This weekend we have another of the DC animated movies for review – this one an adaptation of a fairly recent Batman storyline, post Infinite Crisis.

Cast and Crew Information

Bruce Greenwood as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Jensen Ackles as The Red Hood
John DiMaggio as Joker
Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing
Jason Isaacs as Ra’s al Ghul
Wade Williams as Black Mask
Kelly Hu as Ms. Li
Alexander Martella as Young Robin/Jason Todd
Vincent Martella as Robin/Jason Todd
Jim Piddock as Alfred Pennyworth
Bruce Timm as The Riddler/Additional Voices

Written by Judd Winick
Produced by Bruce Timm
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Amazon.com, and on Netflix Streaming. The physical disk includes a Jonah Hex short – This was watched on Netflix Streaming.

Premise

Robin II – Jason Todd, is brutally murdered by The Joker after Ra’s Al Ghul hires him to distract Batman and Robin while he attempts to destroy the world banking system. Many years later, a new mysterious player appears on the Gotham organized crime scene, calling himself “The Red Hood”, and targeting Black Mask’s control of Gotham’s gun and drug trade with rather brutal methods. Batman finds himself facing a new opponent who knows more about him, then Batman knows about the Hood.

High Points

This film does a very good job of getting the feel of modern Batman stories in the comic. While Batman: the Animated Series had to pull its punches because it was on television – this doesn’t have to do that.

I also need to applaud the very good performances by Jensen Ackles (from Supernatural) as The Red Hood, NPH as Nightwing, and in particular, Jim Piddock as Alfred. I honestly though Efram Zimbalist Jr. was playing Alfred in this film until the credits rolled. Bruce Greenwood did a good job of playing an older Batman then the performance I usually associate with Kevin Conway.

Low Points

John DiMaggio got a lot of unjustified flak for his performance as the Joker (criticism of note including his performance as essentially “Bender in a Joker Suit”). However, the DiMaggio doesn’t feel comfortable in the role – and for good reason. He’s the first new actor to take on the role of The Joker since The Dark Knight came out. Prior to that, the iconic Joker performance was Mark Hamill’s. Here I felt that DiMaggio was trying to find a good balance between Hamill and Ledger here, as while this version of the Joker certainly has his Hamill-esque manic moments, he also has his Ledger-esque extremely brutal moments – and he switches between them very quickly. Consequently, DiMaggio switches quickly between Ledger Style and Hamill style, without a lot of middle ground.

Content Advisory

This has received a PG-13 from the MPAA, and I would describe it as a hard PG-13. Red Hood blows the brains out of an assassin sent to kill him, with the death depicted off camera, with blood being splattered on a wall, after a gun is placed to the assassin’s head. For those familiar with the Death in the Family storyline – where Jason Todd dies – the climax of that is depicted in fairly graphic detail. For those unfamiliar – Jason Todd is beaten to the brink of death by The Joker with a crowbar, and then left to die in a building wired with explosives and a timer. There is also some minor profanity, and no nudity.

Scores

Originality: This is an adaptation, but one that makes a few adaptations from the original so that audiences aren’t required to be familiar with Infinite Crisis or any of the follow-ups. 3 out of 6.

Animation: Solid overall. There were no sequences where I felt that the animation particularly went downhill. It felt like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, but with a more modern looking Gotham. 4 out of 6.

Story: Well done – everything was put together into a cohesive whole, with no plot holes that I saw, and certainly doing a great job of introducing the modern Batman as he exists DC Comics to this DCU. 4 out of 6.

Voice Acting: Aside from the Low Point, the voice acting is excellent – Andrea Romano always does an excellent job in casting and directing voice performances. 5 out of 6.

Production: Sound design was fantastic, and the score by Christopher Drake was very well done, complete with some nice references to Hans Zimmer’s scores for the Dark Knight Saga. 5 out of 6.

Emotional Response: This was okay. The film’s main problem is that the big twist of the comic storyline, that Jason Todd is alive, has no possible impact here. Comics fans already know going in, more or less. If you don’t know, the fact that we start with a flashback to Jason Todd’s death, and that we see Ra’s Al Ghul involved in this makes it clear what will likely happen. 3 out of 6.

Overall: This was a well done adaptation, and I forward to DC Animated films in this style. 5 out of 6.

In Total, Batman: Under The Red Hood gets 29/42.