In the world of animation, ANY story can be adapted into a film. The question is how well you adapt the story, and does it live up to expectations. The release of “Batman: Under The Red Hood” proves how bold you can go with story-telling. However, the film has faults with its execution of the plot, and its message.
The story to this film is adapted from 2 novels: “Batman: A Death in the Family,” and “Batman: Under the Hood.” We see the character Batman deal with the loss of Jason Todd (the second Robin; the first being Dick Grayson) after he is beaten to death by the Joker. Five years later, the Dark Knight deals with a costumed vigilantee known as the Red Hood. Who just happens to be Jason. After being “ressurected” by Ra’s al Ghul, Jason embarks on a quest to not only take over the gangs of Gotham City, but to “get even” with the Joker. As the Caped Crusader is pushed to his limits by his former partner who has no moral code of right and wrong, we are drawn not just into a mystery, but a drama-filled film which never stops with its action. New fans of the Batman legend should enjoy this film about as much as “The Dark Knight.”
The animation to this film is nicely done when compared to the Batman comics of recent. It is MORE of that art style with the gritty, realistic depiction of Gotham City, and is NOTHING like the Fletcher-style of “Batman: The Animated Series”. Though it’s interesting to note this movie was made by the same team behind that series. It is very realistic even if it relies on computer generated animation. You see examples with the car chase scenes. Still you give credit to the animators when they interpret a comic book this way.
The voice acting deserves great applause. Bruce Greenwood (best known from the 2009 “Star Trek” film) makes a good Batman. If you ever watched a behind-the-scene featurette of this film, you MIGHT be skeptical listening to him make the famous growling voice too comedic. However, when you get into the film, you don’t have those fears anymore, and he gives Batman a true commanding force. Then there is John DiMaggio as the Joker. He OUTSURPASSES the work Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars”) did on “Batman: The Animated Series.” Its the same pattern, but only it has more charm and deviousness, and NOT silly as Hamill’s version. Jensen Ackles (best known from the TV show “Supernatural”) makes a good Jason Todd/Red Hood. His voice demonstrates tormented youth with a true passion for vengeance in a street-wise role. He’s wonderful to listen to.
The story by Judd Winick (who adapted this film from his graphic novel), might have some reservations to it. The concept of Jason’s ressurection is done in the best comic-book tradition, but the “realists” might have a problem with his “dip in the fountain of youth”. Another problem is why Jason WANTS to become the Red Hood. Though we are shown flashbacks of him being a smart-mouthed sidekick to Batman. This gives the character texture, but we never see the relationship develop like it could. Nor do we explore what happened during his 5 year abscense after coming back from the dead. This might allow us to understand his character better as he becomes the Red Hood. When he does emerge as the Hood, he’s more of an immature kid in the role of boogey-man. Granted this adds to how complex he is, but you might expect more developement. Maybe a flashback in his mind that lead to his reasoning. Finally, there’s the final confrontation between him and Batman. The drama is nicely done in this scene, but it does send the wrong message to kids about violence and vengeance. Although the Batman stories have dealt with these issues for years, you might have asked for a better solution to Jason’s feelings towards the Joker.
When you compare this film to “The Dark Knight,” you realize a movie like this stood a low chance of getting made as a blockbuster. This film is CERTAINLY intended for die-hard comic book fans. However, the “realistic” fans of Batman would try avoiding the comic book style, and base it more in reality. The more “modern” take. Granted this film has attitude, and drama, but in the end it’s just an animated movie adapted from a comic story. Still it allows itself to explore story elements. If Christopher Nolan (who directed “The Dark Knight”) made a movie like this, it would be an ENTIRELY differant approach. He would give it a gritty, realistic interpretation, but he would NOT allow for a soap-opera approach that leads to more stories. Which is the MAJOR fault of this film. Because we know NOTHING more about what happens to Jason after he is pressumed dead. It sets itself up for another sequel.
Although the film has grit, as well as complications, fans can enjoy seeing one of their stories adapted for animation. It is only by pure luck to have this. On a scale of 4 stars, the film deserves a good 2 and a half.