Sabbath Reviews: Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
Batman: The Animated Series is one of my all-time favorite cartoon shows from my childhood. The episodes stand the test of time and looking back at them, I can see they were dark enough for adults to appreciate as well. Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman to me and Mark Hamill is undoubtedly The Joker. At the very least, these are constants when it comes to Batman animation.
I’ve been wanting to watch Under The Red Hood since I got word of its inception. I don’t regularly watch animation any more and when I heard Conroy and Hamill weren’t going to be a part of it — I was a little let down. A little worried too. I didn’t know if these unfamiliar voices would ruin the entire thing for me. It was late at night, I was getting ready to get some shut-eye, and this happened to be on my Instant Queue. I decided it was time to give it a shot.
For those unfamiliar, in the comics Jason Todd (Robin) was brutally beaten by The Joker — and the fans were given the vote as to whether he lived or died. Children, being the evil, bloodthirsty leeches they are, decided Todd should bite the big one.
In one of the most iconic scenes ever in comic book history, Batman finds Todd’s body and holds him in his arms in mourning. This backstory is played out for us in the first scenes of Under The Red Hood. It is here that we are introduced to Hamill’s replacement for the movie. John DiMaggio does the voice of The Joker and …. I kind of wish they had made him re-do the voice for this entire opening scene. The Joker sounds nothing like you would ever imagine The Joker to sound like especially in this opener, but as the film progresses it seems like DiMaggio finds his footing a bit better. It’s so odd because his voice in this first scene is the last thing I would ever expect The Joker to sound like and it gradually changes and improves over the film. I still hated his Joker. It was at this point that I began to worry — was my childhood nostalgia going to ruin the whole movie for me?
Five years later, gang bosses are brought together to have a meeting by the mysterious Red Hood voiced by Jensen Ackles of Supernatural fame. At first I thought Ackles sounded bored or unsure of himself, but as time progressed I really liked him for the Red Hood and by the end I really loved it. Anyway, the Hood tells them they’re under his thumb now and he’s going to offer protection from Batman and the Black Mask (another criminal) as long as they kick back some dough.
The plot really revolves around who The Red Hood is with initial signs pointing to The Joker, as he donned the Red Hood moniker before his accident transformed him. Along the way we are introduced to another of Batman’s former Robins, Dick Grayson who is now Nightwing and is voiced by Neil Patrick Harris. I bring this up despite his small role because … Neil Patrick Harris is fucking awesome. I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother. I just know it as a universal truth. Oh, and his Nightwing performance was great and the comedy relief he provided in this dark story was much needed.
Bruce Greenwood’s Batman is not Kevin Conroy but it’s not bad either. I think I’m mostly just disappointed it isn’t Conroy, but if I was unbiased and didn’t know of Conroy’s Batman I’d probably be praising Greenwood right here. He does a fine job really.
The animation is dark and reminiscent somewhat of the old Animated Series. It definitely feels different than Justice League: Crisis On Infinite Earths (which happens to be the only other DC animated movie I’ve watched), which is good. It wouldn’t have fit Batman if it had. I appreciated that the fit was right.
What really drives this movie is the story. It’s an animated movie based on a comic book and ultimately meant for kids, so keep that in mind — but the story was damned good even for someone who knows the outcome. The themes are strong and poignant despite the age group it’s “meant for”. It also raises a few good questions, like: Why doesn’t Batman just kill The Joker? The answer isn’t a complete cop out either. It’s not something black-and-white and I appreciate that because for once in my life … I doubted The Bat. I doubted his code. I’m ashamed to say it, but for once in my life, I thought Batman was wrong.
But as always, he proves why he’s The Dark Knight.
The change is voice talent didn’t kill this for me. Hamill is retiring The Joker’s voice and I just have to come to grips with that. Batman is a character that is timeless and will outlive Ledger and Hamill and continue to thrive because these characters — spandex tights and all — are our era’s legends. I don’t care how old I get, I will always love superheroes. If you’re a fan of The Bat, pick this up. It’ll wash the taste of that horrible Batman: Gotham Knight compilation right out of your mouth. Even Conroy couldn’t save that shit.