While I continue the build-up to my review of Arkham City, let’s take a look at the animated film based on THE definitive early Batman story.
Let me get one thing right off the bat: I don’t like Frank Miller. He’s often shown tendencies of misogyny, racism, and just petty hate. And while his early stuff (such as Year One) is great, he’s devolved into a parody of himself, only able to express his narrow views. There, my personal issue with him is stated. Let’s talk about the film.
Batman: Year One is based on the best-selling storyline of the same name, chronicling the first year in Gotham of both Batman and James Gordon. What follows is a tale about corruption, justice, and the forging of a friendship that would become the stuff of legends. There’s a reason why so many comic companies often give their characters a storyline that is about their early exploits, and it’s because Year One served as the blueprint for how to do it right. The film keeps the same grounded realism that the comic had, and even gives off a sense that it’s set in the same decade as the book (the 80’s). And considering that the comic is one of the best stories involving Batman, it makes sense that the film is of high quality.
The artwork is essentially a moving version of the art by David Mazzucchelli’s artwork (and a nice touch was using art from the book for some of the still photos in the plot), and when you finally see some of the action scenes from the comic in motion (like Bruce Wayne’s first fight with Selina Kyle, or Batman taking on an army of SWAT officers), it just comes off as awesome.
The voice acting is almost perfect. Bryan Cranston earns his top billing as Gordon, as it really is more Gordon’s story of being an honest cop who comes to realize that a vigilante like Batman is what Gotham really needs to survive the rampant corruption, and Cranston sells the same weariness and fortitude that the Lieutenant’s words convey in all his scenes. Eliza Dushku does great as Selina Kyle, and the combination of angry and sass she gives Catwoman is great (which is good, as Miller’s version of Catwoman is always depicted as a prostitute, and having a good voice to fill the role makes it not seem like Miller’s fallback of just having a hooker as an example of a strong female). The weak link for me is Benjamin McKenzie as Batman. The problem is, everytime he speaks the lines from the comic, he sounds like someone trying way too hard to do a Batman voice. And the problem is, as good as the comic is, the one thing that always struck me as stupid was a lot of Batman’s dialogue. It often came across as parody-noir, and only when he’s stating simple facts does he sound normal. McKenzie’s voice actually does good with the simple dialogue, but the melodramatic lines need a much better, natural deep voice to make it not sound silly. Had they gotten someone like Kevin Conroy from the animated series or Bruce Greenwood from Batman: Under the Red Hood, it would have been a stronger performance that matched the awesome scenes of action in the film.
Batman: Year One is one of the best adaptions I’ve seen, bringing the classic comic to life. The underperfomance of its Batman, which ends up showing how Frank Miller really doesn’t write good Batman dialogue as opposed to everyone else, causes it to stumble.
|This is one of the best adaptions of a comic storyline, and Bryan Cranston just owns it as Gordon.||Batman's lines are often silly when written by Frank Miller, and without a strong voice, it shows.|