Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood - DVD Review

The next Batman live-action film from Christopher Nolan may still be two years away, but that doesn't stop Warner Bros releasing some delightful animated treats to keep, the more seasoned, fans entertained.

Under the Red Hood - based on a comic book arc of the same name - sets, the dear Caped Crusader, up against a ghost from his past in the form of The Red Hood, also known as Jason Todd, the second Robin.

For those unfamiliar with past events in the Batman universe, Jason Todd was famously killed by the Dark Knight's nemesis, The Joker - which is referenced marvellously in this surprisingly dark animated feature. Of course few in comic books actually die and manage to be brought back to life by some method, which defies the laws of science. This evidently leads Batman down a road where he must confront his horrid past and be forced into decisions which will no doubt impact on his future too. But enough of me spoiling the plot...

First off the animation on this feature is absolutely wonderful, capturing the true spirit of the latter day Batman books. Its overly dark tone also conjures memories of the frankly excellent animated series from the early 90s while also retaining elements which have been established in Christopher Nolan films - especially in the design of Gotham City.

Though the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy - Batman in the original animated series - and Mark Hamill - similarly so with The Joker - were unfortunately absent from Under The Red Hood, the contributions from Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) and Joe DiMaggio made for more than worthy replacements. Particularly DiMaggio, who didn't bother trying to mimic Hamill or even Heath Ledger, bravely attempting to create his own representation of the character.

The support work from Jason Issacs as the sinister Ra's Al Ghul also deserves special mention, as does Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) in the role of Batman's original Robin, Dick Grayson, offering light relief amongst the darkness of the tale.

The writers simply did a terrific job creating a much more mature storyline, which will please die-hard fans as well as satisfy casual fans of the live-action films. There was much needed grit and violence present which had been, understandably, absent from the more recent animated series' such as 'The Batman' and 'The Brave and the Bold'.

It was much more in keeping with the previous Batman animated film, the visually stunning, yet extremely hollow, Gotham Knight. Under the Red Hood also does a much better job of delving into Batman's fascinating psyche; the fine line the tragic character dances between good and evil on a regular basis as well as his attitude towards The Joker.

Criticisms? There was actually very few, but maybe my love for the entire franchise has made me see the tale through rose-tinted glasses. Perhaps one could argue the film is more a fanboy extravagance than something accessible to all viewers, as some of the past storylines referenced would be lost on people unfamiliar with Batman outside of the cinema. I would, however, stress slight caution to parents as this is much darker than your average cartoon.

Final Thoughts
As far as your typical 'straight to DVD' features go, Batman: Under the Red Hood, is actually a particularly brilliant one. The overall production quality of both the voice acting and the animation is astounding from a film I wasn't expecting a huge lot from. If Warner Bros had sense they should, seriously, consider adapting a new series from this style. It would certainly be a worthy contender to the crown held by the 90s animated series, as the best representation of the Dark Knight outside of his original medium. Fanboy? Me? OK, I'll shut up now...


See This If You Liked...
Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm, The Dark Knight...well you get the idea...

Batman: Under the Red Hood is available on DVD/Blu-Ray from July 27th 2010.

No comments: