Director: Brandon Vietti
Writers: Judd Winick, Bob Kane (Batman created by)
Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio
Batman: Under the Red Hood begins with a very brutal opener with Jason Todd (The Second Robin) being beaten sadisticly by The Joker and his choice of weapon being a crowbar in a remote warehouse. Time is running out for Batman to find the location before it is too late. I was rather surprised and excited to see such a high paced opener to this DC animated gem from 2010. I was also shocked in how graphic the opening scenes where and John DiMaggio’s Joker was so creepy, disturbing and down right terrifying. Batman arrives on the scene to see a beaten and bloodied Jason and before he can rescue his partner in crime, the warehouse blows up and although The Dark Knight manages to barely survive the blast it is too late for Jason and this is the premise of where Bruce Wayne is as a person and how we will see how it effects him going forward.
Moving forward 5 years on from that terrible day Batman must go head to head with a mysterious masked vigilante, who goes by the name of Red Hood who is beginning to control Gotham’s crime syndicates. This is the basis of the film and it’s heartbreaking narration from here to it’s climatic finale. I’m not really wanting to go into the ins and outs of the movies plot as Batman is playing detective here (like always i know) and the storyline is played out this way with a few reveals on the way that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet (I know, it’s nearly a decade old) Trust me, it’s worth not knowing too much of the plot as some of the reveals are terrific and very surprising.
One of the things I loved about Batman: Under the Red Hood was that although he was in the opening scenes and what looked like it was going to be another Batman Vs The Joker type film. On the contrary, The Joker although has a pivotal role here, isn’t overused and at one point is used as the plot point to both the Batman and The Red Hood storylines and how this will end and what Batman will discover about the identity of The Red Hood and what his plans are for Gotham City and more importantly how this will effect Bruce and his haunted past.
Bruce Greenwood as Bruce Wayne / Batman for me is a winner right away. I loved his portrayal in Gotham by Gaslight from this year and I was interested to see his version here 8 years before I was introduced to him as The Dark Knight. I know Kevin Conroy is Synonyms with the character and I love his Batman. Greenwood as an established and charming actor just slots right into the role with ease and his dark mood throughout the movie helps and adds to the tone of the film. He is of course more than familiar with the role in the television series Young Justice playing the character over twenty times and I was pleased to see he got the Gaslight gig this year.
With Jensen Ackles playing the mysterious Red Hood (and I do wish IMDb would take down a reveal) I felt his one liners and delivery suited his character and really made you understand that this persona wasn’t really an out and out villain. More like Marvel’s The Punisher with his own brand of justice that Bruce Wayne couldn’t do and wouldn’t do. Red Hood basically calls Batman out on the line that he will never cross and reasoning his existence is down to his rules. Ackles brings an energy and cockiness to the character that I was warming to very early on in the movie.
It was good to see the inclusion of Dick Grayson / Nightwing into this storyline that could have been ignored if the plot was heavily focusing on Robin but thankfully we get enough of the character and his scenes with Batman aren’t overstretched or shoehorned in. Neil Patrick Harris does a good job and adds a youthfulness to the voice which possibly Director Brandon Vietti liked about Harris in his portrayal of Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) Wade Williams’ Black Mask and Jason Isaacs’ Ra’s al Ghul are in key scenes that serve the storyline well and explain some of the more focal points on why certain things have happened here. Both Williams and Isaccs are great in these supporting roles and add weight to the plot.
I was particularly impressed with the score to this film. In fact, this may be the first time I have noticed that the score stands out in the DC Animated Universe. I’m not sure if I’m over exaggerating here, but some of the music was almost Hans Zimmer ‘esque. Calm down Stephen? Not a chance, I felt the quality of the score by Jermaine Stegall was up there with some of the Dark Night Trilogy score stuff and added atmosphere and suspense to the film. Stegall to be fair isn’t a stranger to this genre and has contributed music to the recent Justice League (2017) live action film and television series Supergirl (2017)
Overall Batman: Under the Red Hood is one of the best animated films by DC ever to be released. It is a film that really pushed the boundaries in graphic violence within a comic book animated film and it’s heavy mysterious plot kept me interested for the duration of the film. This film would work very well as a live action flick and perhaps DC may cherry pick some of the material here for the upcoming “The Batman” film starring Ben Afleck as I felt this movie has it all in terms of pacing, tone and action, which i felt was animated perfectly here. If you haven’t seen Batman: Under the Red Hood yet I would advise getting your hands on a copy and sit back and enjoy one of the best DC animated films ever made. Highly Recommended.