Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: "Batman: Gotham Knight" is Batman New and Different

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 95 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – straight-to-video
Running minutes: 76 minutes (1 hour, 16 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for stylized violence, including some bloody images
DIRECTORS: Yasuhiro Aoki (segment "In Darkness Dwells"); Yuichiro Hayashi (segment "In the Darkness Dwells"); Futoshi Higashide (segment "Crossfire"); Toshiyuki Kubooka (segment "Working Through Pain"); Hiroshi Morioka (segment "Field Test"); Jong-Sik Nam (segment "Deadshot"); and Shojirou Nishimi (segment "Have I Got a Story For You")
WRITERS: Stories by Jordan Goldberg; screenplays by Josh Olson ("Have I Got a Story); Greg Rucka ("Crossfire"); Brian Azzarello (“Working Through Pain”); Alan Burnett ("Deadshot"); Jordan Goldberg ("Field Test"); and David Goyer ("In Darkness Dwells"); based on Batman created by Bob Kane
PRODUCERS: Toshi Hiruma; executive producers: Benjamin Melniker, Emma Thomas, Bruce W. Timm, and Michael E. Uslan
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Michiya Katou, Kenji Takehara, and Kôji Tanaka
EDITOR: Joe Gall
COMPOSERS: Christopher Drake, Robert J. Kral, and Kevin Manthei


Starring: (voices) Kevin Conroy, Corey Burton, Gary Dourdan, Ana Ortiz, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Jim Meskimen

Batman: Gotham Knight is a direct-to-video superhero animated film from Warner Bros. Animation. Starring DC Comics character Batman, this film is an anthology of six animated short films inspired by anime – Japanese animation. Batman: Gotham Knight is also the third feature in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line. This film is meant to act as a bridge between the live action movies, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), while delving into Batman’s past and his troubled psyche.

In these six stories, Batman (Kevin Conroy) faces new villains and old ones. In the opening story, “Have I Got a Story for You,” street kid, B Devil, meets his three friends Porkchop, Meesh, and Dander, at a skate park. Each tells B Devil a wildly different story about Batman’s battle with the Man in Black, a high tech criminal. The second story, “Crossfire,” focuses on Crispus Allen (Gary Dourdan) and Anna Ramirez (Ana Ortiz), two members of the Gotham City Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit. They get caught in the crossfire between rival crime lords and their gangs. Batman, whom Allen detests, comes to their rescue.

In the third story, “Field Test,” Lucius Fox (Kevin Michael Richardson) creates a new technology that will protect Batman from bullets, but is it too powerful? “In Darkness Dwells,” Batman travels deep below the streets of Gotham City to rescue a Catholic cardinal kidnapped by Killer Croc, who serves The Scarecrow (Corey Burton).

“Working Through Pain” finds Batman wounded and trapped in the city sewers, while his mind flashbacks to the mysterious woman who taught him to manage pain. Finally, in “Deadshot,” Floyd Lawton (Jim Meskimen), the assassin known as Deadshot, targets James “Jim” Gordon (Jim Meskimen) for assassination. Can Batman stop this killer that can pull off practically any shot?

“Have I Got a Story for You,” “Crossfire,” and “Field Test” are nice, interesting experiments in animated short films as storytelling, but they are more interesting than good. “In Darkness Dwells,” is better than those. “Working Through Pain” and “Deadshot” are by far the best pieces in Batman: Gotham Knight. The last three films are both good Batman stories that are executed exceptionally well.

While Batman: Gotham Knight is an American movie production that is written by Americans, the animation or anime is directed, designed, executed, and produced by Japanese animation studios: Bee Train (the .hack franchise), Madhouse (the Trigun television series), Production I.G. (the Ghost in the Shell franchise), and Studio 4°C (Tekkon Kinkreet). These studios present lots of visually interesting elements, here and there, throughout the film. Most of the sets, set decoration, art direction, and background elements are unique and eye-catching, but none of it ever comes together to make something that is entirely outstanding as a whole.

This ain’t no Akira, but Batman: Gotham Knight is, compared to a lot of animation that is offered to American audiences, exceptional.

7 of 10

Monday, November 21, 2011

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