Saturday, November 30, 2013

Instant Action: Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

I'd never trust a guy in a spandex suit named Robin, but that's just me!

Written By: Judd Winick
Directed By: Brandon Vietti

Watching Batman: Under the Red Hood felt like a breath of fresh air. That's generally the feeling I get any time I watch a well made Batman film that isn't associated with the Christopher Nolan monstrosities. His insipid films, I've only seen the first two entries in his trilogy, have sullied the franchise to an unbelievable extent. It helps that Batman: Under the Red Hood is very well made, but even if it weren't it's different than the soul sucking film from Mr. Nolan and therefore it feels completely fresh. That being said, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a well made film, and that's why it's an enjoyable film to watch.

The story in Batman: Under the Red Hood is interesting, if a bit trite. The old friend comes back to haunt the hero shtick has been done in comic books for years. The question in a film like Batman: Under the Red Hood isn't how original the story is, rather it's how said story is handled. I'm happy to say that the story in Batman: Under the Red Hood has been handled in fine fashion. What the film does to make the story work is to couch so much of it in what exemplifies the Batman character. This isn't a Bruce Wayne story, it's a story of the man under the cowl. We see him be a detective, we get to see his process at work, and we get an almost tangible feel for why he makes the choices that define him as a hero. The destination of Batman: Under the Red Hood was never in doubt, but the journey to get there was interesting throughout.

Filming action scenes sounds like it should be easier in an animated film. The animators have the entire world at their disposal, they need not worry about physical limitations of any sort. The animated form often leads to problems in presenting coherent action. Because of the freedom that the animated form offers the desire is acted upon to do whatever the mind can think of in a scene. Batman: Under the Red Hood avoids such a pitfall by keeping the action well oriented. I was never lost for place or location in Batman: Under the Red Hood. The action made sense, and it ties into the strengths and weaknesses of the characters involved in said action. The action in Batman: Under the Red Hood is easy to follow, but it never comes across as lacking or haphazardly implemented.

Batman: Under the Red Hood is not without its flaws. The dialogue is clunky at times, and does in a few instances feel like it's coming out of a different character's mouth. My main beef was with the character of the Joker, simply put I did not like this version of the Joker. Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood is too bland, with a performance by John DiMaggio that undercuts the contradiction that is the character of the Joker. Mr. DiMaggio is a great actor, but I'm not sure what he thought he was doing with his version of the Joker. This is probably a lot of personal bias coming into play, but if I don't believe in the Joker as a madman and a depressed funny man, then that's a big problem with a Batman film.

Flawed though it is, I still enjoyed Batman: Under the Red Hood. The folks at DC Animation are doing fine work in the superhero realm. Batman: Under the Red Hood is a well constructed action film that tells an interesting tale. The Joker isn't handled all that well, and the dialogue takes too many shortcuts. Still, I had fun watching Batman: Under the Red Hood. I appreciated the crispness of the animation and the adult themes that Brandon Vietti's film was willing to take on. If you're looking for a decent Batman yarn there's no reason to not give Batman: Under the Red Hood a spin.



Bill Thompson

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