PaulRom Reviews: Batman: Year One
Is DC's latest animated film yet another instant classic, or is it one of their weaker installments? Hit the jump for my take on the much anticipated film (some spoilers ahead)...
The much anticipated animated adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One doesn't hit DVD/Blu-Ray until next Tuesday, but it's already leaked online (it's also available on iTunes this week as well). I was planning on waiting until the film was released officially on DVD before seeing it, but my anticipation for it made me want to watch it early, as well as give my review for the film in advance for those who don't know if they want to get it opening day. As said already, there will be some mild spoilers ahead, so if you don't want to know anything about the film before seeing it, then you can skip to the last couple of paragraphs. Oh, and I didn't watch the Catwoman short that'll be included with the DVD release yet, so I won't be covering that here.
Batman: Year One (2011)
1 hr. 4 min.
When Gotham City is in desperate need of heroes, two men take a stand for justice...but on opposite sides. Bruce Wayne returns home after years abroad to become a crimefighter, just as honest cop Lt. James Gordon moves to Gotham and finds corruption at every level. When Bruce becomes the masked vigilante Batman, the city explodes as his new nemesis Catwoman, the mob and Gordon all close in.
I think we all got excited when it was announced that DC Animation was going to bring the critically praised graphic novel Batman: Year One to life. Having a stellar track record (Batman: Under The Red Hood, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths, and I can go on), it was impossible NOT to look forward to what DC would do to bring the classic novel to life. Personally, I haven't read more than the first few pages, so I can't really say how accurate the film is to the source material other than the opening sequence and the art style (in which it's very similar, if not nearly identical, to its source material). But does the film succeed as a much-needed film adaptation? Let's take a look.
As stated before, the animation style of the movie is VERY similar to the original novel, and it works very well (it almost feels like a motion comic at times, that's how similar the art styles are). The animation also feels much like an anime film at times too, comparable to DC's prior film Batman: Gotham Knight. Overall, the animation is top-notch (as expected), and it works well with the story overall (particularly with the more violent scenes).
The voice acting is very solid. Ben McKenzie is decent as Batman, but he failed to provide much emotion in his voice portrayal (if any). They should've gotten Kevin Conroy or even Bruce Greenwood to do the character. Bryan Cranston (who's actually a fan favorite Jim Gordon to play in a future live action film) is excellent as the Lieut.-turned-Commissioner, and he definitely should play the character in live action whenever they reboot the Batman franchise again. The same can be said for Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Katee Sackhoff is good as Det. Sarah Essen, while Alex Rocco is very good as Carmine Falcone. The rest of the cast is good too.
The overall character development was very strongly written. In its very short running time (I'll get into that in a bit), it manages to flesh out nearly all of the major characters perfectly. You get to feel for both Batman and Gordon the most (especially in their rejection by others), as well as Gordon's wife Barbara. I would've liked to see Catwoman/Selina Kyle fleshed out a little more though. While she's more developed than others, it would've been nice to develop the character a bit more. As expected, however, Batman: Year One has a VERY strong script, and it makes most of the characters seem very believable.
Other than the above nitpicks, the only major flaw with the film is its running time. At just over an hour long, it feels too rushed (despite the main characters being developed well) considering the length of the novel. I would've been content with about eighty minutes (about twenty minutes per issue), but just an hour long...it's just too short. Like I said, the characters are developed very well, but at the same time it feels like much more could have been added.
In the end, however, Batman: Year One is yet another worthy addition to DC Animation's impressive catalog. With plenty of solid performances, excellent animation and compelling storyline, this could very well be the best DC animated film next to Under The Red Hood. I actually wouldn't mind if they kept doing mostly Batman films if they were this top notched. For those wanting to see a good film that does the novel justice, then this film is for you. It actually inspires me to finish reading the novel, the storyline is that good. Definitely don't pass this film up when it hits DVD/Blu-Ray next week.
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