Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chronic Review: Batman Under the Red Hood dvd!

This is the strongest of the DC animated features to date. Actually, let me rephrase that more accurately. Batman: Under the Red Hood is the strongest feature length animated film DC has released to date. The best work they've produced so far is the Jonah Hex short also included on this DVD.

I particularly enjoyed the nearly perfect 50/50 blend of action and drama. No origin story or obligatory buzz killing introductions to wade through, and that helped big time.

I haven't read the original comics work by Judd Winnick, (who also developed the screenplay) so I can't comment on how the movie stacks up against the source. What I know is that the story uses a tried and true vengeance hook that really does work.

Nothing in here tries to re-invent the wheel. You've got all the classic Bat-elements involved. Batman and multiple Robins, multiple bad guys including Ra's al Ghul and The Joker. Under the Red Hood was wise to roll a good dollop of Batman's most iconic ingredients into one satisfying stew.

Are there any flaws? Sure, I could nitpick. If I see one more character deflect multiple bullets with a goddamn sword I'm going to puke. I don't know where that trope came from, but it needs to go away, like now. Here's the thing. If that character is such a badass, and has such incredible reflexes that they can redirect a high velocity round with a blade....why are they being struck with punches two seconds later? If you want to bend the rules of time and space, fine. Just be consistent with it, kay? OK.

There is one particular plot point that I hesitate to say much about, but let's just say that the Red Hood's "master plan" really feels like a stretch. Also, the Joker and Red Hood are having a conversation with each other 1,000 yards apart, which feels a bit strange even while they're shouting, and quite impossible when they aren't.

None of those things are deal-breakers, though. Some of the action sequences in the movie are an absolute joy to watch. There's a fight toward the beginning of the film where Nightwing shows up to help his old mentor take on an android called Amazo. The whole thing is, well, beautiful. Nightwing's color scheme looks particularly good while fighting, which I recognize is an odd thing to say, but just trust me. When you watch it, you'll be nodding your head in agreement with me, and then the person watching it with you will think you're odd. So it will all even out.

The Red Hood makes a good foil for Batman for many reasons, but the most interesting ones to me were the philosophical ones. There's a showdown of sorts between the Red Hood, Joker, and Batman at the end that really pays off for me. I'm not convinced that Batman has the best, most convincing answers to the questions posed to him by the Red Hood, and that's not even the point. The point is how satisfying it is to have a character in the story call Bruce out on questions readers have wondered for decades.

It's hard to talk about these things without getting spoiler heavy, which has never stopped me before, so I don't know why I'm being considerate now. Suffice to say that if you have any interest in Batman or enjoyed any of the other DC animated films, this one will not disappoint.

And then there's the Jonah Hex short. Oh, what a shame we only got 10 minutes of this!

Some may balk at the "anime" style employed, but I thought it looked great. The script is sharp, to the point, true to the character, and ended with punch. Really wish we could have had a full 90 minutes of Jonah Hex, and the live action film crew should have watched this animated film to see how it's done...

- Ryan

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