Frank Miller basically re-thought how we look at Batman today. Everyone from Bruce Timm to Christopher Nolan has taken a cue from the master writer who completely re-worked Batman for the modern era where the camp was no longer present and the grim takes on morality and justice became ever present in what we know as the character so well. “Batman: Year One” attempts to take the original Frank Miller graphic novel and transform it in to a small film that does its job in telling the tale of two forces of good that would walk in to Gotham City almost at the same time and become a true force of nature in changing the law and transforming the seedy underworld in to a haven for cowards and thugs.
“Batman: Year One” is not just Batman’s tale, but it’s also Commissioner Gordon’s tale, as the two of them struggle to find a way to deal with Gotham City’s corrupt moral code and figure out how to take that corruption and use to inflict justice and vengeance on the criminals who essentially run the city from the inside out. While I would have loved to place this film at the top of the heap, the caveats to it almost ruin the entire viewing experience. For one the film is only about an hour or so so there’s not much room for emphasis on characters, meanwhile we take detours in to the formation of Catwoman’s playground and that detracts from the struggles the two men take in the story. Nevertheless “Year One” is a strong story that takes on a new life in the animated field. DC may not be much for live action, but they work wonders in the animation medium and here it shines on as Sam Liu embodies the grim and bleak atmosphere of Frank Miller’s tale while also adding his own dashes of style and tone in the process.
“Year One” is a film for folks interested in the duel battle for good, involving Gordon and Bruce Wayne and here the film focuses on the two young men who are entering in to separate journeys of conscience, and upholding the law. All the while trying not to let this world turn them in to the very monsters they do battle with. Bruce Wayne is still grieving the death of his parents and now must find a way to channel his energy in to fighting crime while taking on the mantle of the Batman. All the while Gordon is now instated in to the Gotham police force and gets his own taste of corruption and crime when he refuses to play along with the force’s nasty habit for skewing the law for their own good, and must venture out to save his family while bringing down the very men who threaten his life and livelihood.
Bryan Cranston is a scene stealer here, bringing on a new presence as Gordon who must do battle with so many opposing forces and face the potential threat against his children’s lives. Cranston is no slouch as Gordon and gives a truly rousing performance. Meanwhile Ben McKenzie is pretty good as Bruce Wayne offering up his own interpretation of the character while also bringing about hints of Christian Bale’s own variation of the character. Eliza Dushku also gets her time to shine as Selina Kyle who gives a small but strong supporting performance as the prostitute turned master criminal. “Batman: Year One” may not please the folks looking for a solely Batman centered film, but for a story about two avengers working to fix a corrupt city, it does its job and it does it very well.
Featured in the loaded Blu-Ray, we’re given a fifteen minute DC Showcase, featuring the one and only Catwoman on the prowl in her very own short film. Dushku takes on the role of Catwoman yet again, this time in a pretty flat but well animated scheme involving a crime boss and his latest loot that the Catwoman is particularly interested in. There’s also two picks from Bruce Timm’s classic “Batman” series, both of which involve Catwoman to some capacity.
Among the special features there’s also looks at “Justice League: Doom,” a commentary from the creative team behind “Year One,” and a digital comic featuring Chapter One of the “Year One” graphic novel. As with most of the DC animated films, the downfall is the short running time. For once I’d love a movie clocking in over ninety minutes. But for what it offers in the way of pure storytelling and action, “Batman: Year One” is a very good look at the first year of two of comic books’ most prominent partners who’d go on to fighting crime until the very end.