Batman: Year One (2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/22/11
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku

To be honest, I was never a big fan of Frank Miller's definitive "Year One" story. However, it's been over twenty years since I last read it, so maybe I need to revisit it. This is the Batman origin story told from the perspective of Lieutenant James Gordon. Unfortunate events have led Gordon and his pregnant wife to be transferred to Gotham City, which is seething with crime and corruption. At the same time, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is returning to Gotham City after spending the last twelve years abroad working on his master plan for justice and revenge. Gordon is up to his neck in trouble and Wayne's initial attempts at vigilantism fare poorly, but ultimately the two end up working together. It's a good adaptation of the original material, and tackles some very dark and decidedly adult topics. When Bruce finally realizes his destiny and dons the cape and cowl, he becomes a bit larger than life and his outrageous actions definitely push the boundaries of disbelief. But the storytelling is solid and it remains engaging throughout. Unfortunately, much like the comic, the pacing is a bit challenging since so much of the story is told through internal narration. Bryan Cranston gives a good portrayal of Jim Gordon, but Ben McKenzie's Bruce Wayne is a bit weak. He simply doesn't have the emotional depth and resonance of Kevin Conroy, and it's difficult for me to accept anyone else in the role.

As an added bonus, there's an animated short called "Catwoman" written by Paul Dini. Unfortunately, it's overly sexualized to be point of being trashy and tasteless. Seeing Selena Kyle (Eliza Dushku) do a strip tease and a naughty pole dance at a topless bar is just gratuitous and inappropriate. The animation is nice and the action scenes are well done, but overall it's just not that interesting.