Review Date: 9/30/12
Director: Jay Oliva
Music: Christopher Drake
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby
"This isn't a mud pit. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon."
It's been twenty-five years since Frank Miller's groundbreaking graphic novel came out, and seeing it finally get turned into an animated movie is a thrilling and emotionally overwhelming experience. And yes, I cried through the entire thing. In the near future, Gotham City has gone to hell. Violent crime is at an all-time high and a group of young punks known as the Mutants are planning to raze the city in a baptism of blood and fire. Commissioner Gordon is set to retire and no one has seen the Batman in ten years. And then one event changes everything. The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Harvey Dent backfires and unleashes Two-Face with deadly consequences. Feeling responsible, Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl one more time to try and save his old friend, and deal with the Mutant threat at the same time. The film ends on a dramatic high note, with the defeat of Mutant Leader and the reawakening of the Joker. Part 2 can't come soon enough!
The movie gets off to a rough start and the voice acting isn't particularly compelling. It takes some time for it to find its groove, but when it's there, it is utterly fabulous. The character design and art direction do a good job of capturing and honoring the original material, and numerous scenes look like they were pulled straight out of the book, shot for shot. The dialog has been condensed and simplified for the sake of time and pacing, and most of the internal dialog is missing. While that comes as a bit of a disappointment, it overall seems like the right choice. As it is, things move along briskly, and Christopher Drake's dark and menacing music score perfectly matches the brutal and hard hitting action with a disquieting sense of urgency and dread. Absolutely fantastic work. It naturally plays the nostalgia card pretty heavily, and even though I haven't read the graphic novel in years, it was instantly familiar and hit all of the right emotional triggers. The biggest disappointment is with the voice acting, and both Batman (Peter Weller) and Gordon (David Selby) come across as flat and unconvincing. I can only imagine how much better it could have been with Kevin Conroy and Bob Hastings back behind the microphone. It's certainly one of DC's most graphically violent and mature outings, and hopefully the risk they took in producing it pays off and leads the way for similar projects in the future. Perhaps even "The Killing Joke?" (hint, hint)