Batman: Year One (2011) – Review

4 Stars


After the dismal Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, DC Comics animated division is back with perhaps their greatest release to date. Taking its script from the seminal 1987 comic series penned by Frank Miller this very adult tale is the cartoon equivalent to Nolan’s Batman films. It’s a dark, somewhat nihilistic journey filled with brutality and moments of high drama. Some viewers may be disappointed in the lack of screen-time for the Dark Knight, but those familiar with the source material already know this is essentially a origins story of James Gordon not Bruce Wayne. I have no problem with Batman being sidelined for a gritty tale of police corruption in the Gotham police department. Gordon is a true bad-ass as he fights off dirty cops, a commissioner on the take and a town overrun with crime.

The story follows the first year Gordon spends on the force and Bruce Wayne’s initial attempts at vigilantism. The feature runs about 70 minutes yet it feels like a complete experience and not some kiddie flick knock off. The Dark Knight’s universe lends itself well to animation (obviously) and here the designers have gone with a retro-noir look that recalls Polanski’s Chinatown crossed with Alex Proyas’ Dark City. The environment feels lived in and dreadful.

It has been years since I cracked the pages of my original edition Batman: Year One comic book and my recollections of the plot were a little hazy. It was to the point of being genuinely surprised at the plot developments and story arcs, particularly a subplot involving Lt. Gordon’s illicit affair with a co-worker. Like I said pretty heavy stuff for an animated feature released under a banner recognized for catering to young boys. Batman: Year One carries a PG-13 rating and the picture earns it. It also earns my respect for being a classy production with good voice work from its starry cast members and provoking an emotional response from this reviewer.

I’m not sure if there are plans to continue the series and bring to the screen the rest of Miller’s epic story arc, but based on Year One I think the creative team is off to a great start and I eagerly await the follow-ups. Not only is it the best animated feature of the year, but also one of the year’s best films period.

Director: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku

3 thoughts on “Batman: Year One (2011) – Review

  1. Very well written review. It is personally my favorite DC animated video yet but it was a good change of pace to the more action driven videos they put out. Like you said it showcased Gordon just as much as Batman, coming into a police department full of curruption and sticking to his integrity (for the most part). I also gained some more respect for him after his street fight with his partner. Being a recent law enforcement graduate and just getting started in the Dallas, TX area it gave me new perspective especially with the recent curruption incidents in some Dallas departments. Like I said excellet review. I look forward to the next DC animated DVD.

    Drew

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