It was announced at the SDCC that a new, full length, animated feature would join the prestige ranks of DC Universe Animated Original Movies on October 18th, “Batman: Year one“. After a long line of critically acclaimed hits, WB finally proved their worth to fandom and developed the skills and integrity to bring Frank Miller’s seminal work on Batman to the (albeit small) screen.
I must confess, I have a sort of man-crush on Miller. So intense, in fact, I’ve actually forgiven him for making “The Spirit”. The man pulled Daredevil from the grave back in the 80s (an awesome feat in itself, since DD basically sucked a flaming minotaur nutsack back then), gave us Sin City and 300, and proceeded to shape the chiropteran silhouette we all have carved into our cortexes to an extent so deep, “Year One” has survived all of DC’s reboots and retcons, giving the Goddamn Batman the gravitas it rightfully deserves.
It’s been stated that Miller’s graphic novel was so cinematic from the start, it needed no adaptation. Indeed, the animated movie follows the novel frame by frame, panel by panel, bringing life to one of the most captivating caped stories ever written in a way that must be experienced and not heard.
The character designs are amazing, and pay tribute to pretty much every Batman animation of the past, blending faces and body types into very familiar individuals, all the while incorporating a certain je ne sais quoi that’s not quite anime, but not completely western animation either. I’m not sure of Korean animation has a name by now, but this film will definitely build a strong case for it. In my opinion, this is the studios’ finest contribution to an already wonderful piece of art.
The action sequences are abundant and wonderfully executed, with a very fluid style and even -dare I say it? – plausible fight moves, backed by a seamless score of fighting music and violent sound effects that rival most live-action flicks we’ve seen lately (“Way of the Warrior”? SUCKS!).
As for the voices, you’ll find some pleasant surprises. Bryan Cranston (yep, Hal, from Malcolm in the Middle) plays Lt. Gordon brilliantly. Benjamin McKenzie (I always hated The OC, sorry) marginally pulls it off as Batman and the great sexy Eliza Dushku brings Catwoman to life with remarkable style. What I loved the most about the whole film, though, is that the voice work is done in a very professional, cinematic manner. There are no “twisted-mustache-top-hat-tie-the damsel-to-the-railroad-tracks” tones or inflections in any of the characters. This reinforces the grim tone imposed by the script and really binds the movie into a very enjoyable experience.
The one thing that didn’t completely fulfill my expectations was the CGI. Although they didn’t abuse it like “Superman: Doomsday”, it did look a little off at times, especially on the opening sequence while Wayne flies over Gotham. I understand this is a direct-to-video film, and it’s really not such a big deal, but I would have loved just a little more effort on their part to honor Miller’s novel.
In the end, it’s an outstanding piece of animation, regardless of your stance towards superheroes. This is the one film you should show the skeptics in your life. This is the one cartoon that will debunk the cartoon myth. This one, you need to buy.