After a dozen or so years abroad, a twenty five year old Bruce Wayne (voiced by Ben McKenzie) has made it back to Gotham City. Once we saw Bruce roundhouse kick a tree in half, which I don’t think even Bruce Lee could do, we can plainly see that Bruce wasn’t hanging out at Oxford studying the renaissance masters.
While Bruce is kicking trees, karate chopping bricks and being depressed, also arriving in Gotham is hardworking Police Lt. James Gordon (Bryan Cranston). Considering that Lt. Gordon was spending the entire flight to Gotham whining about how lousy Gotham is and how doesn’t want to raise the child his wife is pregnant with in Gotham, I don’t know why he’s here. He probably told me, but I missed that part. Obviously Bruce has yet to become Batman, and Gordon has yet to be promoted to Commissioner. Thus we have the latest Warner Brothers / DC animated film ‘Batman: Year One’, and it is a good one.
Just like Lt. Gordon was incessantly whining about, Gotham is pretty lousy. The cops are corrupt, the current commissioner (Jon Polito) is filthy, and the criminals run the town. Does this stop Gordon from doing his job in a proper way? Not it does not. Does this make him popular with his dirty cop friends? Oh good heavens no.
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce knows what he has to do, that being putting a screeching halt on the terror taking place in his town, the terror that forced him to watch his parents be murdered right before his eyes… but how? This particular evening he goes out on a test run, dressed as a dock worker, to terrorize some criminals and set some people free. Rule number one, make sure the people you are setting free want to be free. Another thing to keep an eye out for are prostitutes who jump out of windows and start kung-fuing your ass. Sure, this prostitutes name might be Selena Kyle and we know what she will become, but right now she’s just a really dangerous prostitute that knows kung fu. And lastly, when the cops show up and it’s between you and the pimp, I suggest you run because the cops will be shooting at you.
Beaten and battered, Bruce needs a better plan. It’s a little on the dramatic side how it comes about, but The Batman is now born. But while Batman is taking out bad guys with extreme prejudice, he’s still a vigilante. Lt. Gordon and his new assistant Sgt. Essen
(Katie Sackhoff) can’t have vigilantes running around the city and they spend long hours on the case. But you know how it is… you work late with somebody, she’s a little lonely, kinda hot, your wife is pregnant, a little bitchy maybe… don’t do it Jim… Not only because it’s wrong, but because you’re investigating dirty cops and their eyes are everywhere. Does Jim listen to me? Again, no he does not.
Now the new Batman and the good cop who made a bad decision are up against it. The bad guys have them both in a very bad spot, and these guys don’t play fair. I mean these people are reprehensible. Absolutely no socially redeeming value. The Batman is about to lose his life and Gordon is about to lose his family… but while history tells us this not going to happen, you still have to watch to find out how they get out of this mess.
Child prostitution, adultery, mass murder, extortion, corruption, and dudes so rotten that they would even go as far as killing a baby. Seriously? A baby? Come on now… As you can see ‘Batman: Year One’ is a little harsher than the average animated superhero movie that we’ve come to expect, and since the people who actually read these comic books… uh… Graphic Novels have told me that this film stays surprisingly faithful to the book that spawned it, the movie has certainly turned out better for it.
Technically speaking, the DVD transfer is crisp and clean… note I just brought a Blu-Ray player but I don’t have any Blu-Ray disks as of yet… and I’m still keeping my HD-DVD player too, so there. The sound is fabulous, the animation is easily among the best that Warner Brothers / DC has put out to date, the story is told in a way that draws you in almost immediately and features heroic characters who are uniquely human. The bad guys… completely evil caricatures, but I guess when you have good guys who sleep around on their pregnant wives, you have to make your bad guys pretty damned bad.
Personally I thought the voice acting was stellar, though I have heard some complaints about Ben McKenzie’s voicing of Bruce Wayne / Batman, but I thought he did a good job with the tragically conflicted character.
This movie also found a way to overcome one the main problems I’ve found in these animated movies, that being stuffing as much content into the limited allotment of seventy five minutes that these movies usually run. Most of these movies usually overload us with action scenes and try to wedge in exposition in between action sequences. These movies are usually entertaining for the most part, but they always seem to be missing something, and the directors of this movie, Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, are responsible for a lot of those movies.
This time around it’s a little different. Note that ‘Batman: Year One’ is actually ten minutes shorter than most of those other movies, but it had a much better balance between storytelling and action, which made for a movie that felt much more complete.
Warner Brothers / DC once again steps up to the plate with another fine animated film, maybe not quite up to gold standard set by ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ arguably the best the genre has to offer, but still a worthy addition to their growing library of excellent animated films.