Film: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Director: Brand Vietti
Notable Voice-Actors: Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
So this film has actually been around for two years, but I’ve recently just discovered it and it’s pretty awesome. Seems like DC Animation has been taking a turn for the more mature and making quite a few animated films actually geared towards an adult audience, and this is very prominently displayed in the opening scenes of “Under the Red Hood”.
It’s like the film is shouting “Hey – hey you! If you’ve put this on for your kids you should turn it off now. Like, right now. This isn’t a kid’s film. And to prove it we’re going to have the Joker beat the crap out of Robin with a crowbar in the opening five minutes of the film. Got it? This is not a kid’s film!” but honestly? I actually really enjoyed this film and while there is a lot of violence it never feels unjustified or excessive. We are dealing with the Red Hood after all, one of DC Universe’s most messed-up Robins (maybe after Damian Wayne) and violence is absolutely in his modus operandi.
I think perhaps what is most interesting about this film is that in a way, it addresses the age-old concern of whether or not superheroes actually help, or whether they’re the root cause of all the super-villains in town. It also forces Batman to confront the extent of his commitment to his cause and how many people he’s endangered and put at risk because of it. Because if you really think about it? Bruce Wayne has to be one of the worst guardians/foster parents ever. Not only does he risk the life of one orphan kid by training him into becoming his side-kick super-child-soldier, he risks the lives of like, six. Seriously, the list just doesn’t end, and although it’s frustrating that the DC editorial team seems to feel the need to add more and more to Bruce’s already gigantic man-pain, I do think that Jason’s story (not his death, so much as his resurrection and coming back to be a blight on Bruce’s city) does shed not only some vulnerability to Batman, but also some fallibility.
Holy smokes Batman! Whatever happened to our family-friendly Boy wonder?
The plot and the conflict set up in this film is really well-done, but then I’ve always been more partial to character-driven stories and this one does get very personal for Bruce. To summarise: five years after Robin (Jason Todd) dies by the Joker’s hand there is a masked vigilante known as the Red Hood who has taken control over all of Gotham’s drug trade, happily beheading any drug lords that stand in his path or don’t fit his code of conduct. Batman keeps trying to take him down, but the Red Hood knows his every move before he can even make them (quel surprise…) and in desperation, the last remaining Drug pin has made a deal to break the Joker out of Arkham…if the Joker will take out the Red Hood. But of course, the Joker is a wild card and who knows what will happen when you throw him into the mix?
Who is the Red Hood? Can Batman and Nightwing outmanoeuvre him? And finally, who is actually in the right? Red Hood, or Batman? These are just some of the questions that the movie forces us to ask and I must say watching the movie to get the answers is an entirely enjoyable experience (although the first one is pretty damn obvious). Oh and there’s Ra’s al Ghul, the League of shadows and the Lazarus Pit thrown in there too for good measure.
I also wanted to make a note about John DiMaggio’s performance as the Joker – I think like for most kids of the 90’s, Mark Hamil is the definitive Joker, but I have to say I really enjoyed John DiMaggio’s performance too. He’s a very different Joker, much less polished and quite a bit less theatrical (despite trademark make-up and purple suit). He also feels a lot rougher and a lot more physically brutal and very unpredictable. In short, he’s pretty amazing and it’s a joy to watch him on the screen. (And also possibly my new favourite Joker).
As for the animation, it is just wonderful. And if you love watching the Bat-family interact, then this movie is a pure gem. Basically go watch it now.