The latest animated feature from Warner Bros. Animation is a very faithful recreation of the classic comic, ‘Batman: Year One.’
(In the interest of full disclosure I’ll tell you that I’ve met the director of this film, Sam Liu, and talked briefly about the Batman. Not on any kind of business thing, just one of those ‘Hollywood is really just a small town that’s centered around TV and mvoies type of thing.’ He’s a friend of a friend. Now having gotten that out of the way, if you really think that chatting briefly and non-chalantly with the director of the film would bias me toward any favoritism toward this particular character, I don’t…I just can’t…)
For those unfamiliar, the comic ‘Batman: Year One’ is very true to the title: a 25 year old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham after years away with plenty of methods to fight crime but missing…’something’. At the same time, young Lieutenant James Gordon arrives in Gotham with a pregnant wife and a reputation as a good cop trying to survive in a horribly corrupt police department. If these beats (and others in the story) are familiar, Chris Nolan borrowed a lot of the story points from this comic for both of his excellent Batman films.
So how does the animated film measure up? Quite well in my opinion. The most notable difference to me (as someone very familiar with the comic) is that the ‘voiceover’ of the comic has been pretty much taken out. It was a great choice; for the most part the audience experiences the story in ‘real time’ with Gordon and Bruce. The biggest name in the voice acting by Bryan Cranston (‘Breaking Bad’) as Lieutenant Gordon, as the true ‘star’ of the story I think he did well with the idea of what we all imagine the future Commissioner to sound like after so many interpretations. There’s another nice ‘in joke’ where certain dolls from the comic have clearly been replaced by characters owned by Warner Brothers, but that’s only noticeable if you know the comic.
As far as Warner’s animated films go, I’d put this behind ‘Under the Red Hood’ in terms of quality. Highly recommend if you haven’t ever read the comic.
‘Batman: Year One’ is out now on Blu-Ray/DVD, ITunes and On-Demand on certain cable outlets (like mine).