Batman: Year One (Two-Disc Special Edition)

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon (voice)
Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)
Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle / Catwoman (voice)
Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb (voice)
Alex Rocco as Carmine Falcone (voice)
Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen (voice)
Saratoga Ballentine as Skeevers’ Attorney (voice)
Jeff Bennett as Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Steve Blum as Stan (voice)
Roark Critchlow as Hare Krishna (voice)
Grey DeLisle as Barbara Gordon (voice)
Keith Ferguson as Jefferson Skeevers (voice)
Michael Gough as Driver (voice)
Nick Jameson as Merkel (voice)
Liliana Mumy as Holly Robinson (voice)

Special Features:
Disc 1 With Movie:
Justice League: Doom – Preview DC Universe’s Next Animated Original Movie
Preview the Recent DC Universe Animated Original Movies All-Star Superman and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

Disc 2 Special Features:
Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots
Bruce Timm Presents 2 Bonus Cartoons

Includes Exclusive Short:
Catwoman – When a pair of henchmen goes gunning for a neighborhood cat, Catwoman gets involved, leading her into an episode of international intrigue with a murderous smuggler named Rough Cat.

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 64 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“When Gotham City is in desperate need of heroes, two men take a stand for justice… but on opposite sides. Bruce Wayne returns home after years abroad to become a crime fighter, just as honest cop Lt. James Gordon moves to Gotham and finds corruption at every level. When Bruce becomes the masked vigilante Batman, the city explodes as his new nemesis Catwoman, the mob and Gordon all close in! Don’t miss this thrilling DC Universe Animated Original Movie based on the groundbreaking story by Frank Miller and featuring three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Katee Sackhoff, Eliza Dushku and Alex Rocco in its stellar voice cast. Experience a bold and dynamic vision of the Dark Knight’s first year in action and the start of his enduring friendship with Jim Gordon.”

“Batman: Year One” is rated PG-13 for violence and some sexual material.

Mini-Review:
Despite being a big Batman fan and a big comic reader, I realize now that I never actually read the “Batman: Year One” comic written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli. So I went into this animated film without a big attachment to the original source material. I think that actually affected my enjoyment of the film compared to other fans who may be looking for a faithful adaptation.

As near as I can tell, this animated film is pretty close to the comic in terms of story, dialogue, and art. And while a lot of fans will praise it for that, I have to say I think it was hurt by it in several respects. First of all, when you hear the dialogue you instantly recognize Frank Miller’s style. You have the tough guy monologues, the melancholy diatribes about the dirty and violent city, the sex, the violence, etc. So when you hear all of that, you half expect to see Miller’s “Sin City” style art along with it. Something rough, stylized, and definitively Miller-esque. Instead you get something more akin to Mazzucchelli’s original art. In this animated film, it makes the city actually look pretty clean and a lot less decadent than the picture that Miller’s dialogue paints. The colors are also very pastel and bright and the picture is quite fuzzy and dreamlike. The end result is something where the script doesn’t feel like it matches the animation. Yeah, that statement is going to infuriate fans of “Batman: Year One”, but I think if they hadn’t been trying to be faithful to the comic, they would have gone a completely different direction with the animation.

Second, this movie is more about Jim Gordon than it is about Batman. The few bits that are about Batman are the standard things we’ve seen before – him returning to Gotham, adopting the bat persona, battling both the cops and criminals, etc. We’ve seen a lot of it before with only minor variations. But Gordon, on the other hand, is handled a bit differently. He’s still the lone good cop among a corrupt police force, but we see he has a darker side. We see him beat up several bad cops that jump him. We see him corner one corrupt police office, beat him up, and leave him naked in the snow. But most significantly we see him have an affair with a fellow cop while his wife is pregnant. Is it more realistic? Probably yes. But I prefer the more noble interpretations of Gordon. This comes across as being tainted by the grim and gritty cynicism of the ’80s comics more than anything. It doesn’t feel all that true to the character. This story also shoehorns in the origin of Catwoman, yet she’s almost completely dropped from the story by the end. Selina Kyle has a few strong cameos but, ultimately, she has no bearing on the plot.

As for the voice cast, they’re kind of a mixed bag. Bryan Cranston stands out as Jim Gordon, but mainly because he has such a prominent role in the story. He is front and center for most of the film. Eliza Dushku also stands out as Selina Kyle / Catwoman. She’s not on the screen all that much in the main movie, but she does a lot with the little she’s given. This is most notable when she gets frustrated that Batman keeps stealing the media spotlight from her. As for Batman, Ben McKenzie is decent as Bruce Wayne, but he doesn’t really leave his mark on the role. His performance is pretty generic. The same goes for Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen. I honestly didn’t even realize it was her in the role until I looked at the DVD cover again.

I would recommend “Batman: Year One” to older Batman fans and any fans of the original comic. But anyone that’s seen “Batman Begins” is going to feel like they’ve seen this before (despite the fact that the live action movie was inspired by this comic) and done better.

This two-disc DVD has several bonus features included on it. The most notable is the “Catwoman” animated short. It features Eliza Dushku as the character again, this time in her modern incarnation. It sort of ties into “Batman: Year One” but is a standalone short story. I have to say that I was a tad shocked to see how far the creators were willing to push the PG-13 rating. Part of the story takes place in a strip club and this cartoon does everything except show you bare breasts. And lately with people criticizing the over-sexualized Catwoman in the comic, this cartoon will add fuel to the fire as we see her do a strip routine. When you see it you just kind of shake your head and agree that comics are controlled by horny males. Anybody that argues that this portrayal is somehow empowering is deluding themselves. I also think that if some misguided parent bought this DVD for a kid, this short will make them realize they may have made a mistake if “Batman: Year One” didn’t.

Also included among the bonus features is a preview of the upcoming “Justice League: Doom” animated movie in the spring and an interesting documentary on the Batman comics leading up to and including “Batman: Year One.” The only drawback is that they don’t actually interview Frank Miller in the featurette. Rounding out the bonus features are a couple of sample cartoons selected by Bruce Timm and some previews of already released DC animated films.

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