Monday, October 24, 2011
Batman: Year One Review
In the rich, generation spanning history of Batman in comics, arguably only a handful of stories are revered as canon. One of these is Batman: Year One. Released in the late 80’s as part of the character’s ongoing title, Year One delved into the formative stages of Bruce Wayne’s one man war on crime, providing a updated depiction of the character’s tragic origin along with a comprehensive study of his motives for resorting to vigilantism. Another pivotal facet of Batman lore the story expanded upon was the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon. Not yet having earned his recognized role of commissioner, Gordon is portrayed as a down on his luck cop trying his best to make a difference in Gotham City, an urban cesspool riddled by crime and destitution whose own police force is mired in a sea of corruption and bureaucratic greed. He feels trapped and hates himself for bringing his wife and unborn child into a place as ugly and hostile as Gotham. Although Assigned to apprehend “The Batman” at all costs, Gordon eventually comes to see the city’s shadowy protector for the hero he is trying to be and the two lost souls manage to find a measure of hope and inspiration in each other while each working in their own ways to save Gotham from its many demons.
As you can imagine, I was very excited when I heard this story was being adapted into one of DC Entertainment’s animated features. And on the most part, it delivers. The movie is faithful to its source material to a fault and therein lies my biggest criticism in that nothing new and exciting is really added to the story. The movie is pretty much a straight page by page re-telling of the comic and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, I kind of wish they had tried to be a little more creative in putting their own unique stamp on the story as was successfully demonstrated in prior adaptations of pre-existing storylines like Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Under the Red Hood.
I thought the voice casting of the film was pretty solid. Brian Cranston in particular did a superb job at providing the voice of Jim Gordon and perfectly conveys the stoic resolve yet underlying emotional turmoil of a good man with the odds stacked against him who is just trying to be good at his job and do right by his family. Ben Mackenzie gave a pretty good performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman though at times I thought his voice acting came off as a little “forced” like he was trying too hard to sound brooding and obsessive. Eliza Dushku, who provided the voice of Selina Kyle/Catwoman was good though not present in the film enough to really leave much of a mark.
Although it doesn’t bring anything new too the table, Batman Year One is still an impressive and very well-made animated adaptation of it’s classic comic book inspiration and it’s raw edge and gritty realism definitely set it apart from many of the studio’s other animated ventures.