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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Cast:
Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Katee Sackhoff
Writing Credits:
Bob Kane (creator), Frank Miller (original story), Tab Murphy

Synopsis:
A wealthy playboy and a Chicago cop both return to Gotham City where their lives will intersect in unexpected ways.

Box Office:
Budget
$3.5 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation: Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0
Portuguese Dolby Stereo 2.0
Thai Dolby Stereo 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Thai
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Spanish
Portuguese
Thai (Disc One Only)

Runtime: 64 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 10/18/2011

Bonus:
DVD One:
• “DC Showcase: Catwoman”
Justice League: Doom Sneak Peek
All-Star Superman Sneak Peek
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Sneak Peek
• Trailers
DVD Two:
&bull: “Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots” Featurette
• “Bruce Timm’s Picks”: Two Animated TV Episodes


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Batman: Year One (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 99, 2011)

Over the last 25 years, did anyone do more to aid the Batman franchise than Frank Miller? Sure, Tim Burton and Chris Nolan managed to turn the character into cinematic gold, but I doubt they could’ve done so without the groundwork writer/artist Miller laid. With 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns and 1987’s Batman: Year One, Miller managed to utterly revitalize the hero.

We’ve yet to see any kind of cinematic adaptation of Returns, but Year One gets its full due with this 2011 animated adventure. After years away from home, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Ben McKenzie) returns to Gotham City. While gone, he trained in martial arts, and he now plans to use his abilities to take out his anger on the town’s rampant criminal element.

At the same time, police Lieutenant James Gordon (Bryan Cranston) transfers to the Gotham force due to some problems with Internal Affairs at his old job. He comes with his pregnant wife Barbara (Grey DeLisle) and encounters a city and a police department packed to the gills with crime and corruption. Year One follows both men’s initial year in Gotham as they deal with the nastiness around them – and also cross paths as well.

Back when Dark Knight Returns hit in 1986, I was a lapsed comic book fan. Granted, I’d not been away from the mags for long; I was a huge comic buyer from mid-1981 through early 1984 or so, which meant that I’d only been inactive for about two years.

I never lost my affection for superheroes, but I stopped buying the comics mainly due to economics. I was in high school back then and shifted the money I previously sent to Marvel and DC toward music. Not coincidentally, I didn’t buy many albums from 1981 through 1983, but eventually I chose to spend my (fairly limited) funds on records and concert tickets.

What brought me to purchase Dark Knight Returns? I heard so many good things about it that I couldn’t resist, and it didn’t disappoint. It delivered an amazing Batman adventure and remains possibly my favorite Caped Crusader tale.

I next experienced a bit of Batmania in 1989 when the Tim Burton film became such a hit. I don’t think I’d been aware of Miller’s Year One when it came out in 1987, but the 1989 flick reawakened my passion for all things Bat so I grabbed a copy.

And I thought it was pretty good. Not great, not bad – pretty good. I do recall that I felt disappointed by it given how much I loved Returns; in no way, shape or form did Year One compare to that epic.

22 years after I read the Year One comics, I checked out this animated take on it – and once more I thought it was pretty good. Again, that made it a disappointment. I thought the previews for it promised a more scintillating experience, and the last Batman direct-to-video film - Under the Red Hood - was excellent, so I hoped Year One would offer another killer flick.

Alas, that wasn’t to be, though I suspect my issues stem from the original comics. The animated Year One delivers a pretty literal adaptation of Miller’s work, so don’t expect much variation. Since I wasn’t ecstatic with the comics, my relative disenchantment spreads to the movie.

And my relative disenchantment remains tough to pinpoint. Perhaps I just don’t much care for the story’s emphasis on Lieutenant Gordon. I don’t say this from some sort of purist point of view that wants a Batman film to focus on the lead character to the exclusion of all else; in theory, I’m fine with the tale’s emphasis on Gordon.

In reality, I can’t say that that side of things works for me. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with Gordon’s narrative, though it feels somewhat trite. Maybe that’s 22 years of perspective talking, as we’ve seen similar themes in other works – and in the Nolan Batman movies. Earlier I referred to this version as the graphic novel’s “full due”. I said that because the two Nolan flicks definitely showed a Year One influence; neither clearly adapted the book, but they used some of its elements.

Nonetheless, I don’t find a lot of interest within Gordon’s story, and I feel like his screentime takes away real estate that should be devoted to Bruce/Batman’s development. Year One clocks in at a mere 64 minutes, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the two roles to grow. Rather than deliver a complex duel narrative, the parts come across as truncated. We just don’t see enough of Gordon and Bruce to satisfy – and since the movie’s called Batman: Year One, it feels like Gordon’s moments take away from time best spent with the lead. Throw in the birth of Catwoman and Year One becomes an awfully crowded 64 minutes.

Maybe Year One also seems to shortchange the Batman narrative because Batman Begins did it so well. As I alluded earlier, both share some components, but the Nolan film provides a much more detailed, fulfilling take on the crimefighter’s early days. Year One just seems like a Cliffs Notes version.

None of these complaints should imply that Year One turns into a failure or lacks any material of interest. Even with the narrative flaws, it still has some strong moments and looks good along the way. It delivers a dark, rich take on Gotham and gives us a fine sense of tone.

It throws in some solid action sequences as well. The climax works pretty nicely, and the part in which Batman deals with a SWAT team offers the movie’s best set piece.

Unfortunately, we don’t get enough material of this sort – or enough character depth – to make Year One consistently compelling. As a Batman fan, I can find some value in it, but the movie just feels too clipped and abbreviated to soar.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Batman: Year One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the transfer usually looked good, it suffered from some issues.

For the most part, sharpness was fine. Some wider shots suffered from moderate softness, but those instances weren’t severe. Instead, most of the film demonstrated positive clarity. Only minor instances of shimmering and jaggies appeared, but I noticed some light edge enhancement. Source flaws remained absent.

Year One came with a subdued palette, which is what I would expect from a Batman story. Nonetheless, the colors were fine, as all seemed full and clear. Blacks were dark and deep, but shadows became the movie’s weakest link. Low-light scenes tended to seem somewhat dense and tough to discern. These weren’t severe, but given how many nighttime/interior shots the film included, the lack of strong clarity turned into an issue. In the end, I thought the DVD offered a good but not great image.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Year One 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 bigger action scenes and some weather-related elements. 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+”.

We get a mix of extras in this two-disc set. On DVD One, we start with DC Showcase: Catwoman. The 14-minute, 47-second animated short shows Catwoman (voiced by Eliza Dushku) as she goes after a diamond smuggling thug named Rough Cut (John DiMaggio). It’s not a deep story, but it packs a lot of good action and turns into a fun piece.

Three previews follow. We get these for Justice League: Doom (10:14), All-Star Superman (10:46) and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (11:37). Across these, we hear from a mix of personnel. Doom provides remarks from co-producer Alan Burnett, executive producer Bruce Timm, voice director Andrea Romano, director Lauren Montgomery, lead character designer Phil Bourassa, storyboard artist Mel Zwyer, and actors Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Carlos Alazraqui, Carl Lumbly, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rosenbaum, while Superman provides comments from Romano, Timm, director Sam Liu, DCE SVP Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, and actors James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, and Christina Hendricks. Finally, Knights features Burnett, Montgomery, Romano, Timm, Fillion, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio, animation director Jay Oliva, and actor Henry Rollins.

All three exist as little more than promotion, and they’re fairly effective in that regard. Nonetheless, they remain long ads, so don’t expect more from them.

Disc One opens with ads for Smallville: The Complete Series, the Arkham City video game, Aim High and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. DVD One also includes Trailers for Thundercats, Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, MAD, Young Justice and the “DCU” application.

Over on DVD Two, we find a featurette called Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots. In this 23-minute, 24-second program, we hear from Alan Burnett, Detective Comics writer Greg Rucka, writer/former editor Denny O’Neil, Dark Knight Rises executive producer Michael Uslan, Detective Comics writer/former editor Len Wein, and DC Entertainment Creative Director Mike Carlin. The piece looks at Batman’s development over the years and what Frank Miller brought to the character in the 1980s. We get a decent overview here, but much of the show feels like little more than a love letter to Miller, so don’t expect much from it.

Under Bruce Timm’s Picks, we locate two TV episodes. These include “Catwalk” from Batman: The Animated Series (21:14) and “Cult of the Cat” from The New Batman Adventures (21:20).

Since she straddles the line between hero and villain - and also seeks to straddle Batman - the Catwoman remains arguably Batman’s most intriguing nemesis. She shows both sides well in the entertaining “Catwalk”. A good use of the Ventriloquist helps make this episode solid; he works better in a secondary position than in the starring role, which allows him to be effective here.

As for “Cult”, it suffers from a weak villain and overall plot, as the notion of the gang that worships felines feels pretty lame. However, the interactions between Batman and Catwoman crackle. Those add more than enough pizzazz to turn this into an enjoyable show.

Adapted from a much praised comic book, Batman: Year One has its moments, but it doesn’t provide a lot of satisfaction. At a mere 64 minutes, it simply lacks the breathing room to develop its characters and give us a vivid tale. The DVD offers erratic but generally good picture along with high-quality audio and a smattering of decent supplements. Bat-fans will want to give this one a look, but they shouldn’t expect greatness from it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main