Last night was the premiere of Batman: Under the Red Hood in Ballroom 20 at San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Fellow writer Jason Barr and I caught the tail end of the panel discussion after the first showing of the film and some exciting news was revealed. Producer Bruce Timm announced that the iconic Batman: Year One storyline by Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli will be made into a feature-length animated film in the near future. Additionally, it was announced that Superman/Batman: Apocalypse will be released in September of this year. Some of you rabid fans might yawn at this news as it has been rumored or announced before. However, here is one to knock you off your chair: All Star Superman, the beloved storyline by Grant Morrison with artist Frank Quitely, will also be made into an animated film.
All of this was announced amidst a lively panel discussion and of course the world premiere of Batman: Under the Red Hood. After the break you can get a brief synopsis of the film, the official trailer, and my initial thoughts.
Here is a brief synopsis and trailer to catch anyone up to speed with the storyline covered
“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.”
First off, it is integral to be prepared for a new voice-cast. This isn’t Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill voicing the two icons of the Batman universe. Instead, we have acting veteran Bruce Greenwood and all-star voice actor John DiMaggio voicing Batman and Joker, respectively. This can be a shock to the system initially, although Greenwood fits the mold perfectly. The real hurdle is DiMaggio as Joker. If you are used to the high-pitched cackle of Hamill and others, this is in a completely different direction. DiMaggio is a brawny guy, and for those unfamiliar with the name, you might recognize his voice work as Bender on Futurama or Marcus Fenix in Gears of War; it’s gruff and dark, to say the least. However, the look and feel of the universe director Brandon Vietti created mixes well with DiMaggio’s voice work.
The voice cast also includes standouts Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, and Vincent Martella as teenage Jason Todd/Robin. Finally, let’s get to the film itself, which is dark and emotional. There is a ton of material covered, and fans of the Under the Hood series by Judd Winick (who also wrote this) will be pleased to see quite a few of the smaller character pop up. The film is rated PG-13, and a lot of the violence from the comic series is here as well.
Some have said it is violent, but I would say it is more brutal. You hear the crunching of bones, and every punch sounds like a haymaker when it connects. The action sequences are superb and the story is smooth and concise. There is a strong contingent of fans that never liked the Red Hood character, but many that I ran into felt that by the end of the film you feel sympathy for the character, and I did as well. I will end this by saying that Mask of the Phantasm is still my favorite of the Batman animated films, but Under the Red Hood is right up there with it in terms of quality and story; it’s that good.
The film will be released to the various home video formats next Tuesday, July 27, 2010, but is now available to rent today on various on-demand platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, PSN, and Xbox Live. Stay tuned for my roundtable discussion with cast and crew and a full review within the next week.
For more Comic-Con coverage, click here.