114 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2011
So I am aware that posting reviews on these DC Warner Premiere titles is risky or precarious at best. The fans are quite knowledgeable and while some don't want a fluff review others are full of adoration for their favorite characters and want reviews that only say positive things. Having had the privelege to obtain and view the film a week before its planned release I am going to attempt to review the actual overall quality for those who are uncertain about making this purchase. While all opinions are obviously subjective I will try to state facts and point out any statements that are based more on my opinion to allow each individual to decide for themself.
Adaptation/Story: Overall this is an excellent adaptation, 10/10. The film follows the exact plot of the original Frank Miller graphic novel, and as has been stated in interviews with Bruce Timm and others, it doesn't leave any scenes out but some are added/very slightly rearranged. The added scenes, in my opinion, don't feel out of place. They are in tone with the original material and are also kept few and far between. Certain monologues/inner dialogues have been slightly changed or shortened but the essence of each is kept true to the source material.The story, needless to say, is fantastic and establishes Batman in a dark gritty world of realism, pure genius on the part of Frank Miller.
Note: Only a rewording of Bruce Wayne's opening monologue felt pointless to me, rather than saying he should've taken the train to be closer to the enemy he says from the plane he can't see the enemy. I feel his desire to be near the enemy was better felt with the original line. Sorry to nitpick.
Animation: Stunning 9/10. It is clean and crisp, which may seem contradictory to my next statement, they perfectly capture Mazzucchelli's gritty and realistic artwork and clearly let it drive the art direction of the film. It is well directed, with nearly every shot and design taken right from the graphic novel and having been brought to life, though Jim Gordon's jawline has been made slightly more defined. There is a wide array of fantastic color selection but still a muted tone that recalls the look of the graphic novel.
That said, my own personal preference for the fluid style of animation I was raised on (BTAS for example) leaves me feeling newer DC features often have a stiff/static feel to their animation no matter how beautiful it is, which is sometimes the case here. I've never been sure if this comes from intention in design, trying to emulate certain anime styles or if it has to do with budgetary constraints. In any case it isn't an issue for most and detracts little to nothing from the beauty and style of the animation. (For an example see the scene where Bruce Wayne kicks over the tree and how it falls over).
Voice Acting: Well done, 8/10 overall.
Eliza Dushku seemed an odd choice to me to play this version of Catwoman as she is caucasian and here Selina Kyle is African American (*several people have told me Selina isn't African American here, I seem to have made the same mistake I made with Luthor in Superman:TAS. I concede I was mistaken, nevertheless I still see her that way when I read the graphic novel or watch this, I always thought it added an interesting new dynamic). Dushku's voice work suits the character and brings real emotion, attitude and strength to Selina. She is able to flesh out the character surprisingly well given a short amount of screen time.
Bryan Cranston plays Jim Gordon. I am bias here as I am a huge fan of Cranston and his recent work on Breaking Bad, but I find him to portray Gordon as a relatable and likable man who is tough yet tired. Any occassional stiffness in his inner dialogues seems to be an intentional direction given by Andrea Romano and is faintly noticed at best.
Ben Mckenzie plays Bruce Wayne/Batman. I admit to being a fan of Mckenzie from my younger years watching The OC, but here I feel his voice seems out of place and somewhat forced, that's where voice acting loses points. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the film as a whole, and will likely grow on me over future viewings but his inner dialogues and monologues play very stale, especially the robotic opening dialogue, which had me concerned for the rest of the feature, but thankfully it levelled out as the film progressed and became more tolerable. The stiffness again seems to be partly an intentional choice but I feel a little more emotion could have been injected without risking oversentimentality.
Other voice actors do phenomenal work, Jeff Bennett and Grey Delisle are old pros while Katie Sackhoff and Jon Polito fit well into their characters. The only other misuse of voice besides Mckenzie, in my opinion, was Alex Rocco as Falcone/The Roman. I enjoy Rocco's voiceover on other series but he felt more like the voice of a thug than the boss of a high profile crime family.
Sound: 10/10. The score is used well and sparingly. This world is immersive and the sound effects are all realistic and chosen to enhance that immersive feeling. The final credits are amazing and really left me on a high, I hope all future titles incorporate panels from the source material into their closing credits, simply fantastic. The score over the final credits was also well done, a moody rock ballad, it felt like a Batman theme but was also reminiscent of the late 80's style, the era the story was first published and seems to be set in.
So overall I don't want to make this any longer than it has to be. It is a faithful adaptation, probably for my money the most faithfaul adaptation DC/Warner Premiere have done so far. I am bias as a huge Bat-fan but I place this and Batman: Under the Red Hood [Blu-ray] as the two best films so far, with Justice League: The New Frontier Special Edition [Blu-ray] coming in third. I would actually place this one above Red Hood only because I admire Frank Miller's story so much and find the world created to be so much more distinct and layered. With only 64 minutes of runtime this is a short film but an immersive one that merits repeat viewings, for me anyways.
I'll leave each reader up to their own decision based on this information but I say this is worth the money for fans of Batman or for fans of Frank Miller. Even better if you are a fan of both. I'm glad this time I wasn't disappointed. I also know that some question why so many of these releases have to feature Batman, why not some other DC heroes, but after seeing Year One pulled off this well I am personally hoping they attempt Batman: The Long Halloween in the near future.
Amazon's rating system is flawed, based on their five star system I love this film and give it 5 stars, if this was a rating out of 10 I would give an overall 9/10.
**For those, like myself, who once thought titles like The Long Halloween were an impossibility without butchering them for length there seems to be new hope. The upcoming adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns will be a two part production. If they do well we may yet see proper adaptations of Long Halloween and Dark Victory that are actually at the quality they deserve.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2011
Along with The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One has generally been considered one of the finest achievements in comic book writing of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Warner Brothers has produced an extremely faithful animated adaptation of the comic book. For those who enjoyed the comic book or who are interested in a sophisticated Batman story, Batman: Year One will definitely be worth watching.
As I've already said, this is a VERY faithful adaptation of the classic comic book story. It is different from other recent adaptations such as Marvel's Planet Hulk or even DC's Justice League: The New Frontier, which changed some aspects of the original storylines and added a lot of dialogue. In Batman: Year One much of the dialogue from the comic book was imported more or less wholesale into the animated film.
The story may come as a bit of a surprise to those who are not familiar with it. Many have said that it should really be called Commissioner Gordon: Year One because the story focuses so heavily on the commissioner and how he reacted to the sudden appearance of the Dark Knight. It is therefore quite different from the more Bruce Wayne centered perspective taken in the movies and elsewhere. The approach to Batman taken in this film is among the more realistic. He has a few gadgets but nothing like the high-tech stuff that he totes around in most recent comic books and films. He gets bruised in his battles with everyday hoodlums and can't take out twenty guys at once the way he can in other storylines. The Dark Knight also makes mistakes both in his judgments and his relationships. He doesn't seem to know everything and be able to track every situation as he does in many Justice League stories. It is in short a more human and less super heroic Batman than the one we see in other places.
I was impressed by how Warner Brothers managed to translate the gritty realism of the Batman: Year One comic book into the film. They didn't spare any of the sordid details of Gotham life. The prostitution, the violence, and the corruption of the police are all depicted in the film. This is very much as it should be. Gotham City just wouldn't be Gotham City without them.
The production values for this brief (slightly over an hour) film were also excellent. The animation is beautifully done and captures some of David Mazzuchelli's artistic style from the comic books. All of the voice actors (Ben McKenzie as Batman, Bryan Cranston as Commissioner Gordon and Eliza Dushku as Catwoman) turn in solid performances although I don't know if I like McKenzie as Batman quite as much as I like Kevin Conroy's rendition in the video game. Nevertheless, the animation and voice performances make this a pleasure to watch.
Why only four and a half stars? Sometimes faithful adaptations can be TOO faithful. The animated version of Batman: Year One falls into this trap. I loved the comic book version and enjoyed the film. But perhaps because I had read the comic book already, I found the animated film to be missing an element of surprise and suspense. The film adaptation of Watchmen (which I also generally enjoyed) had a similar problem in my view. Despite this criticism, if you liked the comic or just want to see a good Batman story I would recommend watching Batman: Year One.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2011
Very close to the original comic! Frank Miller's work brought to life with great animation and voice acting, I'm watching a second time to compare with the book, and it is worth it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Bruce Wayne, pre-Batman: "I'm not ready. I have the means... the skill... But something's missing. I have to wait."
In 1987 Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli launched the "Year One" craze with their BATMAN: YEAR ONE arc, a gripping look back at the earliest days of Gotham City's most driven and pointy-eared vigilante. For my money and most everyone else's, this arc is near as monumental as Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. It's certainly more noirish, more real, told on a more intimate stage. In the wake of BATMAN: YEAR ONE, DC soon churned out BATGIRL: YEAR ONE, JUSTICE LEAGUE: YEAR ONE, TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE... You get the picture. Even Dynamite Entertainment's jumped on the bandwagon with its SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE volume. Point being, BATMAN: YEAR ONE is so influential that it absolutely deserves an animated feature adaptation.
After living abroad for twelve years, 25-year-old Bruce Wayne, Gotham City's richest, most eligible bachelor, has come home to begin his crimefighting career and to kick off his perceived life of hedonism. No need to go into Bruce's childhood past. We know what happened and how it influenced the course of his life. But it's fascinating to eyeball Bruce Wayne as a rank amateur, still finding his legs, still bumbling about. His first sortie out in the crime-infested streets doesn't go well.
Except that I think of this arc as Jim Gordon: Year One even more so than Batman: Year One. It's a pure revelation meeting a young and badass Lieutenant Gordon, newly arrived to Gotham and living down a rep in Chicago as a badge what ratted out his fellow cops. He gazes around his new city and his bleak mood grows bleaker as he soaks in the city's widespread corruption. If ever a town needed cleaning up...
Adding to the misery is that Gotham's Finest are mostly dirty, and Gordon is advised by a crooked Lieutenant that cooperation amongst the boys in blue is key for survival (wink wink, nudge nudge). This advice falls on deaf ears. Jim Gordon is a righteous law enforcer. I don't know that he's a righteous husband to his pregnant wife. Not when his colleague is the attractive Detective Sarah Essen, diligently working on his cases, quiet temptation on long legs and voiced by Katee Sackhoff. What follows makes Jim Gordon a flesh and blood person, adds grays to his character.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE is also about how our two main characters came to form an alliance, the cop and the vigilante, essentially two sides of the same coin. We note how their respective story arcs spiral into their inevitable meeting and their wary regard of each other and the origins of a relationship based on mutual dependency. The vigilante who is assured that there's at least one honest cop in GCPD; the cop who takes comfort in knowing that someone on the outside has got his back. And I'll leave it up to you whether Jim Gordon in the end has actually sussed out the Batman's true identity.
Crooked cops. Rampant racketeering. A soiled dove named Selina Kyle inspired by the Batman's costume and derring-do (and voiced by Eliza Dushku). An effective low keyed noirish tone. Told from the alternating perspectives of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon. Both men get a chance to throw down. And while we're used to Batman's serving up all sorts of beatdowns, he's clearly not as polished, his moves and methods not yet perfected. It's unexpectedly thrilling to see Lt. Gordon claim vengeance on a crooked detective what had led an ambush on him. In a city of rampant lawlessness Gordon stands as an honorable but baaaaad mother. It's awesome watching him be this confident man of action, to see him dust off some martial arts moves. I love that while he doesn't talk smack, we're privy to what he's thinking. About to go toe to toe against a rival cop, he tosses him a bat and muses to himself: "It's been years since I had to take out a Green Beret. Even so, he deserves a handicap." Gordon proceeds to pwn the dirty cop.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE has a running time of 64 minutes which means that it's mostly lean, not much fat (you could argue that Selina Kyle's cameos are unnecessary, even if she was in Miller's source material). It's animated beautifully, but the only time I felt the artists were giving a nod to Mazzucchelli's style was when Wayne was in costume. Batman's visual design looks exactly how Mazzucchelli illustrated him. All in all, a laudable animated stab at one of the best Batman (and Jim Gordon) stories ever told.
The DC Showcase animated short (00:14:45 minutes running time) features Catwoman, again voiced by Eliza Dushku. It follows the pattern of previous DC Showcase shorts in that it is balls to the wall action, and the visuals are gorgeous and kinetic. But this isn't for the kids. There is implied nudity and, in pursuit of a pair of henchmen (they were shooting at a neighborhood cat), Catwoman ends up in a strip bar and takes a turn on the dance pole. Catwoman eventually comes face to face with the henchmen's boss, a vicious giant smuggler named Rough Cut. Theirs is a brutal rumble, with Catwoman receiving as good as she dishes out.
The DVD's other extras:
- JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM sneak peek (00:10:13 minutes long)
- ALL-STAR SUPERMAN sneak peek (00:10:45 minutes)
- GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS sneak peek (00:11:36)
- trailer promoting the app for DC digital comics
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2011
I've watched several of the DC animated features, but there have been two to date that adapted stories that I held near and dear in my younger days. The first -- the Death and Return of Superman -- was a huge departure from the original story, and while I understood the logic behind those changes, I found that movie to be a huge disappointment.
This one, however, gets much more right than wrong. I've read the source material hundreds of times, so of course there are some minor scenes here and there that I wanted to see brought to life. I was also a bit disappointed with they way McKenzie plays Bruce/Batman -- he sounds too robotic, though I think that was done intentionally to try to portray the tortured individual from the book. Other choices that stuck out mainly did so because they didn't fit what I've always had in my head for a particular character. For example, I've always imagined that Commissioner Loeb was intended to basically be Gordon Jump from WKRP, and Alex Rocco as the Roman just sounds way off. But, these are all minor, and I think this is as good of an adaptation as was possible without making a 4+ hour affair that recreates the original comics scene for scene. I'd probably still enjoy that, though).
I would imagine that a adaptation of Dark Knight Returns is coming down the road, and I'm excited to see how they pull that one off, too. I also would love to see Year Two made, though I suppose Mask of the Phantasm was already a pretty good version of that one.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2011
Batman Year One is the story of how Batman transitions from a vengeance seeking victim into the Gotham City crime fighter we know today. With far fewer gadgets, far more mistakes and no allies, BYO focuses on Batman as a newbie crime fighter - something that hasn't been done before in movies or animation. While many of us are sick of Hollywood prequel fever (i.e. Spiderman 4), BYO actually got it right by keeping it short and simple. No real cliffhangers, no super-complex plot, no huge leaps of faith (although I do question the last fight scene of the movie - man of foot chasing motorcycle and car...really???), and most importantly no major deviations from the original story line. Throughout the movie there was great attention to detail, I really felt like I was transported into the past to discover a side of Batman I never knew. BYO also has two parallel story lines (Lt. Gordan's 'on the job training' and an intro to Catwoman) that fit in nicely. Personally, I would have like to have seen a 2 or 3 minute flashback on Catwoman's background, but that's just me.
I gave BYO 5 stars and highly recommend it to DC and Marvel fans alike.
Congrats to producer Bruce Timm and team on another fantastic DCU animated movie.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
I thought the movie was well done and did a great job of following the comic. I'm not not going to over analyze the details of the movie or complain about the voicing, if you want to find a problem with something you will. I thought Batman Year One the movie did a great job of following the comic and I loved the movie.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
I love the Year One comic. It's my favorite Batman story. If someone were to ask me the best part about it, I would say, "The internal monologue." That's the storytelling device Frank Miller chose, and it's the spine, skull, and bones of the creature that is Year One. That's what made the comic so great: Whether it was fear, determination, or courage, the thoughts inside Batman and Gordon's noggin were very engaging.
So, I was a little surprised when I found that it seems the Year One movie-makers didn't seem to "get" this. There are two problems with how this plays out:
1. Bruce's voice sounds bored the whole time. All of his reflections, all of his convictions, sound, well... sleepy. When he punches and kicks a hard tree stump while deciding whether or not he can be the Batman, and he says, "I'm not ready... not yet," the comic had him gritting his teeth like he's a furnace of pent-up rage. But in the movie, he sounds passive, bored, and like he's about to yawn. This is a voice-acting role for someone to BRING IT. Year One's Batman voice needed to be someone who could growl out his fierce lines through clenched teeth. Brian Cranston brings a good gravelly tone to Gordon, but Batman sounds like the guy who makes your sandwich at Subway. He's just... there. In the comic, he keeps a cool exterior, but his internal monologue is so, so... motivated. Committed. Angry. Brave. He stares at people without flinching but in his mind and heart, there is a lot of interesting stuff going on. Here, they kill it. It's like Batman's having trouble paying attention to the whole "Batman" thing and is thinking about whether to get tacos or pizza on the way home from crime figthing.
2. There is not enough internal monologue. Again, this is the major story-telling tool, so it is surprising to find that they SKIP a lot of it. I get that the characters are sometimes doing boring stuff in the comic (like walking down a rainy street) but the reader never got bored because you could read as fast as you wanted: You didn't finish a word balloon and then sit there staring at the same frame before going forward. There are a lot of scenes in the movie where boring things are happening and INTERNAL MONOLOGUE WAS WRITTEN IN THE COMIC but the movie inexplicably skips it and has someone silently walking along.
These problems combine to make a great story ultimately boring. I bought this and regret it. It's a rental... sorry bat-fans.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2012
This film is an adaption of the comic written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzuchelli. The adaption of the story to the visual medium was done quite well. The majority of the plot was transferred intact and the story structure of the film seemed rushed in parts, but overall, the story structure remained functional.
Other aspects of the adaption of the story did not make as graceful an adaptation. The animation which is heavily inspired by Japanese Anime, appears ghostly and character often appear to have little in the way of definition. The animators also were overly fond of including shadows, which are everywhere and are often inconsistent. Often there are long shadows of the background of the piece but the characters in the mid0-ground seem to have no shadow at all. Backgrounds in this film are also a serious disappointment, as they are often drab and lifeless landscapes with little to no activity. The action scenes seriously suffer from this as it makes it difficult to feel motivated as the characters careen through drab grey backgrounds. The editor of this film was either not paying attention or encountered monetary constraints with the animation studio, as Batman year one has a distinctly unfinished feel.
The voice acting in Batman Year One is the films biggest failing. Aside from the voice acting of Commissioner Gordon (Bryan Cranston)and a respectable if unexceptional performance of Catwoman (Eliza Duskhu) the voice acting is atrocious. Ben McKenzie's portrayal of Batman is painful to the ears, a dull atonal monotone which would be more appropriate in a high school production of Hamlet. The performances of the rest of the characters, including the portrayal of Carmine Falcone by Alex Rocco, are imminently forgettable.
The performance of Steve Blum as the news anchor and a number of supporting characters was also lackluster. This was mostly due to the fact that Mr. Blum has 3 voices: Steve Blum, Spike Spegiel, and Wolverine. Should anyone in the industry be reading this, please desist hiring Steve Blum to provide half of your vocal cast. His voice is too distinctive and your target audience has seen a large amount of his previous work and can easily discern his voice, usually to the detriment of the movie experience.
The Blu-Ray extras, however, are a mark in the films favor. The short "Catwoman" is especially enjoyable despite the fact that it shares the same ghosty animation as the title feature. The three mini-documentaries are interesting and well done and the audio tracks are a must-listen for comic fans.
I would only suggest this film to those who are already fans of comics in general, though If you happen to dislike Japanese animation or the work of Frank Miller (Pre-Dementia) I suggest you give this film a pass.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2013
The voice work wasn't very good, the story wasn't detailed and the film didn't have an exciting epic superhero feel to it. I'm not one of these people who goes into any and every Batman movie and/or cartoon thinking it will be a kids' movie, so adult Batman fans out there, I'm not reviewing it based on strong language or adult themes being inappropriate for kids. I have read so many poor reviews where this is all that is talked about. There were only a few instances of strong language. About the same as most any movie these days. And I don't consider Batman really for kids. I'm giving it a poor review because it simply isn't really a good movie. It was kind of...well, stupid. The film is based more around Jim Gordon. He's a likeable character, but not in doses like that. And bottom line, while I may not have a problem with Gordon and following his story arc, come on, it's Batman I care about. If you're a Batman fanatic like me, but aren't so obsessed with owning everything Batman that you buy the bad stuff, give this a one-time rental for curiosities' sake, and that's it. Amazon on-demand is about the only place you can find it for rental anymore.