Saturday, March 14, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman: Year One (2011)

In 1987, Frank Miller, after his futuristic magnum opus, The Dark Knight Returns, went in the opposite direction to try to define Batman's, ah, rookie year.

I had read the original Batman: Year One arc in the pages of Batman (1st series), as illustrated by relative newcomer David Mazzucchelli, and found it to be a deep, entertaining read. Miller had re-posited Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, into a dominatrix/prostitute, giving her a short buzzcut that simply was SO un-Cat-like. We were introduced to not only future commissioner Jim Gordon as a police lieutenant from out of town, but Det. Arnold Flass and then-commissioner Gillian Loeb, among others. The idea was that Gotham City was rife with corruption. You know, much like, say, Chicago, during the Prohibition era, for example.

The movie version compresses a diary of events across one calendar year into a 1 hour-plus film that does not do its source material justice. Once again, WB gives DC the short shrift (see also their adaptation of New Frontier). This should've been a sprawling, more faithful adaptation, perhaps 2-2 1/2 hours in length, to properly match the original story.

The story is told from the perspective of Gordon (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), who has arrived in town with his wife, Barbara, and their unborn son. Bruce Wayne (Ben McKenzie, currently starring as Gordon on Gotham) is back home after 12 years abroad in training. Wayne travels to the East End in search, presumably, of his parents' killer, but runs afoul of an abusive pimp berating a teenage prostitute. A brawl breaks out. The kid kneecaps Bruce with a knife, then gets swatted aside. That brings Selina (Eliza Dushku, ex-Dollhouse) into the fray for her first meeting with Bruce, though she doesn't realize it. And, thus, the legendary love-hate relationship between them has its roots.

Gordon, meanwhile, and predictably, sets out to clean up the city, going after Loeb, who has ties to mobster Carmine Falcone (pronounced "Fal-co-knee", as opposed to the current characterization on Gotham), aka, "The Roman" (Alex Rocco). The reason for the glasses? He's practically blind without them.

Here's a trailer:

The animation is lush and striking. Not quite the toon noir of the 90's, but close enough. Too bad the story just races by the way it does. It's as if someone at WB thinks the target audience can't be trusted to sit through a longer film.

Rating: A-.


magicdog said...

I'd seen this and it was OK - though to be fair I'd never read the comic so I wasn't sure what to expect.

I wasn't happy with Selina being a prostitute in this. I was also confused as to Gordon having a son; did Barbara not exist in this universe? Whatever happened to him?

hobbyfan said...

James Gordon, Jr. is Babs' older brother. In recent books, they made it look like Babs, as Batgirl, killed her own brother, but he faked his death, and went to work covertly for Amanda Waller. Hasn't been seen recently.