There are few comic book stories that stand out as being one of the all-time greats. Batman: Year One is one of those. Batman has gone been depicted in numerous ways since his debut back in 1939. It was Frank Miller's story in 1988, depicting his beginnings that firmly established who he was.
While truly a story worthy of being adapted into an animated feature, because of the high regard many have given it, expectations are raised prior to viewing. In order to try to lower any criticisms I might have, I made a point to avoid even looking at the comic again until after watching the movie.
The movie begins with both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon coming to Gotham. For Bruce, he's been gone for twelve years (doing his training). Once he hits the streets, we see a Batman we're not used to. This Batman can get beat up by punks. It might not be what people are used to, but again, this is the story that told us how he became Batman. Ben McKenzie does a good job as Bruce Wayne and Batman (check out our interview with him at SDCC). There were some points I felt it was a little weak but overall, he captured the voice of young Batman. It's really Bryan Cranston as Gordon that shines here. And Gordon is a badass in the movie, as he should be.== TEASER ==
The movie is pretty much a straight forward adaptation. Speaking to Bruce Timm last summer at San Diego Comic-Con, he mentioned that they didn't really cut anything and actually had to add a couple minor things. That being said, the movie is still short. It has a running time of 64 minutes. Granted the other features tend to run around 75 minutes but it still felt really short. To add to this, we get the 15 minute Catwoman short, written by Paul Dini and also featuring the voice of Eliza Dushku.
I did like the movie. I liked it quite a bit but I can't say I absolutely loved it. I cracked open my comics moments before writing this up to see how it compared. Yes, the movie practically is done scene by scene but there were some moments that simply felt off in the translation. It might be that after reading the story so often, it gets to that point where you have already established how you think it should be. It's not fair to the movie but that's the risk in adapting such a big comic story. I do have to say that the closing credits with original comic panels was a great touch.
The Catwoman feature takes things to a different level. It's not quite same Catwoman as she's further along in her career. She also has the Darwyn Cooke costume and you can easily say this short isn't for the kids. There is some violence and a scene at a strip club. If you want some heavy action, you're definitely going to find it in the short.
We had the recent announcement of the next animated feature, Justice League: Doom. There is a ten minute sneak peek on the Spring 2012 release and we get to see the storyboards and some early animated scenes. The movie will take the Tower of Babel storyline and feature the Legion of Doom, including Bane, Star Sapphire, Cheetah, Mirror Master and Vandal Savage. Of course the return of several of the voice actors adds to the anticipation.
There is a twenty-three minute feature, Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to his Roots. It covers Batman's history, starting out violent and turning goofy and kid friendly in the 50s due to the Comics Code. After the Adam West show, the comic almost got canceled but the book took a darker turn in the 70s. Then of course it was Frank Miller with1986's Dark Knight Returns and then Batman: Year One that changed everything.
Another great feature is the thirty-nine minute Conversations With DC Comics. It features candid talk with Michael Uslan, Dan DiDio, Scott Snyder and Dennis O'Neil. They talk about what got them started in comics as well as continuity and if it's okay to mess with it.
There's the typical Bruce Timm's Top Picks which includes "Catwalk" from Batman: The Animated Series and "Cult of the Cat" from The New Batman Adventures.
If all that wasn't enough, you also get a digital copy of chapter one of Batman: Year One.
It's another good addition to the long line of successful DC Original Animated movies. I really liked it although due to my expectations, I can't say I loved it. We can breathe a sigh of relief that it was done properly. This is an important story in Batman's mythos and it's a movie that anyone can watch without needing to be aware of years of history. Of course it would be great to see an original movie dealing with other characters but the reality is Batman sells. He is pretty dang cool after all. The Blu-ray/DVD is officially on sale October 18.