BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
Yasuhiro Aoki, Shojiro Nishimi
What's it about
The mythos of the grim caped crusader is explored in these six interlocking stories that take place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. From tangling with crime boss Moroni and a new crime boss known only as The Russian, to a trek through the sewers tracking down Killer Croc and a cult manipulated through fear by The Scarecrow, to a glimpse as part of Bruce Wayne's past in dealing with and burying his pain, these widely seperate yet chronological tales are animated with a Japanese anime style, and manage to completely ignore the comic source material! Huh?
Is it good movie?
First off, just so all of the fans who will cry "You're not a true Batman fan if you hate this film" will know where I'm coming from, I am a lover of all things Batman. I have been since I read Frank Miller's Batman: Year One miniseries when I was a kid. Yes, I read the comic books. All of them. Yes, I too thought Schumacher's films were shitty to the point of blasphemy. Nolan's Batman Begins breathed new life into the screen mythos of the Batman, one that echoed Miller so perfectly. Now with the absolute ass-kickery that is The Dark Knight killing the box office (and the critics and fans), Warner Brothers should be ashamed of this direct to DVD animated mess. Animated Batman stories have up until now been pure gold. The 90's Batman: The Animated Series is an unequaled classic, Batman Beyond was seriously fun, and even the new kid The Batman has its large quotient of awesome. Thank the bat-gods for Bruce Timm, because if the realm of Batman animation was left in the hands of the guys behind this movie, then the character would dry up and fizzle away.
The fact is that Japanese anime style is so unsuited to the look, feel, in fact the entire world, of Batman. Don't get me wrong, I love anime (with the killer good work on Death Note, Blood +, Evangelion and Trinity Blood being among my many favourites). But here, the character animation is seriously lacking in almost every respect. Mind you, the backgrounds, locations, city shots and technology are all drawn with picture perfection, but the characters all look deformed and goofy, as if they were put through factory presses and morphing gizmos. The lanky arms and f*cked up faces do not suit this world at all, especially when compared to the hyper-realism of Nolan's filmic visions. In one segment, the David Goyer scripted In Darkness Dwells, instead of looking muscular, Batman looks like he's about 80 pounds overweight, like some fat guy reject from a Bakshi toon. In the final tale, Deadshot, the faces are so distorted that Bruce Wayne looks like he has a giant dick protruding from his chin! This is seriously sub-par animation here folks. Animation styles that worked to near perfection in other tie-ins like The Animatrix look so out of place and crappy here. There is no depth of field, which really detracts from the stories themselves.
As for story, while a couple of the tales are a little light and ambiguous, there are some nuggets of primo Batman myth and action mixed in. Introducing some of the smaller characters from The dark Knight, like Moroni or the good cop turned crooked Ramirez, was a nice touch. Personally, I would have preferred less of an anthology, with the disjointed writing styles and levels of talent, and more of a straightforward linear tale that actually had a bloody story arc. While the six stories themselves are interesting, the lack of any narrative thread or drive (and the absence of most of the impressive rogue's gallery of villains) really drags this dead dog down. Fans of the more loosely drawn anime styles might dig it, but as a long time Batman fan, I just didn't get into it. There are much better Batman animated tales out there, so despite the talent attached to this project (man, David Goyer is insidious), and aside from a few inspired moments that were pretty cool, this collection should be flushed down the same toilet as Batman And Robin and the nipples on the Batsuit.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.78:1.
Audio: English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, & Thai (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) with closed captioning in English.
There is the killer trailer for The Dark Knight, or as it's called in my house The Most Kick Ass Movie Ever, as well as a nifty look at the development and early rough stages of an animated Wonder Woman movie. Hey, with Nathan Filion, this looks like it'll kick ass. Well, at least it'll be better than the DVD the preview is on!
While you might think that Batman and anime would make a fine marriage of creative energies, this lazily drawn mess of an anthology fizzles and dies even during the first few minutes. The stories are disjointed and don't have the depth of character and myth that the more recent Nolan movies have. And they can't even come close to the stellar work of other Batman animated adaptations, or to the complete asskickery of the comics. It's too bad, because a quality animated tale (with narrative cohesion and better visuals) would have been a nice bridge between Nolan's films. Next time, they should rely on Bruce Timm to bring the Bat to the cartoon world, because he and his team are the only ones that can do it justice. The only thing I enjoyed about this one was the return of Kevin Conroy (of The Animated Series) as the voice of Batman. Other than that, I could have skipped this one. Watch The Animated Series Season 4 instead.