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BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD [BLU-RAY]

 



Batman: Under the Red Hood [Blu-ray]
 

Actors: Bruce Greenwood, John Di Maggio, Wade Williams, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris
Director:
Brandon Vietti
Writers:
Judd Winick
Producers: Alan Burnett, Bruce W. Timm
Format:
Animated, Color, Special Edition, Widescreen
Language:
English
Aspect Ratio:
1.77:1
Number of discs:
2
Rated:
PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio:
Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date:
July 27, 2010
Run Time:
75 minutes
 

Special features:

  • Featurette: Robin’s Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd - The story of how DC Comics heard the fan outcry and reshaped the Robin character for the new millennium.
  • 2 bonus episodes from Batman The Animated Series Season 1 handpicked by Bruce Timm
  • Next Upcoming DCU Sneak Peak (10 min)
  • DC Showcase: Jonah Hex – animated short. The tough-as-nails bounty hunter Jonah Hex always gets his man – until someone else gets to him first – in this case a murderous madam who wants to steal more than just his bounty from Jonah Hex. Based on a story from the award-winning Jonah Hex comic series.
  • Featurette: Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson- Explore the evolution of the character through the years.
     

Movie:
Disc:
 

As DC comics’ direct-to-DVD series rolls on, they’ve moved away from origins stories and into deeper parts of their mythology.

That carries with it both risks and rewards, for while eager fans may love seeing a favorite plot arc show up, newcomers may easily become lost. It’s also worth noting that the more involved pieces tend to constitute the weaker entries in the series, with the likes of Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier rapidly eclipsed by the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman origin stories.

Having said that, it’s awfully hard to go wrong with Batman. Thanks to Christopher Nolan, the Caped Crusader has never been more popular, and new fans may be more willing to explore the lesser-known corners of his past than that of other superheroes. Under the Red Hood makes a good place to start, encapsulating one of the most important chapters in the character’s history and yet rendering it modestly accessible to people with only a passing knowledge of the characters.

Considering how much goes on within it, that’s a surprisingly tall order.

It begins with the death of Jason Todd: the second Robin, who took up the mantle from Boy Wonder #1 Dick Grayson, only to meet his end courtesy of the Joker (voiced by John DiMaggio). Five years later, Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) soldiers on alone, though occasionally aided by Dick (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), who now goes by the title of Nightwing. Then a new vigilante appears in their midst, calling himself the Red Hood and adopting lethal tactics which Batman himself always distained. The path to uncovering the man’s identity leads them back to Jason’s death, and brings the Joker, Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by Jason Isaacs) and Gotham gangsters like the Black Mask (voiced by Wade Williams) along for the ride.

The sheer size of the cast requires a rapid delivery, squeezing the drama into a tight 75 minutes without losing track of anyone. Not every character shines under such conditions; Nightwing, in particular, all but vanishes midway through, leaving one to wonder why he was included at all. (A sterling vocal performance from Harris makes up the difference, revealing Dick’s natural joie de vivre while providing a resolute sounding board for Batman’s guilt and grief.)

For the most part, director Brandon Vietti establishes an ideal balancing point between his gaggle of villains, allowing their various schemes to unfold without overshadowing each other. He keeps the primary conflict - between Batman and the Red Hood - in the forefront at all times, using the remainder as garnishes to highlight their struggle. The new boy in town raises some disturbing questions for the big B, like whether the Red Hood’s harsher tactics are actually for the best, or what kind of harm is caused by leaving figures like the Joker alive. Under the Red Hood doesn’t have much time to ponder the specifics, but it makes the most of it, girding the copious chase scenes and fistfights with solid dramatic resonance, and helping us explore the characters’ souls even as we thrill to their exploits.

The animation itself remains as striking as DC’s other DVDs, bringing a distinctive look to Batman’s world while still echoing the character’s previous incarnations. Strong vocal work lends further weight to the proceedings, notably Greenwood who has the enviable task of stepping into the shoes of the great Kevin Conroy and who proves more than up to the task. (DiMaggio struggles a bit more - Mark Hamill’s take on the Joker may never be topped - though he does eventually find his own tone for the Clown Prince of Crime.) The narrative remains tight and suspenseful, while still allowing a modicum of humor into the proceedings, and Vietti provides sufficient back-story without losing his way amid unimportant minutia.

The results definitely speak to the initiated more than the casual viewer; Batman fans can slide into it without a second thought, while others should be prepared for the odd bit of confusion here and there. The producers probably knew that going in, however, and if Under the Red Hood demands a little prior knowledge, it rewards those efforts with another reliable piece of work from DC’s increasingly impressive library. It knows the story it wants to tell and does right by all the figures involved; we’ve come to expect nothing less and the filmmakers here don’t disappoint.

THE DISC: Two sharp documentaries accompany the main feature - one on Dick Grayson and one on Jason Todd - intended to illustrate how the two characters evolved. The other added features follow the same pattern as DC’s other animated movies: a short centered around a little-known DC character (in this case Jonah Hex, whose slick exploits here remind us how dreadful the live-action movie really was); a preview for the next movie; and a quartet of episodes from Batman: The Animated Series (including the brilliant “Mad Love,” which charts the origins of Harley Quinn).

WORTH IT? A definite buy for Batman fans, but those unfamiliar with figures like the Black Mask or the whole Jason Todd business should be ready to do a little research before watching.

RECOMMENDATION: Pick it up. It makes for another honorable addition to DC’s home video collection.
 

- Rob Vaux


 



 

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