Warner Brothers animation (under the DCU animated label) and Bruce Timm seems to be making a habit out of adapting several of DC Comics’ best story arcs. Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery (Green Lantern Emerald Knights), “Batman Year One” adapts the four-issue mini series written by Frank Miller (Man Without Fear) and David Mazzuchelli (from his run in Daredevil) which was published between 1986-1987 (original copyright is 1986). The animated movie “Year One” portrays the rise of the Dark Knight and the beginning of his relationship with Lt. James Gordon.
Gotham City is one tough city and it is a nest for the criminal underworld. It is a place where cops are almost the same as the criminals and the criminals control what goes on in the city. Police Lt. James Gordon (Bryan Cranston) is a recent transfer from another city and is now under the GCPD, headed by commissioner Loeb (Jon Rolito). A wealthy 25-year old named Bruce Wayne (Ben McKenzie) returns to Gotham after 12 years. He has apparently healed from pain of the murder of his parents have brought many years ago. But did he really? Gotham is about to become the home of a huge bat that preys on criminals….
“Year One” the animated film is one DCU production that is very faithful to the source material. It has the same story elements and devices as seen in Miller’s comic series. The main premise is very intact; there are several deviations in dialogue and some scenes were omitted from the comics to keep with the faster pace established by the direction. The animation (while holding some inspiration to Mazzuchelli’s art work) carry strong influences from past DCU productions such as “Under the Red Hood” and perhaps even anime. This was a time when I thought that the movie should’ve taken a style more similar to the dark deco design as with the superb animated series. For, in making the animation seem brighter (especially on bluray), it loses a lot of the mood and tone of the original mini-series.
Atmosphere was part of the comic’s charm and the drama behind the Batman and Gordon presented a study of their character, their parallels and their common objectives. Both men are products for strong principle and they would do anything to serve such righteous beliefs; the animated film feels more like an action movie rather than a character study, not a bad thing, but certainly noticeable to the seasoned Bat-fan. With the film opting to go for a faster pace, omitting some details and sacrificing the superb dialogue of the comic book series, it makes the animated movie tell the same story in a different way. It does make the movie faster-paced and fun to watch, but it loses the dramatic character study that made Miller’s creation brilliant. The dialogue in the comic series was the one of things that made the characters appear real and full of personality. What bothered me is the change where Wayne kicked a good-sized tree in half, while in the comics he merely chipped off the bark of the tree. This minor exaggeration makes the movie feel rather cartoonish (Bats with no powers could never knock down a tree), and loses a lot of the realistic gritty feel of the source material. I‘ll have to stop my comparisons, since sooner or later I may end up spoiling the whole movie.
Not to say that this animated movie isn’t action-packed since all the action sequences in the source material are almost intact. The movie carry a lot of references to the comic series and some shots looked like mirror images to the artwork by Mazzuchelli. The animation work by DCU was real good, it was smooth, detailed and bright; it felt like a DCU production, but it never felt atmospherically gritty or tough. The action sequences were real good, and sometimes even brutal. This is one thing that I enjoyed with the movie, it did make me feel every blow and pain as Bats and Gordon took down their opponents (I really liked that fight with Gordon and Flass).
The characters in the comic series are all here. Selina Kyle was voiced by Eliza Dushku (her Catwoman protrayal some needed subtle humor) and Cranston does an excellent job as Gordon; his Gordon was 'all cop'; tough, no-nonsense and knows how to do his job. Alex Rocco and Jon Polito did well as Loeb and Falcone, and I appreciated the inclusion of Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen. The voice cast was good, but I really had mixed feelings about Ben McKenzie as he seemed to overplay the voice as Christian Bale did in “The Dark Knight”. Not sure, perhaps I was just spoiled by Kevin Conroy in the animated series, but I felt McKenzie wasn’t convincing enough as Wayne or even as Batman. His need to do the 'scary voice' thing felt a little too forced.
Montgomery and Liu’s “Batman Year One” appears geared for “PG” fans and the dialogue plays it safe. There really is nothing wrong with the movie but it feels incomplete; not in the way the story was lacking, but the changes to the dialogue did hamper its success. It was a good production and the movie was obviously handled well and gives respect to Miller’s story. But I feel that with the tonal shift from the source material and dialogue change, with the focus on action in mind, It lost a lot of the brilliance of the story. Still, this animated movie is recommended, since it may inspire folks to pick up the actual comic series in graphic novel form.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars] The Bluray has impressive picture and sound. It also includes an animated short called “Catwoman”
Holy animated wonder, Batman! Warner Bros. and DC have gone and done what every single Batman fan has been waiting for... an official adaptation of Frank Miller's classic Batman: Year One. Cannot wait for this to come out in October! UPDATE: When it was announced that DC Comics, Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation were going to be adapting the quintessential … more
A Good adaptation of the comic series by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli. It is pretty faithful to the source material, but it does omit certain details and changes the dialogue in several areas to keep up the pace. I would have to say it was more focused on action whereas the comic series was more atmospheric and succeeded as character studies of James Gordon and Bruce Wayne, and perhaps even the rise of Catwoman (this felt a little forced and almost unnecessary). … more
When it was announced that DC Comics, Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation were going to be adapting the quintessential version of Batman's origins, Batman: Year One, I was completely exhilarated and a bit anxious as to whether or not the story would be done justice in a direct-to-video animated film. Having now seen the highly anticipated new film, I have to say that I am stunned by just how faithful it is. I only detected two minor changes from the Frank Miller story. The first change … more
Don't miss this thrilling DC Universe Animated Original Movie based on the groundbreaking story by Frank Miller and featuring two-time Emmy(r) 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 Blu-ray™ Combo Pack has almost 3 hours of exciting content, including:
- Feature film
- Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
- DC Showcase Animated Original Short – “Catwoman”: This all-new entry to the growing canon of DC Universe animated shorts features the first first solo tale centered around Catwoman. The felonious feline’s adventure takes her through the seedy streets of Gotham City. Catwoman is voiced by Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Tru Calling).
- Featurette –“Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots”: “The Dark Knight Returns” provided the denouement of Batman's life. Frank Miller's next seminal work would provide his near-mythic origin in “Batman: Year One.” This documentary uncovers the contemporary genius of Miller and the audience that was poised to appreciate the depths of his work.
- Featurette –“Conversations with DC Comics”: The Batman creative team at DC Entertainment discusses the personal ...