarm of bats!
Like the Nolan movies, Frank Miller’s story is concerned
with how Batman would work in the real world. Here the real world is more
influenced by Taxi Driver and typical 1970s urban decay than the
1930s crime fiction noir that inspired the character originally. It is a
tougher and grittier Batman, and although one has gotten used to Batman
being tough and gritty over the past few decades it often easy to forget the
self-aware irony of the ‘Sixties TV show and the day-glo camp of the Joel
Schumacher Batman movies (shudder).
Batman: Year One sticks closely to the original
comic, right down to the multiple voice-over technique. The story of
Batman’s first year as a masked vigilante is told from the perspective of a
wet behind the ears Bruce Wayne still trying to figure out how to avenge the
death of his parents (what does make a man dress up like a bat and go out
and fight muggers?) and a younger Captain Gordon, newly arrived in Gotham
City and finding it to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy – most of the
crooks being corrupt cops!
The movie’s faithfulness to its source material works both
for and against it. With source material this good, you can’t really go
wrong. However while the verbose voice-overs may work in a comic book (you
know how chatty they can get in comic books), it sometimes tend to slow the
action down. If Batman: Year One doesn’t quite excite as much as the
Nolan big screen movies it is through no fault of its own. Expectations are
quite high. At times one feels that the voice talents can be a bit gruffer,
the art work bolder and the music a bit more stirring but Batman: Year
One more than makes up for more recent iffy efforts by DC Animated such
as All-Star Superman and
Superman / Batman: Apocalypse.
THE DISC: The disc contains the expected assortment
of extras. The animated short, Catwoman, features Dushku as Selina Kyle in a
visually engaging but fundamentally sexist adventure. The animation hums and
Dushku finds the right throaty purr, but the notion of Catwoman unzipping
her costume to act as a distraction adds an unduly sleazy element. The Blu-ray
also contains two interesting behind-the-scenes features, a pair of
Catwoman-based episodes of Batman: the Animated Series, an audio
commentary, and a digital comic, as well as DVD and digital copies of the
film itself. Even when the movie itself disappoints, the visual quality and
extras in these DVD never do.
WORTH IT? Yes.
RECOMMENDATION: Buy it.
- James O'Ehley with additional reporting by Rob Vaux