Recently I had the chance to attend a press screening of Batman: Under the Red Hood in Toronto. Warner bros wined and dined myself and a few others in a VIP Cineplex with leather chairs and all sorts of swag (although it was raffle and I didn’t get any. I’m not bitter).
One of the neater aspects of the event was that they brought in Comic artist/ Writer Ty Templeton (http://tytempletonart.wordpress.com) to do a Q&A after the film. Ty was quite funny and a very interesting guy with great thoughts on a variety of subjects. One of my favorite comments was when he was asked what he would say to Chris Nolan if he had input on Batman 3 was ignore Batman Begins and just do what he did in The Dark Knight again. “Pull out a sheet of paper and write down the number of times Batman does something heroic [in Batman Begins]. You’ll find by the end of the movie the paper’s still blank.” Looking back, he has a pretty good point. I’ll have to watch again, pen and paper in hand.
I was fortunate enough to have a short chat with Ty one on one as well to grab his thoughts on Under the Red Hood. “I thought it was a surprisingly sophisticated adaptation of the work. For an animated film you expect a kind of slightly more juvenile approach and they don’t do that. I think it’s a movie that would be enjoyed by the same audience that liked the Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film. Which is a lovely surprise.” He did go on to talk about the more adult tone of the film. “A little more blood than I expected, but just as much drama and excitement as I was hoping for.”
As for myself? I tend to be in agreement with Ty on this one. Under the Red Hood is extremely well written and packs multiple twists. The plot written by Comic writer Judd Winick covers elements of the “A Death in the Family” and “Under the Hood” storylines from previous years. Being relatively unfamiliar with the latter storyline I went in pretty blank waiting to be wowed. Knowing enough about comics I knew who the villain is revealed to be eventually, but for those who don’t know there’s some HEAVY clues early in the movie so it’s not the big mystery. That’s fine though. Where that character comes from and their motivations? That’s where the mystery and twists lie.
So here’s a synopsis for you. Red hood becomes a new player in Gotham City. He’s as well trained as Batman but the difference is, he’s not afraid to take a life. His war with Black Mask brings in the Caped Crusader who’s really taking hits on all sides and the history of the Red Hood reaches far into Batman’s past bringing in other memorable members of Batman’s Rouge’s gallery like the Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul.
So what’s to like about this one? Tons. The story is well written and ends in a satisfying and very emotional way. The climax of the film is breathtaking, I was on the edge of my seat the entire scene. Why these scenes work so well is because of the voice cast. I was iffy with Bruce Greenwood as Batman at first, but he adds enough gravitas to the part he sold me as a Dark Knight, humbled and much more serious following the outcome of his greatest failure. Speaking of people who surprised me, John Di Maggio as Joker. If that name’s familiar to you and you’re not sure where to place it, John is the voice of Bender on Futurama. Somebody’s been watching old Batman TAS episodes. Di Maggio comes off as Mark Hamill’s Joker if he was much more sinister. His laugh is almost pitch perfect to Hamill’s and I know lots of people are disappointed Mark is retiring from being the Joker after Arkham Asylum 2 but I’m not anymore. Here’s my new favourite (after Mark I mean). A huge surprise is Wade Williams as Black Mask. This guy is amped up to 11 the whole movie and his over the top ranting had me looking forward to every time the guy would show his face again. The music is fitting and the action scenes are extremely well paced and energetic. Like Ty pointed out earlier, this film can be pretty bloody. The opening in particular is brutal to watch and it’s because of how shocking that first scene is it adds so much emotion to later scenes. This movie doesn’t play with kid gloves. It plays with crowbars.
Despite all that good I do have a few problems. Pobody’s nerfect an all that. Personally I felt the story could have done without Nightwing as he was used here. NPH voices Dick Grayson and you know what? He’s great as the character, but he’s barely in it. He essentially shows up to say “Hey Batman you heard of the Red Hood? Here’s some one liners. K bye!” If you’re going to give us NPH, give us NPH. All of the dialogue he has that is important to the plot could have been given to Alfred. The only other gripe I had is so small you could say I’m just nit picking. Red Hood’s mask has these eyeholes that put large black circles around his eyes. He comes off to me looking like Deadpool in a motorcycle jacket. These black circles aren’t present in the comic design, so why are they here? Honestly though, if that’s all that’s wrong with it that tells you just how good this film is.
I’m not going to get into the special features at this time, because to be honest, haven’t seen them yet. Expect a report on those during the audio review in an upcoming week’s Nerd News.
As for the title of this review, what significance does it have? At the time of this writing, a few of us had previously gotten together and recorded a roundtable discussion on all of the Warner Premiere DC Animated films thus far. It won’t be on the site until early August if I remember the schedule. At the close of the cast Birdman poses the question “Which movie was your favorite?” Ignore whatever the hell it was I said. THIS is my favorite. It’s a high recommendation from me. It has it’s flaws like I outlined, but they’re so few and minute it doesn’t subtract from the film at all. Take a look Under the Hood. You’ll be glad you did.