Batman: Year One Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
I still remember when Batman: Year One came out in 1987. While it is regular practice today, back then the mini-series within a regular series was a pretty new concept. Everything Batman was hot. The Dark Knight Returns had come out the year before and the first Batman film was still a couple of years away. The story of Batman’s first year as a crime fighter was told within the pages of the regular Batman comic, issues 404 – 407. Frank Miller, who had awed us all with the tale of the near-future Batman in Dark Knight Returns, now took us back to the very beginning. His tale was complemented brilliantly by the atmospheric art of David Mazzuccelli.
Now that iconic storyline is the subject of the latest DC Comics animated feature. It’s been well over 20 years since I read the comics, but the Directorial team of Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery have given fans a faithful version of the story. The film begins with Jim Gordon moving with his pregnant wife Barbara to Gotham City to take a position as Lieutenant with the Gotham PD. Gordon is immediately smacked in the face with the rampant corruption of the department including his partner, Detective Flass and even the current commissioner. Bruce Wayne has just returned back to Gotham after some 13 years abroad. Still distraught over the murder of his parents, Bruce decides to try and take matters into his own hands but isn’t sure what to do. His inexperience leads him into Gotham’s East End where he gets into a confrontation with a pimp and then has to fight off Selina Kyle (Catwoman), leading to his arrest by corrupt cops. Bruce is able to escape the police and soon after has his fateful epiphany where a chance encounter with a bat leads him to don the Batman costume for the first time.
While Batman begins his crusade, Gordon is leading his own crusade to take down the crooked cops in the department. Even after being beaten by several fellow cops wearing masks and having his life threatened, Gordon refuses to back down. Soon these two men have their destinies intertwined, forever chasing the face of Gotham.
At one time, Batman: Year One was planned as a feature film. We never got that film but at least we got an animated version although it is not a perfect adaptation. At 64 minutes, it’s too short to properly deliver the emotional impact of the comic story. Other DC animated films like Green Lantern: First Flight, and Justice league Crisis on Two Earths have ran anywhere from 75 to 85 minutes, so why the mere hour-long feature? What we end up with is an abridged version of the story that might cover the main points, but fails to develop any depth, especially for characters like mob boss Carmine “the Roman” Falcone.
A great strength of the DC animated features is the always-outstanding voice talent. The voice talent in Batman: Year One is once again very good with one major exception. Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad nails Jim Gordon. Hell, give him a mustache and let him play the role in the next bigs screen film, he’s that good. Another standout is longtime character actor Alex Rocco who voices Falcone. Eliza Dushku does a credible job as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The exception though is Benjamin McKenzie (Star of the O.C.) as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He is so stilted and wooden in his delivery that it actually makes you cringe. He brings no passion for emotion to the role at all. Apparently DC wanted to go with a younger actor for the role and didn’t use the always-reliable Kevin Conroy. Heck I’d have preferred Rino Romano over McKenzie. This was a rare casting misstep for DC. It doesn’t sink the film but it certainly is a major fault.
Audio Commentary with Alan Burnett, Sam Liu, Mike Carlin and Andrea Romano
DC Showcase Presents Catwoman. This is a 15 minute short feature starring Catwoman. And lets just say that with her sexy strip club dance number, this is one that is definitely not for the kids as Catwoman is on the trail of diamond smugglers. Actually quite enjoyable.
Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots: A look at Batman through work of Frank Miller. Well done documentary that shows off Miller’s genius.
Conversations with DC Comics: The Batman creative team at DC Entertainment discusses the personal influence of Batman: Year One on their careers. Includes Batman producer Michael Uslan and several comic creators commenting.
Batman: Year One, Chapter 1 Digital Comic Book
Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie. This one looks outstanding!
Two bonus episodes from Batman: The Animated Series hand-picked by Bruce Timm
Mania Grade: C+
Blu-ray: Batman: Year One Blu-ray
Starring (Voices): Benjamin Mckenzie, Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Alex Rocco
Written By: Tab Murpy, Frank Miller
Directed By: Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2011
Extras: See Below
Series: Batman: Year One