Batman: Year One – Review

5/5 – Perfect adaption of THE Batman origin story.

Batman: Year One might be my favorite comic book story ever published. Like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, it’s a story that I’ve come back to year after year and it’s never felt old. When I heard that DC was planning an animated adaptation of Year One, I was a bit worried. Would they change the story? Would they stay true to Mazzucchelli’s line work or attempt update the art style?

My worries proved to be unfounded. Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano have once again put together the pieces to make a great animated movie. Batman: Year One should be considered a must-see for any Batman fan. I would also say that Batman: Year One, the comic this movie was based on, is mandatory reading for any Batman fan. After hearing Bruce and Andrea talk at New York Comic Con, and seeing the quality of Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, I’m very excited for everything coming down the DC Animated pipeline.

This movie shows Batman at his most fallible. He’s inexperienced and unsure of himself. He doesn’t have the super computer, all the fancy gadgets (though he does have some), the fancy car or the network of crime fighting colleagues to call upon. It’s cool to see Batman make mistakes, like when he attempts to foil a home burglary. And I was very happy to see that the coolest scene from Year One, which was also used in Batman Begins, was kept in the animated movie, namely Batman calling the cloud of bats to come to his aid when fleeing the Gotham PD.

Batman: Year One is much Jim Gordon’s story as it is Bruce Wayne’s. This isn’t only Batman’s first year in Gotham. It is also Gordon’s first year there as well, after uprooting from Chicago with his pregnant wife. The Gordon presented in Year One is unlike any Jim Gordon presented before. He’s trying hard to be an honest cop in a corrupt city full of corrupt cops and politicians. He’s not an infallible knight in shining armor though. He is full of pathos. He questions his decisions. You probably will too. But at the end of the day, he’s the most upstanding cop on the Gotham force. It’s interesting to watch Batman and Lt. Gordon do their dance, unsure if they can trust each other.

The Year One movie, like the Year One comic, accomplishes
 the amazing feat of making Jim Gordon as interesting as the Batman.

The only slight I have against the movie is the coloring of characters eyes. The whites of people’s eyes are the same color as the rest of their face. It’s not jarring when I see it in a still, but in the movie, I kept being distracted by it. I’m guessing the decision stemmed from wanting the animation style to match the book as much as possible, but I just found the flesh colored eyes to be weird.

I highly recommend watching Batman: Year One on DVD or Blu-ray. The special features included in it are great. There are two short interview-style featurettes, the first one focusing on the impact Frank Miller had on the Batman mythos. Miller doesn’t appear here himself, but a lot of other comic creators do, including Dennis O’Neil, Mike Carlin, Dan Didio and Scott Snyder. Producer Michael Uslan sits down with Dan Didio, Dennis O’Neil and Scott Snyder to talk about how Batman has changed over the years in the other featurette. Snyder, Didio and O’Neil each grew up during different eras of Batman, so it was very interesting to hear them talk about the differences and similarities of what defined Batman for them.

There’s also a Showcase animated short featuring Catwoman. I thought Eliza Dushku did a better job voicing Catwoman in Year One than she does here. In the short, she sounds stilted, as if she’s reading off of cue cards.

We’re coming up to the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 very soon. I recommend watching Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 in anticipation of it.