Batman: Year One

A few weeks ago was my birthday and using a giftcard I received I picked up Batman: Year One on BluRay for myself. It was something I hurried out to get as soon as I could, but strangely has sat on the shelf until this morning. I’ve only read bits and pieces of the Year One graphic novel, but I know the story well as it has often been referenced to and talked about in other books. So when I sat down today I had limited expectations. To be honest, I found it to be entertaining but lacking in a few areas, definately not the best work put out by the DC Animated team.

I’m a big supporter of well done voice acting as some of you have probably noticed by now. In Batman: Year One the main roles are filled by Ben McKenzie as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Bryan Cranston as Lt. Jim Gordon, Elisha Dushku as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb, Alex Rocco as Carmine Falcone and Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen. Out of the whole cast, Dushku gives the best performance and probably only has somewhere around 5 minutes of “screen time” in the 64 minute feature. Cranston has a believable voice as Gordon but fails to bring any kind of emotion to the role. McKenzie gives a lackluster performance making you think that Batman might actually be dead, because his vocal tone certainly is. Polito and Rocco turn in good performances, both having histories of playing disreputable characters and Katee Sackhoff does a good job as Sarah Essen, though like Dushku she doesn’t have much of a role.

The animation itself was good, though at times seemed very stiff. Animation fans will know what I mean right off the bat by that. It’s when the characters movements don’t seem very fluid or realistic. It gives it a certain anime quality and that’s even a bit insulting to anime. A lot of fans and reviewers have praised the story for sticking so closely to the original source material, so much so that you can even read along with the movie at times. However, direct/exact adaptations don’t always work and there were times in Year One where I was frankly a bit bored where as my attention probably would’ve been held in the graphic novel. Sometimes things have to change to work really well.

On the BluRay there’s a few good special features including audio commentary (which i’ll be listening to soon enough!) and two good documentaries. One deals with the history and evolution of Batman, the other is a sit down discussion between Batman movie producer Michael Uslan, DC Editor Dan Didio, writer and former Bat-editor Denny O’Neil and writer Scott Snyder. The Evolution of Batman documentary was interesting and I found myself more interested in what writer Greg Rucka had to say more than anyone else. What can I say, the man is a hero of mine. The sit down interview tended to drag with Uslan and Didio often interrupting other people while they were talking. Scott Snyder seemed outnumbered and at times like he just wanted it to end, though his love of Batman certainly shows through when he speaks.

Along with previous DC Animated Features, there’s a new short on the disc following Catwoman across Gotham as she tracks down and fights the villain Rough Cut to stop a shipment from leaving Gotham. Elisha Dushku voices the feline anti-hero in this as well, but due to the high action nature of the short, her lines are pretty short as well. It was definately on par with the rest of the shorts I’ve seen, and certainly not as bad as the Jonah Hex short. But personally, I still love the Green Arrow short the most. The DVD also features a Sneak Peek of the upcoming Justice League: Doom DVD that brings back the majority of the cast from the Justice League cartoon series and I am absolutely stoked for that!

If you’re diehard into DC animated features like I am, Batman: Year One is worth picking up. If you’re a more casual watcher of the various animated series and films, Batman: Year One is probably something you can pass over for now.

PETER loves DC animation and will probably be going back and starting at the beginning with Batman: The Animated Series soon. Goodbye social life!

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