Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Coming of the Bat
Batman Year One is a terrific animated adaptation of the classic four-part story (long since collected into the graphic novel format) that originally appeared in the Batman comic book in the late 80's. The major players include Lieutenant Jim Gordon (long before his "Commissioner Gordon" days), Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman), and many corrupt politicians and police officials. Believe me, you won't miss the absence of a colorful, larger-than-life villain like the Joker in this urban, grimy, immersive story set in the streets of Gotham.
What's so innovative about Year One, both the comic and the DVD? Though Batman's origin story had been re-told many times prior to the Year One comic books, an extended look at the trials and tribulations of the Caped Crusader's early days was never before attempted. With Year One, we now got to see Bruce Wayne's false starts, failures, eventual refinement of techniques, etc., on the road to his becoming the costumed crime fighter revered by Gotham City's citizens and intensely feared by its criminal element.
That engaging premise, and the great storytelling that fulfilled its potential, made for great comics reading, and now, with this animated adaptation, great home viewing. Just be warned, like the original comic book story, this animated film is dark, gritty, and laced with adult themes and language. This particular Batman story isn't for the kids.
The two-disc version of Batman Year One contains a fair amount of material. On disc one you get the main feature (about 65 minutes long), a few previews of other DC Comics animated projects (films, TV shows, video games, etc.), and an action-oriented, pretty decent (but again, very adult) 15-minute film starring Catwoman.
The second disc contains an engaging documentary (23 minutes long) about the genesis of both the Batman Year One comic book and, many years later, the animated film, with a major emphasis on the whole movement, beginning in the 1970's, to "serious up" Batman after years of goofy comics and the campy Batman TV series starring Adam West. Disc two also contains a couple of bonus Batman cartoons (about 20 minutes each) from the 90's, which were fun to see.
If you've been enjoying the various direct-to-DVD animated films based on DC's comic book heroes and famous storylines, or are just someone who enjoys gritty heroic adventure stories, I can't imagine not liking Batman Year One. It's one of the better presentations from a string of DVDs that's pretty solid to begin with.
And if you don't need all the bells and whistles, just get the less expensive single-disc version. In the end, it's the movie that's the important thing. And this is definitely a movie that's worth your time.