Sep 2, 2008

Film: Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Batman: Gotham Knight is an animated feature-length that went straight to DVD this year. It is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, it is comprised of 6 short tales, each similar but shorter than individual episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. Second, I don't think that any of the segments are drawn by the same artists, and much of it is in anime style (think, The Animatrix concept, although I didn't see that film). A big plus, however, is that some of the vocal talents from the Animated Series reprise their roles in this film (most importantly, Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman). Finally, similar to the Animatrix, Gotham Knight is meant to take place between Batman Begins and this summer's smash hit Dark Knight

To take it back, I loved the Batman: Animated Series cartoon. It took me a while to get into it, because it was different from the other stuff that was out there (and I think I was in high school or something when it came out). I remember first watching and thinking "this is it? why is there so little music? It's just him talking, and then there's some action, then more talking." I finally gave it another chance, and realized what was going on.

The creators wanted to bring Batman back to his roots from the comic books - Frank Miller's reinvention of the character as a much more complex, dark figure in the DC Universe.Batman was much more aloof, harder to connect to the sunny optimism (and red, white, and blue Americanism) of Superman. He had a dark back story that led to the character that we know. He lived in the shadows, did not have supernatural or extraterrestrial origins to make him special: he was a bad mofo with a lot of money and personal discipline (most of the time).

Because of this, Batman was more human this way, and tapped into something deeper with real readers. Additionally, his realm, Gotham is a dark, sinister version of NYC, where retro, modern, and futuristic forms and technology clash and combine in interesting (but almost always gothic) landscapes. I think Nolan's Batman Begins and Dark Knight also went back to the source material, which is why the fans of the comic have been so taken by them, and the films worked in shadows and shades of black and gray.

I had mixed feelings about the film, only because it made me nostalgic for the old series, which I would record on VHS whenever I could (time to dig out that tape... and buy a VCR?) but it's definitely worth seeing for the fans. I don't think I could rank it better than Mask of the Phantasm, which I actually saw in the theater. You know, this just made me realize that I never saw Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero, which is actually ranked higher than Mask of the Phantasm on Rotten Tomatoes...


Anonymous said...

Wow, great post.

You know this by now, but I'm a huge Batman fan. I used to watch the Animated series almost religiously, and I still think it is probably the best realization of Batman to ever appear on screen.

Yeah, I liked Gotham Knight, but I think the Animatrix worked better in terms of pulling off this sort of concept (short stories, American writers, Japanese anime directors). It was still very cool though, and fills in a lot of back story about what happened after Batman Begins and before Dark Knight.

If that Mr. Freeze Subzero animated movie is what I think it is, I remember it as being damn good, and really showing Mr. Freeze to be a tragic villain. I dunno, I think I might have to check that one out again too.


Rage said...

Thanks, bro. Yeah I think I just missed a bunch of things along the way. I didn't realize there were so many iterations of the Batman Animated series (or at least the more recent ones). But I still get chills from some of the stories from the original ones, and Mark Hamill was a *killer* joker.

Did you see the Batman Beyond: Return of Joker feature-length? I like that Kevin Conroy is in Batman Beyond as the old Bruce Wayne (and heck, George Takei was in the pilot as a bad guy!), but I lost sight of it after that.

Thanks for backing me up on this so I don't feel like the only nerd on the webs. :)