The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One is a darker, gritter Batman than we've seen in the already dark-and-gritty DC Universe animated features. This is a film in which, among other things, the Dark Knight does battle in the middle of Gotham City's porn district, and some of the violence is fairly bloody. Adapted from the revered comic written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, the PG-13 movie is available on DVD and Blu-Ray starting October 18.

As the title suggests, the story depicts the year that Bruce Wayne (voiced by Benjamin McKenzie) begins patrolling Gotham's streets in his bat costume. It is also the first year that honest cop Jim Gordon (Bryan Cranston) spends on the city's police force. Both men face trials and tribulations: Batman takes on villains in a corrupt political system, while Gordon struggles to defend himself from fellow cops who want him to be as crooked as they are. Eliza Dushku provides the voice of Catwoman, who is borne from the dust that Batman and Gordon kick up in the city.

Miller's story has always been solid, because it adds a lot of character depth to this world. The movie version keeps that intact. We can see that Batman is an outlet for Bruce Wayne's anger toward those who killed his parents. Dressing up to nobly fight crime is his way of trying to right the world's wrongs. Gordon, meanwhile, has unbending values while on duty, yet carries on an illicit affair with a female cop on the side. His own double standard eats away at him. Batman: Year One adapts Miller's tale with excellent animation and first-rate voice work from a talented cast, finding a nice balance between human moments and exciting action sequences.

The only complaint I have is that, at just 64 minutes, it's awfully short. Some scenes last only a few seconds, delivering a crucial plot point and then moving on. I'd have liked to see a slightly longer take on the story. What's here is very good, and quite frankly, I wanted even more. Some of the other DC Animated Universe pictures have run about 80 or 85 minutes. Batman: Year One should have had that length. The substance of the story kind of demands a longer length. Several things feel rushed here.

That said, I still recommend Batman: Year One. It's a smart, well made, and suitably introspective Dark Knight/Jim Gordon adventure.

( out of four)

DVD Features:

Batman: Year One is being released in several formats. I previewed the DVD version. The main bonus feature here is Catwoman, a 14-minute short film with Eliza Dushku reprising the role. Again, it's a darker, more adult take on the character who, at one point, poses as a stripper in order to take down a diamond smuggler. The short is a little light on plot, yet has a stellar chase scene that is one of the finest I've seen in these animated features. Here's hoping a full-length Catwoman feature is on the way.

Also on the DVD is a sneak peek at Justice League: Doom, the next title in the DC series of animated adventures. Previews for several of the other entries are also included.

Sound and picture quality on the DVD are very good.

Batman: Year One is rated PG-13 for violence and some sexual material. The running time is 1 hour and 4 minutes.