Blu-Ray Review: Stellar Adaptation of Still-Amazing ‘Batman: Year One’

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CHICAGO – After a few releases that felt like perhaps the DC Universe line of straight-to-video animated films were in decline, they recently released what is arguably their best installment and a work that deserves to sit on the shelf of any Batman fan — the often-brilliant “Batman: Year One.” So remarkably loyal to one of the most influential comic books of all time that it sometimes recreates it verbatim and including some of the best voice work in the entire DC Universe line, this is a great animated film and possibly the best Blu-ray gift you could buy for a comic fan this season.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

Everyone should read Frank Miller’s stunning and incredibly influential book but this adaptation reminds one why that was such an important story in the DC Universe. The grit that you love from Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, even the look and feel of the stunning “Batman: Arkham City” (arguably the game of the year), was influenced by this incredible story, originally printed in 1987 in issues #404-407 of “Batman” and later reprinted in a great single graphic novel (which is how I remember first reading it). Nearly adapted by Darren Aronofsky and often cited as one of the best comic stories of all time, “Batman: Year One” is as canonical as these kind of stories come. It would not only help define the Batman legend across multiple platforms for the next quarter-century but influence a generation of readers and writers.

“Batman: Year One” unfolds in such a unique way that I wouldn’t dare spoil the story for people who are unfamiliar with it but much like “Batman Begins” focuses on corruption within Gotham and the people who live there more than traditional superhero elements, “Year One” is about Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon more than it is about the Caped Crusader. Miller would go on to create the also-legendary “Sin City” if that gives you any idea of what to expect here — narration dripping in noir archetypes as we learn why a city like Gotham really needed a hero. Without Batman, it would have turned into actual Hell on Earth.

Batman: Year One was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 18th, 2011
Batman: Year One was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 18th, 2011
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

At first, I was a little put off by Ben McKenzie voicing Batman/Bruce Wayne as I still consider the star of “Southland” such a young actor but this is an early story in the DC world and so Wayne needs to have a more youthful voice. McKenzie does strong work but it’s Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) as Lieutenant Gordon, just moving to Gotham and discovering the corruption rampant within it, who really steals the piece. Yes, the Emmy-winning actor is great even just doing vocal work.

You might worry that “Batman: Year One” might look visually dated as it’s based on a 1987 book but the film is remarkably artistic in its appearance. I don’t want to say that it’s a motion comic, but the camera seems to hold longer than normal in these DC Universe films, almost recreating striking, full-page panels, the kind that readers lingered on when they first read the book. This is easily the most visually-confident and striking of all of the DC Universe films.

“Batman: Year One” is a story that every Dark Knight fan simply must know. Whether you read it in print or see this adaptation, it’s a part of comic book history that can’t be missed. I have to admit that I assumed I would be here ordering readers to skip this version and go back to the source. I’m stunned to say that this adaptation is loyal and accomplished enough to be a fine substitute for those unable to get their hands on or uninteresting in reading the original.

Synopsis:
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 crimefighter, 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.

Special Features:
o Conversations with DC Comics: Featuring the 2011 Batman Creative Team
o Chapter One of Batman: Year One - Digital Comic
o Creative Team Commentary
o Heart Of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots
o Justice League: Doom Preview DC Universe’s Next Animated Original Movie
o Preview the Recent DC Universe Animated Original Movies All-Star Superman and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
o Bruce Timm Presents 2 Bonus Cartoons
o Digital Copy Of Feature Film

“Batman: Year One” stars Benjamin McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Bryan Cranston, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco, and Jon Polito. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 18th, 2011.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

This guy is full of sh*t,

This guy is full of sh*t, best DC animated movie ya right. Batman and the Red Hood is so much better. This may have been a good comic book from Miller even though I still think The Dark Knight Returns would have been more exciting and done way better. I’m sorry to say but Animated Year One is just so bland and boring. The animation was not that impressive and Ben MacKenzie was the worst Batman/Bruce Wayne voice actor I have ever heard. Furthermore, I doubt this will get very much playback value. It’s just too boring and hardly no Batman action, like whats so great about it. Oh my Gordon is cheating on his wife, really I don’t give a sh*t. Is that what makes this Adult! Ha Ha Ha, I’ll take Red Hood, Batman Animated series and Justice League over this crap anyday

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