While I love these DC Universe PG-13 animated movies, the fact that we’ve yet to get one set entirely in the world of Batman has been a bit disappointing. Yes, Batman has appeared in several of these flicks so far, but he has been regulated to a supporting role.
“What about BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHT” you say? Sure, it was Batman-centric, but it wasn’t really a film. It was simply a series of animated shorts which served as supplemental advertisement for the live-action THE DARK KNIGHT movie to be frank.
However, that finally changes with the release of BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD -- the 8th edition of these DCU PG-13 animated flicks from DC/Warner Bros. Not only is this totally a “Batman Movie,” it’s the best in these series of films I’ve seen so far.
I already know what y’all are thinking. “So, how does it compare previous animated Bat-Flicks?” Well…
It’s better than both SUB ZERO and BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER and right up there with -- and might even surpass -- the classic MASK OF THE PHANTASM.
Yes, I’m serious.
I’m quite sure that if you’re reading this review, you’ve most likely read the two comic book stories that the film is based on -- A DEATH IN THE FAMILY from the late 1980s, and BATMAN: UNDER THE HOOD, from the mid-2000s. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling the movie for anyone with this review, but if you are interested in seeing this film and are indeed clueless about those two aforementioned Batman stories…
STOP READING NOW! IT‘S GREAT! BUY IT!
OK, still with me? Good, let’s continue…
B:UTRH’s plot revolves around The Batman’s self-professed biggest mistake: The murder of Robin #2, Jason Todd, at the hands of The Joker. While that event is the crux of the story, we only see it at the very beginning of the film. Once we get past the credits, the remainder of the film takes place some five years after the tragedy.
Basically, there’s this cat running around Gotham who is at once both a vigilante and a crime lord. His name? “The Red Hood.”
No, not THAT Red Hood, but there is certainly an important reason as to WHY this new Red Hood took upon that moniker. And speaking of the original Red Hood…
This just may one of the most impressive interpretations of The Joker I’ve seen in a Batman film to date -- other than Heath Ledger’s classic and Oscar winning performance in THE DARK KNIGHT of course. Mucho props to screenwriter Judd Winick -- he simply nails it with The Joker here in terms of characterization and dialogue. In addition, I’ve got to say “Well done!” to the folks who came up with the design for B:UTRH’s “look” for The Clown Prince of Crime. It’s both classic and fresh at the same time.
Then there’s John DiMaggio’s voice performance. In short, he's fabulous as The Joker. I can only describe it as being not what you would expect, but spot-on simultaneously. Trust me, that’ll make total sense once you see it.
As for as the rest of the top-billed voice cast, all do a fine job in their respective roles. Let’s give voice director Andrea Romano her proper due as she is spot on with her casting yet again. Both Jensen Ackles as The Red Hood and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing totally fit the bill and do one heck of a job in their respective roles -- especially the former. Ackles’ really delivers the angst/anger that his part both needs and deserves. And all I can say about Harris is that this dude can voice whomever he wants in the DCU -- on film or TV -- from here on out. (“The Music Meister” anyone?”)
All you Ra’s Al Ghul fans can relax. Not only is his name pronounced correctly, but Jason Isaacs does the character proud. Hell, ‘ol Ra’s is almost a good guy in this one.
OK, I can hear you all, trust me….
“What about Bruce Greenwood as Batman?”
I don’t think any fan of The Dark Knight is going to be disappointed. He’s wonderful and he sounds like, well, “Batman.”
(Well, that was a rather ignorant statement. I’m sure many a “fan” will analyze, dissect, and then complain about every single syllable of Mr. Greenwood’s performance. They will then chalk it up as not being “Batman-ish enough.” *rolls eyes/shakes head*)
Let me finish up by saying that I can’t fathom anyone who is a self-professed “Batman Fan” not only liking, but loving BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD. It's also the darkest animated Batman film yet, which is certainly a good thing. I also found it to be better story-wise than both of the comic book story arcs on which it’s based. Winick cleaned up A LOT of the problems that, candidly, hampered the source material. There’s no “Iranian diplomat Joker” or Superboy Prime/”Crisis” nonsense at hand here -- all for the better I say.
Oh yeah, there are also a few winks and nods to BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, the 1960s BATMAN TV show, and the Chris Nolan BATMAN films. How's that for cool?
Batman Nation, buy this movie...and enjoy!