Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Batman: Year One



It goes without saying the cultural significance that Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: Year One - along with The Dark Knight Returns - has had not only a huge impact on the comics of Batman in the years to come, but also in TV and film. Without this story there might not have been even the Tim Burton Batman films, a Bruce Timm animated series in the 90s or more recently Christopher Nolan's excellent Batman trilogy - which borrows heavily from this source material. So with an impressive track record in recent years of adapting infamous graphic novels across the DC Universe, Warners Bros show up with one of the biggest in Batman Year One. Does it live up to it's stupidly high fanboy expectations though?

The general story is pretty straightforward, it's quite possibly as famous and overplayed as the birth of Jesus by now. Young billionaire Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after years of exiling himself and dons the infamous cowl and cape to become the caped crusader known as Batman to combat the wicked and corrupt. However, like the graphic novel, the main narrative of the story is driven by the strained experiences of Lt. Jim Gordon coming to Gotham City for the first time, and seemingly the only cop in the city who isn't taking bribes from the mob.

Largely the feature is a pretty faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's source material down to the gritty representation of Gotham City to the writer's cold and detached, noir-esque, dialogue which will either grind your gears or fill you with joy pending how much of a Frank Miller fan you are. For me personally, the script comes off well however suffers slightly in the moments featuring Batman/Bruce Wayne due to the soulless, uninspiring, voice acting of Ben McKenzie, but then Batman as a character has always felt slightly off to me in Miller's representation of him.

The true star of the whole piece, and frankly would be my choice to play this character in a live-action setting in the unmentionable 'Post-Nolan' world once The Dark Knight Rises comes and goes next year, is Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame) as Jim Gordon. He just seems to nail the cynical, downbeat, flawed honesty in Gordon's voice. Other notable contributions come from Battlestar Galactica alumni, Katie Sackoff as fellow GCPD cop, Sarah Essen, Joss Whedon collaborator, Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb.

The quality of the animation was of, as usual, a high standard from Warner Bros. It takes on an almost anime look in sections, reminiscent of the brilliant adaptation of All Star Superman released earlier this year. Though owing more to sections of Batman: Gotham Knight, I still don't think it truly matched the sights and sounds of the Batman created in the glorious Batman: Under the Red Hood of last year.

Final Thoughts
As always with these DC Universe films, they're more than often preaching to the converted. If you don't like Batman, besides being slightly insane, this film isn't likely to change your opinion. Frank Miller's cold, unwelcoming, dialogue and even representation of The Dark Knight isn't for everyone and might not be what you're use to if your exposure of Batman is mainly the animated series and the films. Nevertheless fans of the book should be pleased with the results of the feature and should satisfy all until The Dark Knight Rises reaches cinemas next year. I'm counting down the days, seriously...

3.5/5

Batman: Year One is available on DVD/Blu-Ray now.

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