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Film Review: Batman Year One

Oct 21, 2011 08:25AM ● By Wendy Sipple

This direct-to-DVD animated film is based off the wildly popular comic book series of the same name that ran in 1987 written by Frank Miller. Miller’s mid '80s Batman work is largely what brought the character back to popularity and what the new Christopher Nolan films are roughly based on. The story follows a young Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon during their first year as Batman and policeman in the city of Gotham. The story is gritty and dark and is a series that really pushed the character of Batman away from the campy light hearted super hero comics that existed in the '60s and '70s.

The movie is an extremely faithful adaption of the original story. This is both a strength and weakness. Watching Batman Year One I was struck by what an incredible film this would make in live action. Considering that it almost became a live action film with one of the best directors before the deal fell through, it’s hard not to feel robbed of a terrific cinema experience. The story still shines through as a great original story but I felt that the filmmakers here made no effort to adapt the story for the screen. It is much like the first two Harry Potter films that felt like a highlight reel of a great book than just a flat out great film.

DC Comics have released quite a few of these direct-to-video adaptations of popular comic stories with great success. Most of these adaptations carry a PG-13 rating and are clearly targeted for the older fan base.  Lauren Montgomery who directed the very enjoyable Wonder Woman film a few years ago, does an adequate job this time around. Some of the action sequences are superbly handled. However I felt the pacing was a little too quick. At a brisk 64 minutes there was definitely time to pace the movie more carefully through the drama and create more powerful connections and dramatic impacts in some of the key sequences.

The voice casting was done quite nicely. The only voice that didn’t quite fit for me was Benjamin McKenzie. It’s not so much that he didn’t do a good job with his inflection, I just imagined Bruce Wayne’s voice being more gruff and manly.

All and all this is a solid Batman origin tale. I very much like that more than half of it is told from young Jim Gordon’s perspective and not just focusing on Bruce Wayne or Batman. It definitely gives new energy to a superhero’s origin that most people are familiar with. It’s easy to see how Christopher Nolan borrowed the tone from this story to use in his wildly popular films of Batman. Frank Miller’s ultimate Batman story, The Dark Knight Returns (the best super-hero story ever told in my opinion) is being adapted in a similar animated fashion for future release. Until then this is definitely worth the time of fans of Batman. This film may not be suitable for younger viewers (this film deals with infidelity, prostitution and drug lords among other things) -- don’t be fooled that it is an animated movie, it earns its PG-13 rating.

Films like Batman Year One – Wonder Woman, Superman All-Stars and Batman Under the Red Hood

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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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