Saturday, August 29, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Year One

Before embarking on doing their 2-parter of The Dark Knight Returns, DC Universe decided to test the waters with Frank Miller's post-Crisis origin story of Batman: Year One. This was an canon telling of Batman's beginnings during his first year of operating as a masked manhunter. A lot of material from the original comic was later used for other adaptations like Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm and largely in Batman Begins, so if you've seen those already, it there aren't a lot of surprises on his end, but it's more about how Gotham City adapts to this new player in town, including the new police lieutenant.

After 12 years of training abroad, Bruce Wayne finally returns home to fight crime on his own terms, but James Gordon is also transferring to Gotham as an addition to the police department. Gordon starts rattling some internal cages as he realizes a lot of the city officials are on the take of the mob boss, Carmine Falcone. Bruce Wayne first tries out taking out some thugs wearing just a ski mask, but after getting beaten badly, he realizes he needs an edge over them. By way of possible providence, a bruised Bruce gets his answer as a large bat just happens to break through the window to his study, giving him the idea to take on the persona of Batman. This new vigilante starts causing problems for the mafia, and the police under their thumb, leading Gordon to take on a the assistance of the lovely Detective Essen, who he succumbs to having a brief affair with while his wife Barbara is pregnant with their first child. While out hunting for Batman, Gordon and Essen track Batman down after he saved a woman from getting run over. The SWAT team corners Batman in an abandoned building, so he uses a special sonic device that leads thousands of bats from the Batcave to downtown, and he escapes during the chaos. While this is going on, Selina Kyle is a prostitute that takes on the masked identity of Catwoman who decides to make a name for herself by scarring Falcone. The Don doesn't take this well, and has his nephew take his hatred out on Gordon by having him kidnap his wife and newborn son. An unmasked Bruce Wayne rushes to save them, leaving Gordon to trust this new vigilante, although not clearly showing he might now who he really is.

Also included in this is a short of Catwoman similar to the DC Showcase features which acts as a follow-up to Year One. Set sometime later, Catwoman is an established cat burgler and anti-hero who learns of a slave trade being conducted by gang leader Rough Cut(who supposedly was made up just for this short). After fooling him and his cronies that she was just another stripper at a nightclub, Catwoman follows Rough Cut to his warehouse, and causes him to have an epic crash into his boat, and she frees her old hooker friend Holly. There's a different style to this than from the main movie and it was mainly done to help pad out the movie for online broadcast as its only a little over an hour long, but still very worth it.

Year One makes for a definitive watch for any Batfan, although totally not for kids with all the serious adult situations and violence. The animation is acceptable, but Dark Knight Returns seemed to capture Frank Miller's idea a little better. Keeping in mind that its more of the beginnings of Commissioner Gordon that it is about Batman himself, it is still a compelling mature crime story. Bryan Cranston does a fantastic job as Gordon, while future Gordon on the Gotham TV series Benjamin McKenzie plays an acceptable Batman, although Kevin Conroy is still tops in my book.

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