Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) [This review is spoiler free]
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio
Directed by: Brandon Vietti
Synopsis: Bruce Greenwood lends his gravelly tones to the Caped Crusader in this direct-to-video DC film. In Gotham City, a new masked criminal called Red Hood (Jensen Ackles) has taken control of the drug trade, assuring protection from Batman and Black Mask, causing an unlikely alliance between Black Mask and the Joker (John DiMaggio). But as the death count rises, and the stakes reach a peak, Batman has to wrestle his tormented memories and ghost of the past if he wants to keep his city safe.
Brandon Vietti is no stranger to the superhero scene, and is a veteran of the Batman canon. With the success of ‘The Batman’ TV series under his belt, as well as credit in producing ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’, Vietti handles the feature-length movie with the respect it deserves, and it shows from the off.
The film was greeted with critical acclaim, and it is well-deserved. The plot was well-written, the screenplay by the same genius who handed the Under the Hood arc in the Batman serial, Judd Winick. The maturity of the story could only be done by the original mind, and the director utilises the talent he has to hand.
To begin with, let’s talk about the casting, and who better to start with than the Caped Crusader himself. We all have our favourite Batman, and for me, Kevin Conroy is the greatest. At the time, Conroy had other engagements with ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’, and I was apprehensive about Greenwood’s performance before I started the film. Though no Conroy, Greenwood brings stoic and somber tone to a dark and deep story that works on many levels. I enjoyed him as an actor, and as Batman, he has a voice that can be appreciated.
From the mainstream of actors comes ‘Supernatural’ star Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, and from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ comes Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing. Though Nightwing is a scarce character, Harris provides a welcome comic relief in an otherwise gritty story line, while handling it with the subtlety and intelligence it deserves. This is due in part to the script, but the majority of the credit goes towards to Harris for his impeccable timing, and his charming spin on the well-loved character.
For me, though, the star of the movie was Red Hood. The identity of the newest villain will be kept out of this review, but the vulnerability that Ackles portrays through voice alone is phenomenal. In a movie that has boasts two of the best known rogues from the Batman canon, the addition of the newest villain was an already difficult task to make him the big deal that he is. For its success, they can thank the aural sex that is Ackles’s voice. It is appropriately rough and charismatic, and when needed, he makes the character sympathisable and endearing. We do have to ask why Batman has these moral codes and if they are worth what they make him sacrifice. There are times when you do want Red Hood to be victorious, and I think that blurred line is what makes him a successful villain.
Not to neglect the animation, let me just say that it isn’t the best animation that DC has ever put forward, but it is by no means the worst. And that being said, it worked for the story. The shadows and angular shot that we’ve come to expect from a Batman movie were used indiscriminately at times, but it worked. The best part was definitely the use of flashbacks. It provided a melancholy and at times a downright depressing look in to the workings of the main characters.
Overall, it is hard to pick a fault with this movie. There is nothing about it which I would deem to be a flaw. It is one of the highest rated direct-to-video Batman films to date, holding the top spot for two years before the release of ‘The Dark Knight Returns’. For its clever use of the themes of good and evil, and for the way the movie showcases how the lines blend and twist in to an exciting climax in the film’s ending, it is one of the greatest Batman movies to date. Its look into Batman’s psyche makes it a faithful adaptation, and one that is ultimately true to the lore. I would recommend it to new and old fans. It is perfection, and it you will love it.