Reviewed by Movie Moxie’s Alicia Glass
Studio: Warner Bros., DC Entertainment
Director: Jay Oliva
Review Rating: 8
Batman, like Superman, is a timeless vigilante superhero, the brooding caped crusader who swoops in from the shadows to tromp those bad guys. So when we’re offered Frank Miller’s (300, Sin City) 1986 comic book story arc made into an animated movie? We say yes please!
The animated film has Bruce Wayne as a much older man, bitter and haunted by his past, especially the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. (Several oblique references are made to “what happened to Jason” throughout the film, so there you go.) He hung up Batman’s cowl some ten years ago, to concentrate on philanthropic things like having Harvey Dent’s face fixed while he’s in Arkham House. But in the meantime, even with the Joker and other classic villains stuck in Arkham, a new terror has arisen to plunder Gotham City. Calling themselves the Mutants, they talk and dress oddly, but apparently possess no actual mutant powers other than unnatural strength (in the Leader anyway) and violent psychosis. The same night Harvey Dent (Wade Williams) is released from Arkham and disappears, Wayne has a break and dons his cowl in remembered fury.
Batman swings into the night and begins taking out bad guys, saving one Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter) from some Mutants and putting the hero-worship stars in her eyes, to the point where she thinks to take up Robin’s costume and join him in crime-fighting. Commissioner Gordon (David Selby), close to retiring but still ready to crack skulls on crime, turns the Bat signal on the city and a shiver of fear runs through the heart of every criminal. Public opinion swings back and forth like a pendulum; is Batman a hero or a menace, and how can we stop or help him? Wayne’s Butler Alfred is still about, dry and helpful as ever, constantly patching up his master and tsking at every opportunity. All too soon things culminate, and Batman arranges a showdown between the Mutant Leader, a “man” in his prime and built like a tank, and himself, the aging and yet fiercely determined Dark Knight!
The atmosphere all but reeks of Frank Miller’s unique style, similar to Sin City without the lack of coloring. Like Tim Burton’s two Batman movies, or the Batman the Animated Series from the 90’s, dark colors in greys and blues and browns (not a ton of black) dominate the landscape and give the viewer a treat of almost actually being there. The generation gap between the younger and veteran cops, the common and wealthy folk of the city, and the enduring legend of Batman, is very noticeable in the film. Particularly an awesome scene with a rookie and veteran cop chasing down Mutants that Batman’s already gone after, the rookie wants to haul Batman in for vigilantism, while the veteran calmly stands back and is all like, hey let Bats do his thing. Peter Weller is the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and manages to bring across a feeling of an older man who can still kick your ass when roused. He gets the best lines too, especially where he’s fighting the Mutant Leader in a mud pit and declares that this is actually an operating table, and Batman is the surgeon. The constant news reports and opinions from both spectrums of life, law and order vs. necessary vigilantism, give the whole picture for the viewer to enjoy. And the generation gap, while glaring and obvious, gives way to the idea that what Batman stands for is timeless, an idea, a symbol, a way of living that can turn around even the most hardened criminal into a Son of Batman!
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