We join in this episode of everybody’s favorite depressed superhero Batman (Voiced by Bruce Greenwood) desperately racing to a location to save his sidekick Robin. Robin is in the process of getting beat to death with a crowbar by the Joker (John DiMaggio), and just to make sure Robin doesn’t make it out of this alive The Joker locks Robin, all bloodied and beaten, in a room chock full of explosives. Gotta admire the man’s attention to detail. Loyal readers of Batman know that this is the Caped Crusader’s greatest failure in his inability to rescue Jason Todd. Personally, having kids running around in severely masculinity challenged outfits dodging bullets and fighting crime seems like the height of irresponsibility to me, but we gotta roll with it.
Fast forward some years in this DC Universe movie ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’, we see that there’s a new criminal player in town and he’s not playing fair. The Red Hood (Jensen Ackles), who is about as brutal and as lethal as they come, has opted out of eliminating the competition but instead has united the competition under his umbrella to keep things under his tight control. Adapt or die.
Batman becomes keenly aware of this Red Hood’s existence after he and his old Robin Dick Grayson, now commonly known as Nightwing of course, have a spirited battle with the android Amazo, leading to the Red Hood making a guest appearance, followed by Batman chasing the amazingly agile and slippery Red Hood through the city with Red Hood making a great escape and Batman narrowly avoiding incineration.
So who the heck is this Red Hood? After another spirited chase, this time with Nightwing by his side, they both observe some things that are mighty familiar about this guy. Plus the way he operates is a little strange. He’s a murderer, no doubt, but selectively so. To get some answers Batman goes to visit the guy that used to wear a red hood, that being The Joker, but of course this doesn’t turn out so well. Never does. Why go visit the guy anyway? Another person mighty unhappy about the Red Hood is big time Gotham crime boss Black Mask (Wade Williams) who is so desperate
to get rid of this guy who is destroying his operations that he’s willing to make a deal with a psychopath. That will be second time we heard that line in this movie. It didn’t go well the first time for that first guy. Why even do it? Why do people mess with this guy?
Eventually Bruce Wayne discovers the identity of the Red Hood and it’s worse than he could’ve ever imagined. That’s not good looking out Ra’s al Goul. Seriously. Now the Batman knows who he’s fighting and he knows what he wants and Bruce Wayne isn’t willing to give him what he wants. Truth of the matter is I could see the Red Hood’s point of view in this one. Seriously Batman, give him what he wants. It’s a no brainer from where I’m standing.
It seems which each successive release of one of these Warner Brother / DC Comic movies I’m usually saying ‘This is the best one yet’ and truly ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ is no different but as a caveat I should mention that this is one of the few where it probably helps to have at least a working knowledge of the Batman Universe. I’m talking far beyond the movies everybody has seen because this film really digs deeper into the Batman story and since we already know going in that these movies have 75-minute cut off point this one didn’t have the time to spare to explain as much that would need explaining to fully get what was going on in the periphery. Mind you ‘working knowledge’ is really all I have of Batman as my friend William has mercilessly accuses me of being ‘A Marvel’ as I’ve mentioned before, and while this may be true it’s pretty darn clear which universe is putting out the superior animated movies.
Unlike the last DC/WB joint we saw, ‘Justice League: Crisis Between Two Earths’, which had the heart of an action movie, and a good action movie at that, ‘Under the Red Hood’ manages to trump that by adding genuine conflict and even sprinkling in some effective melodrama in between it’s plethora of action sequences. Without disparaging the animated films that have come before this one, which have all been entertaining at least on some level, ‘Under the Red Hood’ takes things up a notch and feels like an actual conceptualized ‘movie’ as opposed to 75-minute animated rollercoaster ride. We’re looking at you ‘Green Lantern: First Flight’.
The voice acting is stellar with Bruce Greenwood giving us a perfectly miserable Batman full of guilt, angst and anger, John DiMaggio’s Joker was a suitably insane rainmaker of complete chaos and Jensen Ackles closes the deal in voice and in character with the Red Hood, a true representation of the anti-hero if ever there was one.
The animation is better, if not superior, introducing of mix 3D objects to the traditional cel animated characters that we are accustomed to, the movie is fairly violent and comes by it’s PG-13 rating very honestly, if you have a nice sound system hook up your neighbors will probably have to call the cops on you considering the sound mix in this film is second to none, and director Brandon Vietti has maximized the mandated 75-minute cut-off point to deliver a story that has just the right mix of action and narrative, and for probably the first time I think the audience finally gets a movie that didn’t feel rushed to get to the end of this corporate mandated 75-minute cut-off point.
‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ is a worthy addition to anyone’s DVD or Blu-Ray collection with its compelling story and great voice acting. Highly recommended for die-hard fans and causal watchers alike.