Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Batman: Year One (2011)

Batman: Year One is an animated film based on the classic graphic novel by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. The story has Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City after being educated abroad following the murders of his parents. Wayne is searching for a way that he can make a difference in the rising crime rate in the city. Concurrently, upright police lieutenant Jim Gordon has returned to his hometown of Gotham City. Iin addition to the crime element on the streets, Gordon must also deal with a corrupt police department and a rift with his pregnant wife.

Wayne soon takes to the streets at night as the crimefighter Batman. Initially Gordon views Batman as a vigilante detrimental to society and vows to bring him to justice. Over time, the two become allies and clean up the corrupt police department and its ties to the mob. Batman: Year One does not include any of the traditional Batman Rogue's Gallery (Joker, Penguin, Riddler, etc.), but it does feature a small role for Selina Kyle, a streetwise burglar who becomes aware of Batman's presence in her area. Kyle will eventually become Catwoman, a quasi-villain with a complicated history of interacting with both Bruce Wayne and Batman.

I liked the animation of this film. It seems simple, but it captures the look of the source graphic novel. Its style reminded me of anime. The voice casting was mostly good. Bryan Cranston voiced Jim Gordon, and he was excellent. Ben McKenzie was merely adequate as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Faring better were other voice actors such as Eliza Dushku (as Selena Kyle), Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, and Katee Sackhoff. Other characters from the traditional Batman canon included butler Alfred Pennyworth, news reporter Vicki Vale, and district attorney Harvey Dent.

Clocking in at barely over an hour, Batman: Year One is compelling for Batman aficionados. The film, directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery, is a faithful adaptation of the Miller/Mazzucchelli graphic novel. With its emphasis rooted in a more realistic crime drama, the movie might even hold the interest of non-comic readers. Grade: B+.

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