May 21, 2024

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Batman Year One Review – Another Great DC Animated Universe Film

In 2007, DC Comics created a line of direct to DVD movies under the banner “DC Universe Animated Original Movies.” The latest of these is Batman Year One, based on the graphic novel of the same name. The film (as well as the comic) chronicles the first year of Batman’s presence in Gotham. It also follows the career of James Gordon during this period.

The film does a great job of recreating the source material, from what I can remember. It has been quite some time since I read Year One, but everything I saw here seemed familiar. I’d have to say that not remembering every detail of the source material provided for a better viewing experience – I wasn’t caught up in what the creators of this film “got right” or “wrong.” I had however forgotten a few things about the story.

The first thing one should know before popping this blu ray in is that Batman Year One is less centered on Batman than you might think. Batman certainly makes his appearances, but the majority of the narrative comes from James Gordon, a lieutenant at the time. Gordon has just transferred and has a baby on the way. Much of the story revolves around the corruption in the Gotham Police Department and Gordon’s attempt to stand as a good cop despite it all.

Speaking of all the corruption, I’d forgotten how absolutely bleak Gotham is in this tale. I can see that Batman Begins drew a lot of inspiration from this story, especially when it comes to depicting the soul of Gotham. The reality and filth of it all is somewhat surprising, although it shouldn’t be considering the story is based on a Frank Miller piece. Miller loves taking existing characters and pushing them into new places. For example, Gordon, who is normally depicted as a very virtuous character, makes some poor decisions that will haunt him for years to come. In another dramatic departure from canon, Selina Kyle is depicted as a prostitute. That being said, Year One definitely deserves its PG-13 rating, as some scenes are quite violent. Others simply depict adult situations that would either pass over a child’s head or bore them. This definitely isn’t a kid’s movie.

Honestly, I like the story. I like the juxtaposition between Gordon and Batman – Gordon as the man who wants to do what is right within the confines of law and order and Batman as the man who will do (almost) whatever it takes to get the job done. Both men pay the price for their convictions as Gotham labors to devour them both alive. Year One is not afraid to paint a portrait of a city ravaged by crime and corruption from the inside out. However, I do have a few gripes.

First, I wish there was more Batman to be enjoyed. Bats definitely takes a back seat to Gordon in Year One – that’s simply the way the story is told. I can enjoy it on its own, but I’d just like to see Batman a bit more often in a Batman movie. Secondly, although I’d like to see more Batman, I’d like to hear less of him. That’s right, I absolutely despise Benjamin McKenzie in the part, mostly due to the fact that while he’s narrating his voice sounds like he’s trying to emulate Kevin Spacey’s character from Seven. His voice as Batman is even worse. To the people who want to complain about Christian Bale’s Batman voice – please, watch Year One. You only hear him speak as Batman once or twice but boy, its more than enough.

So that’s about it. While I enjoyed the movie overall, I just wish WB had cast someone with a bit more on their resume than The OC for the role of Batman. Thankfully this wasn’t nearly enough to ruin the movie. It’s a solid piece of entertainment, but although it is a cartoon keep in mind it is for adults.

4 out of 5 stars.