I hate to sound like a broken record, but DC just keeps putting out quality; title after animated title, they continue to amaze. Batman fans are in for a treat. Joker fans are in for a hell of a shocking treat because this is pure comic book Joker. The story follows two classic Batman storylines: the ending to “A Death In The Family” is the beginning of this story, albeit slightly altered. The remainder of the film is not coincidentally based upon the events of the “Under The Red Hood” storyline. Batman must face a monster that Gotham one regarded one of its greatest heroes. He must stop Jason Todd, the second Robin, whom he buried after he’d been beaten and blown up by the Joker.
Oftentimes I get tired of DC constantly switching up the voice talent for their characters, especially when it comes to Batman. Kevin Conroy is to many the quintessential voice of the character on the small screen. I am happy to say that Bruce Greenwood is a worthy replacement in this film (Conroy returns in the upcoming Superman/Batman: Apocalypse). Jensen Ackles (of Supernatural fame) provides the voice for Red Hood, a persona originally held by the Joker before his disfigurement. Ackles brings strength and confidence to the character worthy of someone that once fought alongside the Dark Knight. He also brings that smarmy wit that Dean Winchester fans will appreciate. Now I could write an entire article on the Joker in this movie, despite the fact that he almost has a bit part in the film. Between Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill, fans are still arguing who the best Joker is overall but I will tell you that John Di Maggio put some serious work in. Most would probably recognize him as Marcus Fenix from the Gears of War saga, Di Maggio is one of those shining gems of the cartoon VO world. He completely made me forget that none other than the fantastic Mr. NPH plays Nightwing. This Joker is really dark. Take every onscreen iteration, large or small from the past 20 years and Di Maggio’s makes them look like Cesar Romero. VO work is the one place where some of the DC movies have fallen a little flat and I am so happy to say that they put as much work into getting the voices right in this film as they did into the writing.
A lot of screen adaptations of comic books tone down the violence knowing that kids may be watching but not this time. Despite the PG-13 rating I am telling you this flick deserved an R. There are at least five good scenes that a parent would not want their child to see; at least five good scenes you are going to rewind as your jaw drops repeatedly. Batman is always surrounded by lunatics that will go too far or try to make him take that one step over the line. The Joker has always said he wants to see “Bats” cross that line because he swears deep down they are more alike than the Caped Crusader would ever want to admit. Red Hood is basically Batman if he did cross that line – completely unafraid to kill, about the only line he won’t cross is hurting children. I can only hope and pray that future Batman features are done this well and that DC continues to explore the darker stories behind the cowl.
Batman: Under The Red Hood is available in stores today. Depending upon where you buy it, you can get a limited edition Litho-Cel (Amazon) or a Red Hood action figure (Best Buy). Like I said earlier, DC does not disappoint with their animated features and this is a must own for even the least of Batman fans. This movie does not even get a number score. With beautiful animation, a stellar VO cast, and the storyline all top of their class, I rte this one an instant classic. Go see it now!