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Brandon Vietti
Bruce Greenwood, John Di Maggio, Wade Williams, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
Writing Credits:
Judd Winick

Dare To Look Beneath The Hood.

Batman faces his ultimate challenge as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. One part vigilante, one part criminal kingpin, Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. Killing is an option. And when the Joker falls in the balance between the two, hard truths are revealed and old wounds are reopened.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 7/27/2010

• “Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson” Featurette
• “Robin’s Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd” Featurette
&bull: Jonah Hex Animated Short
• “A First Look at Superman/Batman Apocalypse” Featurette
• Four Bonus Episodes from Batman Animated TV Series
• Trailers
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Batman: Under The Red Hood [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 14, 2010)

In the Batman universe, the Red Hood was introduced back in 1951 as the criminal who would soon become the Joker. Like everything else in the world of comic books, this evolved and changed over the decades, and the subject receives a new examination/interpretation in a direct-to-video movie called Batman: Under the Red Hood.

A prologue shows us the Joker’s (voiced by John DiMaggio) torture and murder of Jason Todd (Jensen Ackles), aka Robin. From there we jump forward five years to learn that another vigilante stalks Gotham City. Unlike Batman (Bruce Greenwood), though, the Red Hood uses lethal force in his attempt to clean up the city. He also collaborates with the critical element and he takes control of the local drug trade. Batman attempts to deal with this new threat and discover the surprise identity of the new vigilante.

A surprise that I ruined for myself by looking at the movie’s credits on IMDB – damn! Not that the Hood’s true identity will come as a massive shock, as the film throws out more than a few hints along the way. Because I was aware of the man behind the Hood before I watched, I can’t say how easily I would’ve guessed, but I don’t think the flick makes a great secret – especially since it reveals the truth less than halfway through the story.

Hood doesn’t really want to be a mystery anyway. Instead, it’s an unusually rich look at the superhero trade, with a focus on the negative side of things. The movie proves to be darker and more brutal than the standard fare of this sort, at least in terms of animated fare. Actually, even compared to the live-action Batman movies, Hood seems unusually rough-edged. It got a “PG-13” rating, but with all its murders and bloodshed, I’m sure it’d be “R”-rated if it weren’t animated.

I’ve been somewhat disappointed by many of the other DC Comics direct-to-video flicks, as a lot of them seemed like action, action, action without much else substance. They would come with compelling themes such as alternate Earths and Superman and Batman as outlaws but not manage to do much other than throw out lots of fight scenes. Those could be exciting, but the films lost points due to the absence of real character drama.

This doesn’t become a problem with Hood, probably the most dynamic and engrossing of the DC direct-to-video flicks. That sounds like faint praise, for it doesn’t take much to stand out as a great film when compared to its siblings. However, I’d put Hood up against the live-action movies as well; it doesn’t equal the heights of greatness achieved by the Christopher Nolan Batman pictures, but it comes much closer than I ever would’ve expected from a direct-to-video animated piece.

It’s really the scope and darkness of Hood that makes it special. As I noted, this is a superhero adventure that doesn’t pull punches, and it digs into deeper themes than usual. What happens to a crimefighter who decides that you can’t fight crime? That becomes a major topic here, and the movie doesn’t give us simple answers. It’d be easy to paint Batman as All Good and Red Hood as Basic Evil, but that doesn’t occur.

Instead, we get a rich, involving morality tale with heft to it. As directed by Brandon Vietti, the movie doesn’t avoid complex questions, but that doesn’t mean it comes across like nothing more than Philosophy 101. The show also provides the requisite action/adventure, and those satisfy quite nicely.

If forced to pick a complaint, I’d focus on DiMaggio’s lackluster Joker. He’s a talented voice actor who did wonders with Bender on Futurama, but he never really gets to the heart of the Joker. Maybe I just missed Mark Hamill’s take on the role, but DiMaggio’s performance doesn’t quite connect.

Nonetheless, that’s a minor criticism; DiMaggio may not give the character the tone he needs, but he doesn’t actually hurt the film. Pretty much everything else about Hood excels, and this becomes a simply terrific superhero tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Batman: Under the Red Hood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I felt consistently pleased with this strong presentation.

No issues with sharpness emerged. The movie always came across as tight and well-defined, so don’t expect any signs of softness. Jaggies and moiré effects also remained absent, and the image lacked edge haloes or artifacts. In addition, print flaws were a non-factor and didn’t appear at any point.

In terms of colors, Hood went with a dark palette that favored deep reds. The tones looked solid, as they showed positive richness and vivacity. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed nice clarity. Across the board, the image worked well.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Hood opened up the comic book material well. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious piece, but it added pizzazz to the program. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended well.

The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B”.

When we head to the extras, some of them provide additional adventures. A new animated short called DC Showcase: Jonah Hex lasts 11 minutes, 53 seconds. A prostitute named Madame Lorraine (Linda Hamilton) lures wealthy bar patrons to her parlor and offs them. When Jonah Hex (Thomas Jane) comes looking for one of her victims, she meets her match.

Jonah Hex went down as maybe the biggest bomb of summer 2010, and this short probably won’t make anyone regret that they skipped it. Oh, it’s not a bad little piece, but it’s not especially exciting or memorable either. It certainly does nothing to make me curious to see more of the Hex character.

For more superhero-team adventures, we find four Batman Episodes. These include “Robin’s Reckoning” Parts 1 (21:39) and 2 (22:09) plus “Mad Love” (21:27) and “The Laughing Fish” (22:15). “Reckoning” does many things right. It deftly integrates Robin’s origin story into its main plot, and it presents these elements in a dramatic and fluid manner. It manages good drama but without sentimentality.

“Fish” is also quite good. Why is the Joker such a great character? Because he can invent disfigured fish and have it make sense. A show about a copyright battle sounds lame, but the Joker’s nuttiness turns this one into a winner.

Finally, “Mad Love” delivers another enjoyable program. It delves into the development of the Harley Quinn character and shows her origin story. It lacks a strong narrative, but it’s still a fun piece.

Two featurettes look at characters. Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson goes for 24 minutes, 13 seconds and includes notes from writer/former DC Comics publisher/president Paul Levitz, writer/screenwriter Judd Winick, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio, author Phil Cousineau, Golden Apple Comics’ Matthew Mahoney, DC Comics writer/former editor Len Wein, author Thomas Andrae, and writer/former editor Denny O’Neil. As expected, the show traces the origins and development of the original Robin, with an emphasis on character themes/psychological elements. The program covers the subject well and acts as a good primer.

Robin’s Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd lasts 20 minutes, 58 seconds and features remarks from O’Neil, Wein, Winick, DiDio, Mahoney, Cousineau, and Levitz. “Requiem” gives us notes about the replacement Robin as well as the massive controversy that surrounded his death and his resurrection. I’d like a little more depth about the character, but the coverage of the “dead Robin” issue proves to be quite interesting.

A promotional piece follows. A First Look at Superman/Batman Apocalypse goes for 12 minutes, 12 seconds and features statements from writer Jeph Loeb, DC Comics SVP Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, voice director Andrea Romano, and actors Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Andre Braugher and Summer Glau. The featurette traces the movie’s story and character elements as well as some production bits. It exists to sell Apocalypse, but it’s not bad for what it is.

A promo for mattycollector.com opens the disc. We also find trailers for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Jonah Hex motion comic, The Lord of the Rings animated, Legend of the Guardians, Batman: Gotham Knight and Superman: Doomsday. Note that the ads for Crisis and Knight are actually “first looks” akin to the one for Apocalypse; they remain promotional, but they’re substantially longer than standard trailers.

A second disc provides a digital copy of Hood. This lets you plop the flick onto your computer or portable viewing thingy. I won’t use it, but you might.

Arguably the best of the animated DC Comics adventures, Batman: Under the Red Hood packs a wallop. It delves into its characters and situations with uncommon power and keeps us gripped from start to finish. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals as well as good audio and supplements. I definitely recommend this terrific flick to fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.625 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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