‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ Blurs the Line Between Good and Evil
So, you say you can’t wait until the next Christopher Nolan Batman film to get your Bat-cinema fix? Well, good news, you don’t have to! Because while the live action adaptation is still in the very early stages of production, DC Animation can provide for you.
The newest offering from DC is Batman: Under the Red Hood. The storyline concentrates on the appearance of a new character in Gotham, The Red Hood. While this was formerly an identity used by The Joker, this new Red Hood sets up shop as the new head of the Gotham Underworld: taking control of the gangs, going after criminal king pin Black Mask and killing a lot of people to do so.
Of course, if this were the set up for a villain it would be run of the mill. Problem is, Red Hood seems to think he’s one of the good guys.
One of the things I love about this film is that it focuses on one of my favorite aspects of superheroes in general. We’re so used to seeing them succeed, so what happens when they FAIL? And believe it or not, Batman does in fact fail. The movie concentrates on two of his greatest failures: one of which was the actual creation of The Joker due to an accident involving a very new to the job Batman and a vat of chemical waste.
The other failure was the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd.
The story also plays up Batman’s refusal to kill. At one point, he is asked why he didn’t kill The Joker, despite having had many, many chances to do so. And Batman’s answer is simple. It’s not that it’s too hard for him to take a life, it’s that it would be too easy, especially in The Joker’s case. But if he crossed that line, he could never go back.
So, storywise, this film touches on some of my favorite Batman tropes. It also brings in Nightwing, which, hey, I will not argue with more Dick Grayson screentime (and, like, real Dick Grayson, not the character as portrayed by Chris O’Donnell).
And the animation, as is to be expected from DC, is lovely. The studio switches up the animation style for each of it’s features to best capture the story: this is not the art deco world of Batman: The Animated Series, it is a more modern Gotham that fits with the mood and the story being told.
So, I loved the story and the look of it! That’s great!
But the VOICE ACTING.
This movie attracted a decent list of names as voice actors. It features Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Jason Isaacs as Ra’s al Ghul and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing (!!!!!). So, with a cast of talented actors such as this, I have to wonder WHY THE VOICE ACTING WAS SO TERRIBLE.
And it wasn’t just those three. John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender, is the voice of The Joker in this film. And there were literally times I was waiting for The Joker to tell Batman and Nightwing to kiss his shiny metal ass.
But the worst of it was Jensen Ackles as Red Hood. The acting was so very flat and monotone that I couldn’t connect with the character. During a highly emotional scene at the film’s climax I found myself BORED, partially because Ackles’ intonation was exactly the same as it was in the rest of the film. I didn’t buy him as a damaged psycho who thought he was doing the right thing. And since this is the character central to all of the events, it hurt the rest of the film.
Despite this, the movie is absolutely worth watching. The story and the animation make up for the weakness in the voices. It’s certainly not my favorite DC Animated film (that honor goes to either Justice League: The New Frontier or Wonder Woman), but it’s also not my least favorite. It’s pretty, fun and violent. At which point, hey, I’ll take it!
Also: Batman drinks coffee.