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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At San Diego Comic-Con 2011, Warner Bros held the world premiere for
their new animated telling of Batman: Year One. Unfortunately, after
the end of the film I was disappointed enough that I walked out on the
panel with the major voice cast and directors.
The story is faithful to the comic, to the point where they could have used a little rewriting for fresh air. A few spots felt too anchored to the original page, dialog in a comic explaining an emotion or a type of action doesn't need to be taken literally for a movie. Being too faithful has the film feel like it's lacking any soul or spirit, it's just flatly reading lines, lacking inspiration, simply flipping through pages of the comic to get itself back on track. That is a complaint I had with Zack Snyder's Watchmen as well, just a sense of lifelessness, being stuck on the page treating the original material as cinematic gospel rather than being properly inspired by it. Unlike Watchmen, Year One is a short runtime of an hour, while it doesn't feel rushed, there are a few elements that could have spent a little more time on, most notably Bruce Wayne building up the Batman persona.
Another issue I have with Year One is the art. The style is inspired by Batman The Animated Series' simplicity but not its bold styling, which feels confused - it's not terrible, but it's not quite anything either. Batman in costume looks pretty decent, but Bruce Wayne's character art is like a classic animated Bruce Wayne in his late 30s, it's a tad distracting when he's voiced as a young man and other characters talk about him that way but he looks far more mature. That's perhaps subjective, but the movie's art fails in a second way that's less so: the use of CGI for vehicles - it's abominable, utterly terrible at every glimpse. The drawn artwork is left unsupported by cheap-looking CGI vehicles that move in an entirely robotic and stilted manner. It seems worse than any CGI cartoon TV show from the last 20 years, and every time a car or helicopter is on screen it's a significant distraction.
A smaller flaw in the film is the one big change to the climax of the story. This is the only SPOILER in my review, but it's part of the film's final act: In order to get Gordon more involved than the original, they have changed the events so that Gordon now shoots an unarmed, seemingly-uninvolved motorcyclist and takes his bike to chase after the kidnapper - Gordon shooting a bystander is insanity, well outside of character, turning him essentially into a murderer, whether or not that motorcycle-rider turns out to be secretly wearing armor and eventually gets back up. That chain-reacts into a second problematic change for the climax: Bruce Wayne now no longer has a vehicle to chase the kidnappers, so he takes to the rooftops, without gadgets or costume or even his motorcycle helmet, leaping around like a cheesy cartoon. That comes after an hour of being a grounded, fairly realistic guy - could you imagine the Batman of the Christopher Nolan movies doing that stuff? No, and this story up until the end had played it pretty much the same realistic manner, yet out of the blue Bruce Wayne becomes a super-powered cartoon character.
My final issue is that the voice acting simply does not hold up. Bryan Cranston as Gordon is the center of the movie, he's not a terrible choice, but there's a natural lightness to his reading which doesn't always quite match the depth of what's called for. Batman/Bruce Wayne himself is a big problem, voiced by The OC's Ben McKenzie - Ben has a younger voice without a lot of weight or darkness behind it, so he's directed to try to put on that Batman sound, it doesn't work. He's not experienced with voice acting either, and the combination of those two issues ends up really holding the character back - considering he's the titular character, there should be something believable to the performance, yet McKenzie often struggles with over-pronunciation of his lines, and keeps a "light brooding" going nearly all the time. And Alfred, I'm sorry, I just cannot get behind such a sleepy, disconnected performance - it's a small part in this tale, but I found it very distracting after so many years of great screen Alfreds, from the Nolan films through The Animated Series and going back to the 1960s TV show, only to have... this throwaway work.
What does work: James Gordon being a rounded character, it still plays well, Gordon seems quite adept at carrying these things.
Katee Sackoff brings some fairly convincing voice acting for her character, I've never really entirely been sold on ol' Starbuck there, but she was the lone bright spot that felt like a natural performance.
The movie is a period piece, set in the 1980s, which is an excellent choice, the story exists in a specific era and this movie plays to those strengths, no cellphones or modern conveniences to muck things up. There are even recognizable '80s cars like the first-gen Mazda RX-7.
There are a handful of small moments of humor natural to the story which play pretty well in the film, like Bruce Wayne's sit-down with Gordon and his wife, and Selina Kyle's frustrations with the press.
In the end, this animated version of Batman: Year One just doesn't deliver too well. Uninspired story presentation, middling art, and tepid voice acting work all create a rare animated DC misfire. And because it's such a major story in the modern DC universe, at a time when Batman screen tales are being done well left and right, it disappoints that much more to watch this one fizzle.
I was waiting for this release like a glass of water in the middle of the desert. I'm very disappointed to say that it did not worth the wait. I gotta say I simply love what WB does to Batman and I hope we will see more and more cartoons - or shall I say animated comics - in the future. I simply adore the '90s series and "The Batman" is awesome too. But this one even though I really liked the animation simply lacks soul. It is absolutely nothing people. The story is a complete copy of the Miller script, the music is like it's not even there - no trace here of the charisma and power of the Shirley Walker score - and the voices are plain and without any presence,-especially Batman's!- and the feature itself is way too short compared to the original story. You cannot put all these events into 60 minutes. No way. The dates of the events almost come up in every scene. It is ridiculous! It's like you are watching a movie fast forward. But the most important question is: Why did this feature get to be made? There is not one single original idea or input here.... ah, it really hurts. Anyway, if you are a Batman fan watch it but rent it instead of buying it, trust me on this one! And let's pray that the next one will be better!
I signed up to IMDb to review this movie because I felt this strongly
about it. This was no Batman movie. This was a collection of horrible
plot lines and mish moshed writing sullying the Batman universe.
This should have been called Commission Gordon Year One. The movie barely even touches on Bruce Wayne/Batman. It ignores any kind of origins of the character and instead covers Commissioner Gordon's meteoric rise from a rookie cop to the Commissioner of Gotham police in 1 year.
Gordon isn't the worst character, but no one really wants to see a movie about him. The movie also creates beyond stupid plots for Gordon that only hurt how the character is viewed by fans. Gordon is an upstanding cop that someone like Batman trusts because of his integrity, honesty, etc.
SPOILER: This movie decides to have Gordon have an affair with a fellow cop... while his wife (who they decided to name Barbara) is pregnant.
Naming his wife Barbara is even more insulting, as if real fans wouldn't know that Barbara is supposed to be his daughter, and not his pregnant wife.
This movie is a waste of time. It does nothing but insult true fans of Batman, and is a serious black eye for WB Animation. I can't believe this story got green-lighted.
This is the first Batman movie that I have stopped 3 quarters through.
They got the whole story wrong during the whole movie, almost.... Bruce
Wayne seems kinda like a jerk that fights crime and at no time during
the film do you get the idea that he fights for justice. Not only did
they get Batman wrong (which, in my opinion, is almost impossible but
they sure pulled it of) Gordon is all messed up too. They made him into
this very muscular man that is trying to hunt down Batman and stop him.
Not only did they make him very muscular, they made him some kind of
fighting mastermind cause he is beating up several guys at once (like
Batman is suppose to but on the other hand Batman is still being posed
as the stronger one of the two since he is able to knock down a tree
with a single kick)
Not once during this movie did I feel like I was watching a Batman movie. If you are a die hard Batman fan like me, please do NOT watch this movie because it is a total failure and an insult to the Batman franchise
I've never written a review before, but I've never felt this strongly about a film adaptation before either. If you are at all familiar with the source material comic of the name, then upon watching this film, you will realize that practically nothing was changed. The Frank Miller script is intact (practically word-for-word). The issue for me was, why would you want to re-do that masterpiece as an animated 'cartoon' that brings 'The Jetsons' and 'The Flintstones' to mind (in terms of animation work)?? I have no issue with a strict interpretation of a great work (I liked 'Watchmen' for instance)...But the animation work on this is truly an insult to David Mazzucchelli (The original comic artist) as well as to the viewer. To see such a lackluster effort makes me shutter for future animated Batman projects. Warner, you can do better. I suggest 'Batman: Gotham Knight' instead.
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