Sunday, February 19, 2012

Batman: Year One

I finally got around to watching the Blu-ray of Batman: Year One - and it's pretty solid. Critical and user reviews are all over the map, probably due to fanboy attachment, previous voice actor fixations, and nostalgic reminiscences of the original comic book arc.

If you're not familiar with Frank Miller's seminal retelling of Batman's and James Gordon's origin, it's a gritty, character-driven story about motivations.

The film adaptation is pretty appropriately brutal, pushing the boundaries of its PG-13 animated rating. My big problem with Batman's origin is - if told badly - it's easy to dismiss the critical, devastating death of Bruce Wayne's. This adaptation walks the line pretty well.

Though that's maybe where the film drops a bit -- the original arc was arguably not kid-safe, and trying to make the motion adaptation fit into a safer rating gimps it.

But almost better than the movie are the special features, which are pretty robust for this direct-to-disc release.

  • Catwoman -- A sexy (definitely PG-13), slick anime-esque original short pits Eliza Dushku-voiced Selena Kyle against a very, very bad man (voiced by John Di Maggio).
  • "Heart of Vengeance" -- A solid (if a bit fawning) look at Frank Miller's comic book work and impact on comics; more than just a "known name", I'd say Miller creatively re-invigorated comics at a critical point in the speculative market that arguably nearly killed the industry.
  • Voice acting -- There's a commentary-heavy voice acting feature with producer Alan Burnett, writer/editor Mike Carlin, and Andrea Romano (voice casting director); good for Biz folks.
  • Two previous Catwoman cartoons -- Oddly, there's a Catwoman-themed episode each from Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. They're OK, but not stellar. 
  • Justice League: Doom -- This teaser shows off the upcoming modernization of the Justice League versus Legion of Doom, popularized in the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon from the late seventies.
But my favorite extra is the roundtable let by Batman producer Michael Uslan, with Dan Didio, Denny O'Neil and Scott Snyder. Insights from O'Neil by himself made this worth the price of admission for me, but (though it might just be great editing) my favorite part of the interview is seeing young gun Scott Snyder share what resonates with him about the Batman mythos, and watching Didio and O'Neil apparently visibly moved by the impact of the franchise on a new generation of writers.

Overall, a good Blu-ray for content and extras, especially for those of us who are Batman fans and are OK with different expressions of some of our favorite stories.