Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Batman: Under The Red Hood (DVD Review)

For those unfamiliar with the comic book story this animated movie is based on, this is about the death of Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd, and the mysterious character and events that serve as a follow up to this event years later. I'll try not to give out any spoilers, despite the fact that most of the audience for this DVD movie has already read the original story.

The adaptation is very well done, handled by Judd Winick, who wrote the original story and campaigned to make this movie happen. All the key elements remain and the complex DC Universe continuity elements have been streamlined and made self-contained for the movie.

The animation looks great and blends cell and CGI styles effectively. Action is dynamic and explosive and a fight scene between Batman and the Red Hood near the end is one of the most well choreographed sequences I've seen even in live action movies. I spent a lot of time grinning while I watched the action in this movie.

Batman's dialogue isn't always the best, but Nightwing is written pretty well. The best material seems to be given to the Joker, played by John DiMaggio, who delivers it wonderfully. But I did miss not having the higher pitch and brighter timbre I prefer in the voice of the Joker, however. This interpretation seemed slightly influenced by Heath Ledger's version, which I do not consider an overall step in the right direction.

The rest of the voice acting is very strong. Bruce Greenwood is a natural voice for Batman and Neil Patrick Harris continues to surprise me with how different he can make his voice sound with just a few subtle changes.

Once again, this movie is pretty short. A little under 80 minutes. But the pacing of the story still makes you feel as though you've seen a complete film.

The obvious philosophical theme of this movie is: Do the ends justify the means? Generally, we all recognize that we are not the ultimate judge of other human beings. And so our default response is (and likely should be) "no". However, something else inside of us recognizes the injustices in the world and silently screams out for someone to step in and dish out justice. This film has potential to springboard into conversation about justice and the role of God in ultimately bringing it about. But the way the subject is explored (vigilantes and psychotic killers) is a bit far removed from the average person's experience, making worthwhile conversation something you will have to steer purposefully toward, rather than naturally arrive at.

The additional features make the DVD (and especially the Blu-ray, which has an extra documentary) worth buying, as they go into the history of Jason Todd's death in the comics and the origins of Robin as a character. The 10 minute Jonah Hex short is fine for a single viewing and certainly much better than the recent live-action movie. But it isn't very memorable and seems to be chosen only to coincide with the live action movie. I would have preferred an Aquaman or Martian Manhunter short.

Rated PG-13 for violent content and some drug references.

Quality: 9.0/10

Relevance: 7.0/10

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