I’ve been sick (and consequently very bored) the past week or so and all I have had to keep me company is my cats and Netflix. Since it would be absolutely pathetic to write about my cats I figured I would write up something about one of the movies I’ve watched recently. Namely, Batman: Year One.
It’s an origin story which is pretty obvious considering the name. It chronicles the first year of Bruce Wayne’s transformation from angsty millionaire playboy to costumed vigilante. The origins of the Goddamn Batman have been revisited so many times that I feel even DC has a hard time distinguishing what the real origins are from the dozens of interpretations. What matters is that the basics stay the same – Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered in front of him when he’s a child and he eventually becomes the bad ass vigilante we all know and love. If you’re looking for an animated walk down Batman’s troubled memory lane you can check out Batman: Year One on Netflix. Though the story line will be familiar to comic book fans who may have read the Year One comic book that it’s based on.
At just over half an hour – 64 minutes – it is one of the best ways to waste a little extra time. I couldn’t even believe that’s how short the film was even as I was watching it. So much happens and there is a decent amount of character development in the limited time they have available. I kept checking how much time was left and even when it said only twenty minutes had passed it felt like so much ground had already been covered.
And trust me when I say that Batman: Year One covers a lot of ground.
It begins in Gotham City with the return of Bruce Wayne and the initial arrival of Jim Gordon. Bruce has returned after some twelve years of intensive training in martial arts and more overseas. He is trying to find a way to make a difference in a city without hope. Gordon meanwhile has just been transferred from Chicago after helping internal affairs take down a corrupt cop. He never intended to do the same here but after seeing the sort of corruption and police brutality that has become commonplace in Gotham he can’t keep turning his back. Together, their stories begin to merge and meld and the two of them find their lives increasingly intertwined.
But it’s not just the two of them that they cover, either.
They introduce Selina Kyle, too, and her early adventures as Catwoman. Honestly, the story could have probably done with out that little bit but hey. It was written in 1987 and remains one of the more well known trade paperback releases out there so it wasn’t like they had much of a choice.
The story is supplemented by the two men narrating their thoughts and feelings now and again through a series of very depressing first person monologues. Seriously, it’s really depressing. I mean, I get that this is Gotham City but man. The voices are a little strange. We’re so used to certain people playing certain characters in animated Batman stories that hearing Ryan from The OC playing a young Batman and Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston voice Gordon is a little awkard at first. But Bryan Cranston is a fairly believable Gordon and if you’re going for rich playboy I guess Ben Mackenzie isn’t the worst choice for Bruce Wayne.
What I really like about Batman: Year One, though, is that it is really a comic fan’s Batman movie. It explores a number of things that never really get screen time in other animated adaptations. Mostly because they are generally for all audiences or marketed towards children as Saturday morning cartoons. For people who only watch those, things like Jim Gordon’s budding relationship with another detective on the force, his family life, the birth of his son, and any number of other little things like that are going to be new. For veteran Batman fans it’s old hat and we know where it’s all leading. But it’s nice to see it animated and not just on the printed page.
Granted, if you’re looking for a really adult animated Batman flick check out the Dark Knight Returns movies.
Well, I say that but I haven’t actually seen them yet. I’m working on it. But if it’s even remotely like the comics? Yeah. Crazy shit is going to go down.
If you’re interested, I say check it out. Netflix takes things down and puts them back up arbitrarily so you want to make sure you watch it sooner than later. Just in case.