Directors: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Writers: Bob Kane (Batman created by), Tab Murphy, Frank Miller (Based on the graphic novel)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku
Batman: Year One is one of my most anticipated films from my recent DC Animated Movie Series splurge. I have actually held back on watching this film until I had caught up with the DC releases as I decided a few months back to watch these in sequential order of their release and what a wait it was. Thankfully this animated movie did not disappoint and I personally hold this up there with any of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films. Yes, that’s how good this is.
Based on the 1988 graphic novel by Frank Miller I was interested to read that Batman: Year One was almost adapted as a live-action film to be directed by Darren Aronofsky from a screenplay by Miller. The studio scrapped the project in favour of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005). I’m kind of glad as I loved Batman Begins and to be honest without that film we wouldn’t have The Dark Knight. You could say that fans of Batman got the best of both worlds in this case. I am intrigued and curious to see what Batman: Year One would have looked like as a live action movie. Certainly the casting of Bryan Cranston as Gordon would have worked in that format more than Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Interestingly, McKenzie would go on to appear as Gordon in the television series “Gotham” and did a damn good job of that. Appearance wise, he ain’t a Bruce Wayne / Batman sadly.
Batman: Year One is predominately about the characters of Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. It takes place when Bruce has returned from afar in what I can only assume as time away from Gotham to complete his training with The League of Shadows and his mentor Ra’s Al Ghul. It doesn’t focus too heavily on this part of his life but you get the jist of it. Jim Gordon’s story interested me more as we see another side of him. He isn’t the perfect person by any means and between the darkness it Batman and the white knight of Harvey Dent we have this character in the shadows who flits between black an white to adapt to the situation in Jim Gordon. I loved what the did with this character and how his personality was captured in the story.
The animation in this movie is, dare I say it. Classic comic book style. The colours and shading are perfect and the look of these characters was something different from previous Batman animation that I have witnessed. The look of Batman was the Grey suited crime fighter which isn’t my preference it seem to fit the bill in the style of the film. The cityscape and surrounding captured a very gritty and desperate Gotham that longed for a saviour, a symbol and they got that in Batman. Gordon’s obsession on tracking down “The Bat” was a big part of the storyline but overall it was about two men with the same ideology and purpose before they would work together. It was also interesting to see and pick up that we never see Batman use any fancy gadgets. Nor do we get to see the famous Batmobile make an appearance in the film. I didn’t mind this as it reminded us that Batman wasn’t superhuman, or as they like to say in this universe a “Meta-Human”. Here he is the skilled fighter with the same goal and intent as Jim Gordon.
Overall Batman: Year One is a complete film in what you hope and expect from this character story arc. The film was well received by critics and fans alike on its release and having Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery in the Directors chairs makes sense to me with their previous experience in these films. As an animated film it is one of the best in my option. I’m unsure on if it is more difficult to translate a graphic novel into a live action film or animated as both formats would be challenging for different reasons. What I will say though is at some point I think this will be released as a live action film and if they stay true to the book then I’m on board. With the announcement of a stand alone Joker Movie separate from the DCEU, then anything is possible. I previously advised that if you are going into these animated series for the first time that I recommend watching them in their time of release. Here is the exception as after watching Batman: Year One you will be hooked. Highly Recommended.