Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Batman: Gotham Knight

Directors: Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Shoujiru Nishimi.
2008. Rated PG-13, 76 minutes.
Kevin Conroy
Kevin Michael Richardson
Gary Dourdan
David McCallum
Parminder Nagra

Six vignettes on the crime-fighter’s early career in Gotham. Basically, it seems to depict a period of time after Batman Begins but before The Dark Knight and even attempts to fill in the one glaring plot hole from the former.

This is no softening of the legend to make it more palatable for the kiddies. It’s a journey through Gotham’s grimiest streets and even the Caped Crusader takes plenty of lumps. Gotham as a whole is represented as desolate as we’ve ever seen her and everyone in town is in a decidedly somber mood. We get to see Batman (Conroy) try out some new gadgets courtesy of Lucious Fox (Richardson), including one he rejects because it works too well. The scene of this rejection is one of the few that offer any insight into the character. The entire section about him learning to deal with pain does this as well. Surprisingly, the action is more graphic than anything I can recall from the rest of Batsy’s onscreen canon.

The animation can be seen as overly experimental. When used properly, visuals enhance the story being told without becoming the story. Here, because they’re so in-your-face and change from one scene to the next you can’t help but be distracted by them. It may not have been so bad if they hadn’t kept changing Batman’s appearance. Early on, it was okay because the story is being told by some kids who all got a glimpse of him in action but don’t really know how to describe him so they use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. One even describes him as an actual giant bat. However, his look keeps changing even after the story has moved away from that tactic. In one scene he’s kinda fat, in another he’s rather plainly built, looks Japanese in one then finally he looks like the Incredible Hulk squeezed into the cowl and tights. Because this movie seems to heavily favor style over substance, you get the feeling it’s more about perfecting the craft of Batman rather than the character. Of course, the fact that a different director worked on each segment probably has a lot to do with it.

This is pretty much for us jaded fans who like their Batman real gritty. This isn’t for casual fans because it can be cryptic at times and none of the villains people are familiar with are on the loose here, just a few generic bad guys. Don’t get me wrong, they inflict some serious pain on our hero but the charisma that the super villains bring is sorely lacking. It isn’t for most youngsters, either. They’ll either be mortified or confused by it. Or both. Still, it's a look at a part of the character's existence that's not often seen, or truncated to fit into a more traditional narrative. Therefore, leave this for us fanboys.

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