Top positive review
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(3.5 Stars) Good Movie with some caveats
on October 25, 2011
"Batman: Year One" is an interesting movie covering Batman's humble beginnings as he gradually learns the ropes to become the Dark Knight we all know today. However, the gem of this movie is the exploration of the human side of an otherwise rarely fleshed-out character, Lieutenant (later Commissioner) Jim Gordon, and the beginnings of respect and friendship that Batman and Gordon form in the early stages of their respective crime-fighting careers. Much of the movie focuses on Gordon's return to the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) and all of the stress that entails; Gordon is an honest cop afloat in a sea of corrupted city officials that he must learn to keep his guard up with or face dire consequences for him and his family. The tale is presented (true to its comic lineage) as a gritty, well thought out origin-story replete with appearances from Harvey Dent (Two Face), Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Vicki Vale and everyone's favorite butler, Alfred.
Being a huge fan of the title graphic novel , I was pleasantly surprised at how faithful the movie adaptation tracked with the original writing. Sure everything is not 100% the same, like certain scenes being extended (Selina's fight with a disguised Bruce Wayne), some cut short, and some minor dialogue changes - but everything is so close to the graphic novel in its presentation and style - you can tell that the producers truly wanted to honor Frank Miller's vision of Batman's beginnings.
ANIMATION: The animation of the film is very well done. The depictions of scenes on screen are practically taken out of the graphic novel and made a thing of motion. The colors have of course been adapted to be more visually appealing on screen, however the selection of color used allowed them to translate scenes to film without loosing the "feel" of grittiness. We watched the movie in Blu-Ray, and the animation picture quality was very crisp.
Though the animation is done very well, this movie lost some points from me due to the attempted "3-D" input which seems to plague many animated movies today. To explain what I am talking about: when a plane flies, or a car chase scene occurs, the animated pictures assumes more of a 3-D feel to it instead of remaining completely animated. I'm sure some individuals enjoy this, but I do not. To me, it takes me out of the movie and looks "cheap" even though I'm sure it was just an artistic choice by the producers.
ACTORS: I thought that the voice actors for this movie did a good job of portraying their characters, with one glaringly important exception: Ben Mckenzie as Batman/Bruce Wayne. In my opinion (and those that watched the movie with me) McKenzie was just not right for this roll. He did not "sound" like Batman. Granted, Batman is younger in this movie, but the edge to his voice, and the fire of someone that had dedicated his life to avenging his parents' murders was just not there. Additionally, some of the monologue lines presented by McKenzie practically sounded like they were being read instead of acted, it was as if there was no emotion behind them; even if the intent was to present a detached character, it still came across very hollow. Near the last 3/4 of the movie, McKenzie's presentation of BW/BM became a little better, but still left me wishing that they had cast someone more appropriate for the role.
CONCLUSION: "Batman: Year One" is a relatively short movie at just over an hour (64 minutes) but none of that hour is wasted - there is either character building, or plot-driven action during the entire movie - though I still wish it were longer. The production team has gone to great lengths to stay very faithful to the source material, so if you liked the "Batman: Year One" graphic novel, you will probably like this movie if for no other reason than to see the graphic novel brought to life. Why 3.5 stars? The voice acting by McKenzie really brought the movie down for me, and left me with a "meh" feeling that the other recent Batman movies never did; I think with the proper casting for BW/BM, I really would have loved this movie. Bottom line - if you are a Batman fan (like me), and think you would enjoy a cartoon-update depicting a "real world" grittier version of his crime-fighting beginnings, then you will probably enjoy watching this movie. My only recommendation would be to rent it before buying it due to the issues I noted.