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Mumbling Kitsune: Flipping Through Batman: Gotham Knight

Anime Plus Batman Equals Great Fights and Bat-Angst

By Nadia Oxford     July 27, 2008


Batman: Gotham Knight(2008).
© Warner Bros
Batman: Gotham Knight is a series of short animated films that tell of Batman's growth and trials between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The in-pieces presentation is not unlike The Animatrix, which also incorporated different stories created by a varied stable of writers and directors.
 
Last week's column asked if Batman: Gotham Knight can hold a candle to Warner Bros' still-celebrated Batman: The Animated Series. The answer is no, not really...but that's no reason to give it a miss. Gotham Knight combines dark source material with a brooding anime style, so it's no surprise the result would end up a little heavy-handed. The fight scenes are incredible and have a brutal edge lacking from Batman: The Animated Series, but it probably wouldn't kill Bruce to...well, lighten up a little.
 
Just a little.
 
 
Half-and-Half Animation
 
The animation is unique and modern, but lacking the style of the Animated Series. Batman: Gotham Knight is made up of six animated films contributed by Japanese animation studios, including Production I.G. and Madhouse (best known for the Death Note anime as well as bits of The Boondocks). The stories all bring their own visual style, but they all still somehow manage to run together. The backgrounds are sprawling and gorgeously detailed—even if Gotham looks unapologetically anime-ish with its weaving floodlights in the background—but some of the designs used for the throwaway characters are wretched. The first story, “Have I Got a Story For You”, features a pack of kids who look like their facial features somehow went wrong in the womb. There is a definite stylistic choice involved, but at the same time there's never any doubt that you're watching a cartoon.
 
Even the established characters are nothing to write home about. Killer Croc looks awesome but makes a disappointingly brief appearance in the story “In Darkness Dwells.” Scarecrow's appearance is similarly impotent, but to be fair his physical appearance has always ranged from silly to genuinely frightening...within Batman: The Animated Series, no less.
 
Days (and Nights) Of Our Bat-Lives
 
Anime has always had a flare for soap opera drama, so it's no surprise Batman: Gotham Knight has the very same in mass quantities. The Animated Series tread a fine line between realism and hyperdrama; by its second story, Gotham Knight tips into hyperdrama like a felled cow. In Darkness Dwells features a beauty of a line from Batman about how “Scarecrow's fear toxin is boiling in [Killer Croc's] veins.” Batman's a smart dude (he's a scientist, as Homer Simpson reminds us), but he's not a showoff. There's no real harm in making Batman talk like a romance novelist, but again, it reminds the viewer that a cartoon is on the television, something The Animated Series rarely did. Pulling the viewer away from realism isn't necessarily a bad thing, except Gotham Knight wants very much to be taken seriously by adults.
 
It's one reason “Working Through The Pain” proves itself one of the strongest stories on the disc. A purposeful lack of speech allows for easy focus on the imagery. Wounded and struggling to get home from the depths of a sewer, Batman remembers himself as a disciple of a spiritual woman who taught him to numb himself to physical pain—even if he proved helpless to numb his psychological wounds. It's an interesting bit of Batman's backstory, especially since Bruce actually <i>looks</i> tired and haggard until he achieves some measure of inner peace under his mentor. Letting a conflicted hero speak through his actions and expressions is never a bad idea.
 
Stiff Voices
 
Batman: Gotham Knight's voice acting is also lacking. Kevin Conry returns to do a very excellent Batman, but nearly every other character sounds wooden. The terrible dubbing doesn't help, either. The two protagonists in the second story, “Crossifre,” are painful to listen to. They're supposed to be members of the Major Crimes Unit, two individuals matched up to protect each others' lives, but they jabber in the scratchy monotone of two toy dolls. The teenagers in “Have I Got a Story For You” speak some kind of moon slang that you'll never hear real kids use, but is commonly employed by writers trying to emulate the youth.
 
In the end, however, Batman: The Gotham Knight shouldn't be held too closely to Batman: The Animated Series because it stands on its own merits. It probably won't be looked back upon fondly in ten years, but the stories and presentation are worthy of appreciation. Admittedly, it's difficult not to reminisce about one of the finest cartoons produced in the '90s, or in any other era. In time, something may match it. The world is young, as is the Bat.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 9 of 9
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Flint521466 7/27/2008 8:00:02 AM
Gotham Knight sucked big fuzzy bat-balls IMHO
goatartist 7/27/2008 8:34:14 AM
I agree. Fat fuckin balls.
hanso 7/27/2008 10:22:47 AM
In the Galaxy of Sucks Camel's Dick!!! I thought only half the movie sucked big fuzzy bat balls. The Deadshot, Scarecrow/Croc shorts were nice as was the one were the detectives are caught in a gun shoout out between 2 gangs.
Flint521466 7/27/2008 12:36:17 PM
I would've rather seen 70 min movie with just Bats & Deadshot.
Dazzler 7/27/2008 2:23:01 PM
Gotham Knight was way better than current movie. Kevin Conroy is the best voice for all Batman's. All the sections to me made up a great big movie. Better storytelling than current movie also. Hardcore violence, with very stylized looks. I also can't wait to see the new Wonder woman animi movie also from segment on that coming out next spring. The voice cast would make a great live action one!
Flint521466 7/27/2008 3:37:41 PM
Gotham Knight BETTER than TDK? Dazz when you buy your crack, which you're obviously addicted to,do you smoke all at once?
hanso 7/27/2008 4:32:56 PM
could've been on a lsd trip also, made him think what he was watching was better than TDK>
joeybaloney 7/28/2008 8:12:34 AM
I really enjoyed this. Thought all the episodes were good including the opening “Story For Youâ€. It was great hearing Conroy as Bats & Bruce again, though Bruce’s look was a bit jarring with that voice over it. The Killer Croc segment looked like a Mike Mignola joint to me. Anybody know if he was involved in that one? To call this better than The Dark Knight is clearly the work of a crack-addled mind as Flint said.
Pendragon0 7/28/2008 12:56:03 PM
I can agree with this review better than Nadia's last one. I think everyone agrees 'Story for you' wasn't a very good story to begin with, especially compared to 'Shadows of the Bat' from the original series. It was further hurt by that God-awful animation. As for the acting, except for Batman, nobody has much TO say, period. And I hate to say it, but in terms of a script, a story, it wasn't the best thing ever. Pretty much like everybody else, I agree the Deadshot story was the highlight of the piece, but we've all seen better. I continue to say that the commentary was actually the highlight for me, because we get some insight from Kevin Conroy, himself. lol I will say this...Kevin has a better Bat-Voice then Bale! Bale sounds like he needs a cough drop.
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