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Customer Review

119 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "From Here, It Looks Like An Acheivement", October 12, 2011
This review is from: Batman: Year One [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 13, 2011 7:24:31 AM PDT
Tiger CK says:
Great review. Although (as I mention in my review below) I was slightly less enthused. I also thought that they did a good job. I think they should do The Dark Knight Returns or The Dark Knight Strikes Again (very underrated) next. It would be interesting to see how they translate the older Batman into an animated film.

Posted on Oct 13, 2011 12:38:02 PM PDT
I would love to see an adaptation of "The Long Halloween" and "Dark Victory" as well. I also felt that some of the minor changes with the dialogue and narration minimized the overall emotional impact of Bruce Wayne's journey into becoming Batman. That opening line of dialogue about how he should've taken the train being one example and then the fight between he and the three teenage thugs on the balcony where they removed his inner monologue altogether left his character a little under-developed.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2011 12:44:46 PM PDT
Agreed about the fight scene, I only mentioned the opening because I felt it started off on the wrong foot, then I didn't want to continue to nitpick. Dark victory would be amazing, I'm also fond but less expecting haunted knight, catwomen when in Rome and even the Hush storyline. I hope other dv heroes get their due but batman simply had a wealth of great standalone stories

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2011 12:49:06 PM PDT
Tiger CK says:
I'd also love to see The Long Halloween or Dark Victory. The only concern is whether Warner would end up cutting out too much content (Long Halloween is a pretty detailed story). They seem to have an aversion for making animated films that are over 70 or 80 minutes. I don't want them to butcher one of these graphic novels the way Marvel destroyed Planet Hulk when they turned it into an animated film

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2011 12:52:39 PM PDT
True, I doubt they'd go longer than 80 minutes and can't see them splitting the story or attempting a mini series type, still if the next few features are as good as this I'd take a retelling of the story just to see Tim sale's art in animation, haunted knight might be a better starting point for them tho

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2011 3:59:53 PM PDT
Paul Acevedo says:
Aww, I thought Planet Hulk did a great job. Obviously it ended early, but up till then it was pretty accurate. (And I didn't like the original ending anyway, ha ha).

But I agree, there is a danger in adapting longer stories when neither Marvel nor DC wants to give them more than 70 minute running times (with several minutes dedicated to credits).

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 10:47:14 PM PDT
Ragamuffin says:
Good review and I also hated the robotic Batman voice actor. But if you thought this version of Catwoman/Selina Kyle was African American then you REALLY need to adjust the color/gamma settings on your TV. She's clearly caucasian; just rewatch the first street fight between her and "Thug Bruce." There are African American bystanders who are clearly black. Did you think she was black simply because of her dark cropped/pixie cut hair style? That's exactly how it looks in the original comic.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2011 4:49:25 AM PDT
Yeah I guess I will have to correct my review, several people have pointed that out to me lately.

I don't know why, the hair the body type what have you, but ever since the first time I read Year One I thought she was African American, only in looking back do I see that she and Bruce have the same skin tone in their shared scenes. Hopefully it doesn't look prejudice on my part, just something I always thought and never looked at until it was pointed out to me

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2011 4:52:37 AM PDT
Then again I was also one of those kids who thought Lex Luthor on Superman TAS was black until Bruce Timm said otherwise in the commentaries. It doesn't make a difference but I always thought it was cool when I thought Frank Miller and the Superman TAS guys where trying to diversify the characters.

Posted on Oct 21, 2011 3:12:20 PM PDT
The line about the train being gone makes sense -- Bruce is returning from EUROPE. Unless there's a DCU equivalent of a Chunnel train that somehow connects Europe to Gotham City, the original line in the comic didn't really make sense.
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