Monday, October 31, 2011

Batman: Year One Animated Film

We know Batman’s origin; you don’t need to be a nerd to know Bruce Wayne became Batman after his parent’s were murdered. How you tell that tale, and how believable it can be are two entirely different ideas. And how did Commissioner Gordon become Batman’s most trusted ally?

Batman: Year One relights the old Caped Crusader origin story in a way that gives new meaning to Batman and Gordon. Based on the comic by the same name – Batman: Year One is among the most revered graphic novels in DC’s library. How I felt about Batman’s birth can be found here. Summarize it to say: Batman: Year One is about two very human men trying to clean up a city on the brink of madness.

Having a running time of just over an hour – we spend less time waiting around and more time seeing development. Bruce doesn’t take long to don the suit. And Gordon lays his fist into those who have gone to the dark side of the police force. I think that’s where the animated movie shines best, in capturing the same pace of the comic. Structured by monthly increments we are only shown the major details, small facts are left out. This format keeps a tight hold on your attention because things shift so quickly.

On the other hand, the tone feels off. That may be attributed to the animation itself. The source material felt very gritty and raw, and the artistic style of the ‘80s emulated that. The visual style of the comic is without question very appropriate to the tale as a whole. The biggest problem with some of these animated film adaptations is the art doesn’t complement the narrative. It’s not distracting, but keeping the artistic design, as close to the original would have served the film better.

Beat for beat this retelling really does follow the trade. Any differences are likely unnoticeable, and even the largely superfluous Catwoman origin – the weakest part of Year One -- was thrown in.

It was no leap of faith for DC to produce an animated film version of one of the Dark Knight’s greatest moments. I still feel a little jaded. As this movie does suffer from what I call the “Watchmen dilemma”: In other words, “Since I’ve seen the movie, why read the comic?” And yeah, there is something to that. But the film still feels like a piece, more of an assist to the original graphic novel and not a complete story by itself.

I do urge those interested in Batman: Year One the animated film to see the collected trade of the same name first. And yes how Batman became Batman actually holds together well in today’s convoluted comic realm. The movie may not be perfect, but it will keep you entertained. I still maintain the opinion that Batman: Year One is the definitive origin story, the first and perhaps last you need to read or in this case, watch. 

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