Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/5/10
Director: Brandon Vietti
Music: Christopher Drake
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Kelly Hu

This take on "A Death In The Family" is not at all what I was expecting, and the first five minutes are pretty intense. Five years after those tragic events, a new vigilante shows up in Gotham City under the guise of The Red Hood. He's taking down drug dealers and underworld figures, but Batman doesn't like his lethal tactics. Gotham's greatest crime leader is a ridiculous figure known as Black Mask, and when the heat from Red Hood becomes too great, he springs The Joker from Arkham Asylum to deal with the problem. You can imagine the chaos that results, and the film culminates in a tense showdown between Red Hood, Joker, and Batman, with no happy ending in sight.

Like the other DC Universe titles, this one is superbly animated and looks great. The character models for Batman and Joker have been modified to be more human and less stylistic than "Batman: The Animated Series", and it's unsettling to not hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill's iconic voices. Bruce Greenwood delivers an excellent performance for Batman, but the other actors fall a bit flat. Red Hood's snarky attitude doesn't help, and he mostly comes off as annoying. Likewise for Nightwing, which is unfortunate. Apart from Batman, the only other character who makes an impact is Black Mask's cold and calculating assistant, Ms. Li (Kelly Hu). She's the only one who can stand up to him and not receive his wrath, which makes her quite powerful and sexy. Christopher Drake's music score is wonderful, and its sad, heavy notes are reminiscent of Hans Zimmer's score for "Batman Begins" (2005). The action scenes are exciting and the fight sequences are brilliantly choreographed and executed. It's also the most violent Batman film I've seen to date, and it doesn't shy away from onscreen murder, torture, and bloodshed.