Blu-ray Review: BATMAN – YEAR ONE

Warner Home Video
MSRP: $24.98
Release date: October 18, 2011
Starring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Katee Sackhoff
Screenplay by Tab Murphy
Directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu

Batman Year One was originally four issues of Batman comics written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli in 1987 that brought Batman back to his hardboiled roots. It takes place as Bruce Wayne returns from twelve years of training and Jim Gordon arrives from Chicago to join Gotham’s corrupt police department.

The comics arc focuses on fleshing out Jim Gordon as a character and Gotham as a place where Batman stories could occur. Having recently read a trade paperback of Batman Year One, I went into the movie wondering what might be changed or expanded as Warner Bros. Animation has successfully done in previous adaptations. The audio commentary track reveals that, by order of executive producer Bruce Timm, the movie is the closest adaptation of the comics that Warner Bros. has done yet.

The main feature is about ten minutes shorter than most DC animated movies, but this matches the shorter source material. Bryan Cranston brings weight and humility to Gordon, and Katee Sackhoff plays well off him as Det. Sarah Essen. Ben McKenzie doesn’t drop the ball as Batman/Bruce Wayne, but again, this is more Gordon’s story. Though rated PG-13, this is probably the most adult movie in DC’s direct-to-video line, just as the original comics arc was a level of grit and realism a generation of readers hadn’t seen.

The Blu-ray’s extras include the aforementioned feature-length commentary by executive producer Alan Burnett, voice director Andrea Romano, co-director Sam Liu, and DC Comics executive Mike Carlin; a new, racy Catwoman cartoon featuring Eliza Dushku; a roundtable with Michael Uslan (producer on the Batman films since 1989), comics writers Dennis O’Neil and Scott Snyder, and DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio; a featurette charting Batman’s history; two Catwoman-centered episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and sneak peeks of other DC animated movies (including the upcoming Justice League: Doom).

Recommended to anyone who’s dreamed of seeing Frank Miller’s seminal story arc animated, or any animation fan looking to be introduced to the comics arc.

–Gerald So
For more of Gerald’s thoughts and observations, check out his blog: If you want to know about my Life…