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Batman: Under the Red Hood

by

Jeff Nelson

Batman: Under the Red Hood isn't perfect, but it's a very enjoyable animated feature that DC should be proud of.

Batman: Under the Red Hood
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Marvel and DC Comics have been constantly going head to head for which company has the better superheroes. When it comes to the live action features, Marvel has most certainly bested DC in most cases. However, Christopher Nolan has created Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which are both absolutely fantastic films. Other than the comic books and the movies, there are animated movies created by both companies. As expected, they are straight to DVD or made for television flicks and most of them are horrible. They're generic with flat character and uninteresting plots. The action sequences are usually lame and the animation is often weak. This is exactly what I thought Batman: Under the Red Hood would turn out to be. Once it was released, the fans exploded with positive buzz. This is extremely rare for an animated adaptation of the infamous Batman. With The Dark Knight Rises being released, I thought that it would be appropriate to review one of the animated films.

There's a mystery afoot in Gotham City when a shadowy vigilante known only as Red Hood sets his mind to stalking Batman and his former sidekick, Dick Grayson, who now goes by the heroic name of Nightwing. The duo must keep their focus, otherwise they'll fall prey to the Joker, Ra's al Ghul, and Black Mask. While the fans of Batman will watch this regardless of the reviews, even newcomers have the potential to enjoy this. The story isn't complicated and doesn't require much knowledge of the comic books to understand what's going on. Everything is straight forward and the pacing is extremely smooth, as it constantly keeps things moving. If something isn't happening with Red Hood, then something's happening with one of the other three villains featured here. Batman: Under the Red Hood could have suffered the same fate as Spider-Man 3 did. Even with only a few villains, the screen felt far too crowded and it didn't mesh well. That fortunately isn't the case here, as the plot never feels busy and each enemy receives the fair amount of screen time that they deserve. It never feels as if they're fighting for screen time, as it often does in other flicks. Batman: Under the Red Hood is about more than just Batman fighting bad guys. It dives deeper into the character and explores both his past and present as he realizes his failures. The film most certainly humanizes Batman more than we're used to and provides us with a character full of regret and disappointment in himself. Red Hood is a fun character for the Bat to face and they constantly feel evenly matched, therefore making the fight sequences much more enjoyable. I would have liked the movie to have been a bit longer since it does feel extremely short, although that doesn't fault the quality that lies within.

Underneath the script is a group of wonderful voice actor. Bruce Greenwood is a great Batman and the low voice from Christian Bale's Batman is most certainly not missed. Jensen Ackles voices Red Hood and does an excellent job, especially for being an actor that doesn't frequent animation as much as live action. Jason Isaacs and Wade Williams are welcome with open arms as Ra's al Ghul and Black Mask. Isaacs and Williams are fantastic as these two villains, as the voices truly fit the roles. There haven't been many actors that could correctly portray the Joker in either live action or animation. In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was the best Joker that has been seen on screen through the live action adaptations. I haven't seen all of the Batman animated flicks and TV shows, but the Joker here doesn't quite match up to what I expect from the character. John Di Maggio gives us more of a growl to the character that leaves me indifferent. Maggio is not a horrible Joker, especially when looking back at the history at some of the past actors that have voiced this villain. This is an exceptional voice acting cast that brings this feature to life.

DC Comics has strengthened not only the writing and the voice acting, but the visuals as well. The animation is much better than past attempts. Fortunately, this isn't the CG crap that we're used to seeing from modern-day cartoons. For those concerned with the picture quality in high definition, there are some flaws with some slightly pixelated images, although the majority of the film makes up for that. The audio is an all-around blast. The bass doesn't hold back as there are some furniture-shaking sequences. The dialogue is never difficult to hear and the surrounds are constantly being utilized to provide an incredible soundstage. During the action scenes, your speakers will provide you with a well-mixed soundtrack.

Everything that I expected from Batman: Under the Red Hood is fortunately false. I thought that it would be boring, generic, and superficial. It actually ended up being a really enjoyable animated feature with fun characters. The plot doesn't overcomplicate anything and it stays simple for the small running time that it possesses. The voice acting is great and the visuals are where they need to be. You don't need to be an ultimate Batman fan to enjoy this. Hopefully the animated superhero flicks in the future take note of this movie. This is one of the better ones I have seen where there are actually darker and more mature themes seen than what we're used to in animated superhero affairs. Batman: Under the Red Hood isn't perfect, but it's a very enjoyable animated feature that DC should be proud of.

My Rating = Four Stars

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