Just finished watching Batman: Year One. It’s a 2011 direct-to-video, the latest in the DC Universe Animated film series. The film is based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic book story arc from the late 1980’s. In my opinion, it’s a drawn and told in a completely different style from the previous DCAU films. The style reminds me slightly of Batman: Gotham Knight, and yet there’s a hint of a noir crime story to it. The film’s story is taken from the original 1987 story, but you will also notice that some thematic elements were adapted for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins film. I suppose you could say that after all these decades, the story starts getting repeated after a while.
So….. the story is told from the viewpoint of Jim Gordon as he joins the corrupt Gotham Police corp (GPD), and the young Bruce Wayne as he he returns to Gotham after a long 12-year sojourn to parts unknown. The film stars some notable actors and actresses:
- Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon
- Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne / Batman (more on this later)
- Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle / Catwoman
- Katee Sackhoff as Detective Sarah Essen
- Grey DeLisle as Barbara Gordon / Vicki Vale
The story is much grittier than I had anticipated. Apart from the violence and sexual material, I was somewhat surprised by the corruption of the GPD surrounding Gordon, but I thought it was an interesting choice, as it gave Gordon an opportunity to clean up Gotham, instead of being some shining white knight at the immediate onset of the film. On the other hand, I didn’t find the Batman origin story as told in this film very exciting at all. Bruce Wayne as Batman doesn’t figure into the story until the last 1/3 of the film. In fact, there’s only maybe 1.5 action scenes in this film, so don’t go watching this expecting a lot of Batman-in-action.
Now, for my biggest complaint: the voice of Bruce / Batman. I’m a big fan of Ben McKenzie. I know he’s been on other popular shows, but I know him from one of my favorite shows — TNT’s Southland, where he plays LAPD Officer Ben Sherman. I think he’s great. However, in this film, he’s terrible. Listen, although I’m a big fan of Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, I’ve also accepted Bruce Greenwood as Bruce / Batman in Batman: Under the Red Hood. But Ben McKenzie did not work for me. The voice had no emotion to it. It was stilted and uninteresting. What boggles me even more is that long-time voice director Andrea Romano, who in my opinion, has always done a bang-up job in voice casting, didn’t throw a red card down during any of the voice recording sessions when she heard McKenzie?
On a side note, while I’m a fan of both Eliza Dushku and Katee Sackhoff, they had such minor roles here as Selina/Catwoman and Det. Sarah Essen, respectively, that I don’t quite know why there were brought in for so little dialogue. Suffice it to say, not my favorite DCAU Batman animated film.