Blu-ray Review: BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD

Release date: July 27, 2010
MSRP: $29.99
Warner Home Video
Starring the voices of: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs.
Written by Judd Winnick
Directed by Brandon Vietti
Runtime: 75 minutes
Rated: PG-13

The eighth DCU animated direct-to-DVD feature tackles one of the most momentous and controversial events in Batman’s history, the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. Created as a replacement for the grown Dick Grayson, Jason Todd’s backstory was initially the same as Grayson’s. His post-Crisis reimagined origin as a street orphan who steals the Batmobile’s hubcaps made for an unpopular character who was killed by the Joker, thanks to an historic call-in vote.

Todd resurfaced in earnest in 2005, when Judd Winick revealed him as the latest villainous Red Hood. Winick adapts that story arc for Batman: Under The Red Hood, and to me, it’s the first of DC’s animated features to surpass Superman Doomsday in terms of story. (Yes, Superman “died,” but he was still Superman. Jason Todd is just Jason Todd.)

Bruce Greenwood plays a dark, but tortured Batman, still haunted by his failure to reach Jason in time. The versatile Neil Patrick Harris slides right into the role of Nightwing/Dick Grayson. John DiMaggio plays a gnarled Joker matching Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. Finally, and most important, Jensen Ackles as Jason walks the line between hero and villain.

You may still dislike Jason Todd after all these years, but what drives the movie is really what his loss did to Batman. Also, how was Jason different from those who’ve fared better in the Robin role? Why weren’t they all consumed by darkness?

The Blu-ray release includes an exclusive featurette on Jason Todd along with the DVD featurettes on Dick Grayson and the next DCU animated movie, Superman/Batman Apocalypse, a Jonah Hex animated short, four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and trailers for three other DCU animated movies.

–Gerald So