Sunday, August 29, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Directed by Brandon Vietti.
2010. Rated PG-13, 75 minutes.
Bruce Greenwood
Jensen Ackles
John Di Maggio
Neil Patrick Harris
Kelly Hu
Jason Isaacs
Gary Cole
Vincent Martella
Jim Piddock

Using one of the Joker’s old aliases, the Red Hood (Ackles), an apparently new masked baddie is extorting all of Gotham’s crime bosses. After dispatching a number of their henchmen, he claims to offer protection not only from the police, but from Batman (Greenwood), as well.

This time around we find a guilt ridden Batman, beating himself up over the death of Robin (Alexander and Vincent Martella) at the hands of the Joker (Di Maggio). It doesn’t help that the original Robin, now known as Nightwing (Harris) keeps popping up to help out, a morbid reminder of what could’ve been. Like the best of Batman, the psychological aspects of the story are as much a part of the story as the action. At the heart of the matter, we come to learn, is Batman’s self-imposed code of ethics. Many Batman fans have often said to themselves if they were the hero, (place name of villain, here) would be dead. Someone here thinks the same. Out loud. To Batman’s face.

The action is well-done. Continuing a recent trend in the franchise, it’s also fairly brutal. Unlike the old Adam West TV series or any of the Batman animated shows from my childhood (the 70s and 80s), people die. At the risk of advocating murder I’ll say it fits the mythology of Gotham City, given the people depicted. Our hero is up against bad people who do bad things, not the vaudevillian mischievous characters they were once made out to be.

For me, the one real drawback was the voice-work of a couple of main players. It wasn’t necessarily bad, just not the voices I wanted to hear. Greenwood as Batman is adequate, but he’s no Kevin Conroy. Conroy perfected the Batman voice. His is always the one I hear when I think of the character. The same goes for Di Maggio as the Joker. He’s actually a little less than adequate making Mark Hamill’s work in the role stand out that much more.

Those minor drawbacks aside, this is a true delight for Batman fans. The story is intriguing and flows nicely into the action. It is one of the better entries into the canon.

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