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We review Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.


We take a look at the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh from Batman #113.


Gotham Knights Online - Interview with Greg Rucka.


A behind the scenens look at The Music Meister.


We review Superman / Batman: Public Enemies.


Gotham Knights Online - Interview with J.H. Wiilams III


We review the most eagarly anticipated game this year!


Composers talk crime jazz for Batman


Posted by Bob Tilley Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Title: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Release Date: July 27th 2010
Running Time: 75 minutes

Cast: Bruce Greenwood as Batman / Bruce Wayne, Jensen Ackles as Red Hood / Jason Todd, John Di Maggio as Joke, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing / Dick Grayson, Jason Isaacs as Ra's al Ghul and Wade Williams as Black Mask.

Director: Brandon Vietti
Written by: Judd Winick
Producer: Bruce Timm, Bobbi Page and Alan Burnett
Voice Direction by: Andrea Romano
Music by: Christopher Drake

Synopsis: In Batman: Under the Red 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.

REVIEW BY: Claudie

This film has knocked every DC Animated film out of the water and blown my mind. Stunning animation, incredible scenery, bloody and brutal while still being an emotional and brilliantly acted production. Although quite a few changes were made, they were excellent changes and fitted the story fantastically.

At first, there is a flashback to A Death in the Family, but it's a death in the family without Jason's mother. Ra’s, as we find out a little later, is trying to pull heists and employs the Joker to distract Batman. This results in the capture, brutal beating and death of second Robin, Jason Todd, at the hands of the Joker. Despite the changes, the core of the intensity is still there. The sickening cracks as the crowbar hits made me flinch, DiMaggio proved his Joker to be a fantastic mix of Ledger and Hamill while having a little bit of an edge all his own and the frantic race against time to save the second boy wonder is every bit as heartbreaking in animation as it was on the page. I did wonder why Jason quite randomly appeared to have the wrong colour eyes (all boy wonders appear to have dark hair and blue eyes), but I was soon distracted by the weight of the scene where the sixteen year old boy realises twenty seconds is not enough time to get free and he is going to die, so he merely slides down and accepts it, a moment echoed later in the film. They were very true to the art for the injuries and although Jason is wearing a different costume, it's not that jarring as the scene is wonderfully emotional as a father holds the body of his dead son. What a brilliant starting point and we're only about five minutes in. Right now, you know this is going to be good.

The opening sequence? I haven't seen one this good since Batman Beyond. The artwork in a dark silhouette style around Gotham City and the score highlights every moment perfectly. This is Gotham City and it's like no other city in America and just the titles tell you that much. Bruce Timm has always been brilliant at portraying Gotham as a city you could walk into and believe and this is no exception.

For the first scene from the credits to be a scene (not just any scene one of my personal favourites) straight out of Under the Hood was a great choice. Red Hood has gathered drug pushers together and basically, cuts them a deal: he gets kick backs and they don’t sell to kids, in return, they get his protection. It's almost word for word in places, particularly Red Hood's lines, but now you can see the horrified reactions to the brilliant 'heads in a bag' scene (though we don't see the heads, we do hear someone vomit) as Red Hood makesthe deal. As a side note, I love that even this early we see another favourite thing: Jason's kris blade in the back pocket.

Next up, we have Batman taking on some low level crooks which goes straight into the Amazo scene, as Winick weaves it in as that being the cargo. There's some spectacular fighting, just as Nightwing appears above them and asks if Batman needs a hand. I'll go into the reviews of the cast later, but Neil Patrick Harris was incredible. His performance is utterly flawless, mixing Dick's acrobatic grace, sense of humour and joy all into one package. I have to admit, having the crooks explain that the "pretty boy in the leotard" was the first Robin was really funny and it lightened everything up. Batman is coming across strong, silent and always calculating and the essence of Dick being that he never shuts up but also never gives up is coming across brilliantly. In a lot of ways, Dick is narrating every scene he's in and even praising Batman at the same time the audience does. He was our original window in as Robin and he's doing that again here. It's also great that it gets acknowledged by Alfred later that Dick never says one word when six will suffice and he admits to it. This is the kind of thing that makes me love Winick as a writer.

The Red Hood's introduction to the scene is much more bloody than it is in the books with him shooting drivers, but having Batman jump into the Batwing and chase him through Gotham while still showing every day people doing every day things brings the film to life and makes it realistic, while still being fantastical. I have to say, the Red Hood's getaway vehicle being a regular blue car was lame, but in a really funny way. This is the kind of scene that would be insanely expensive in live action, but comes across stunningly here.

Instead of crashing into the warehouse with Amazo, Batman crashes into the Ace Chemical plant which sparks a flashback of the creation of original Red Hood: the Joker. I have to say this about the flashback scenes, they're seamless, they're ghostlike and they're slotted in like memories. The Red Hood taunts him and Jensen Ackles shows he can be bitter, playful and a little bit magnificent in this role. As a huge fan of the Red Hood, I couldn't have asked for anyone better.

Dick brings up the intel about Red Hood making serious moves in Gotham, a scene I loved because it references something in current continuity: with Dick Grayson, it's all about the timing and that's something he said in a recent arc as well. Bruce notes there's more trafficking, but less crime, which is a great way of showing that there is a twisted morality to the Red Hood - he'll supply to those already hooked, but he's minimising the deaths and troubles. This fits in perfectly with what I'd thought the Red Hood was about and having Winick put that line in just made my day. Also, Dick stopping to have tea Alfred brought him before realising Batman is already in the car ("Could you just once say 'let's get in the car', is that so hard?!") is a fantastic little scene that shows the family dynamic brilliantly between Grandfather, father and son.

An extra little scene of Batman and Nightwing interrogating the Joker, who is locked up in Arkham, was just incredible. It shows how deeply the loss of Jason cut them and the dialogue has shades of Jokers Last Laugh, where Nightwing beat the Joker to death temporarily.

The Black Mask's lackey has become a woman and his fashion sense has become more than a little funny, but while he's coming across as a ranting businessman as well as a brutal crime lord, so I'm happy. He’s ranting about Amazo being disabled and kept by Batman, with the lackey pointing out that Batman likes to keep things. He's being bugged by both Red Hood and Batman (whose bug has a Batman on it, which is a great call back to all the gadgets having that in Under the Hood) but the Red Hood gets there first. This is where Ackles really starts to shine, as it's obvious he wants Batman's attention. Another fantastic Nightwing line as well, in "You know what I miss most about running with you? The toys."

One of the best things about Winick’s writing is his banter and we’re getting it in full force here, mostly from Black Mask, Joker, Red Hood and Nightwing. We see Red Hood get chased through Gotham in a stunningly animated sequence which shows his acrobatic prowess and shows he's pretty talkative and full of puns himself. If you don't know by now who this guy is, there are plenty of clues. Some beautifully choreographed jumping for Nightwing as well, showing he's more confident in the air than Batman (who is more steady than showy) is. Also, seeing things through Batman's visor? So damned cool and very reminicent of Arkham Asylum, the video game. So glad they kept in him cutting the rope before it went tight, as it's one of my other favourite little moments. A little sad we didn't get Dick's ego trip about having done it all before, I have to admit.

Great to see the Red Hood on the motorcycle, though. This is generally what he uses and it's more what I associate with the character. It’s also a nice callback to the comics is Dick getting his leg injured, as it is injured already in the Under the Hood comics due to other events. There's plenty of fantastic callbacks for the seasoned Batman fan in this. It's also good to have Dick's observational skills on show, as he notes things that would likely be internal thoughts for Batman. Dick was a great addition to the film and I was sad to lose him a third of the way through. Though I have to say, his exit note of "He did just thank me, right?...Weird." was enough to make this Nightwing fan miss those comics terribly.

The way it's revealed that the Red Hood knows who's under the cowl is a great moment - Red Hood says Bruce. These extra additions are fantastic and if you don't know by now that Bruce thinks it's his long dead son, this seamless flashback (going from the R on the suit on the case to the R the thirteen year old Jason is wearing as Robin in a flashback) will soon let you know. Showing the ability of a young Jason coming through as he bops about, taking down the Riddler (sad to lose Boomerang, but without Tim, I can live with it) and obviously having great fun doing it is a joy to watch. The child actors voicing the younger Jason did a stellar job. This is how Robin should sound. Side Note: he gives the Riddler the Gotham Handshake (for those who don't know, that's a kick to the crotch) which Jason is famous for doing to the Joker so I am so glad they put that in.

The flashback change is so simple, with small Jason turning around and turning into a sixteen year old in Tim's costume who's obviously using more anger than playing around is flawless. He's still having fun, but there's a dark edge to it and it comes across so well. It's so great to see the classic Batmobile in the background too, as Bruce tells him off for being so brutal. It shows Jason always thought in the short term, not relying on timing or preparation like Batman or Nightwing. It's an excellent commentary on the character and again, has some of the great dialogue from the comics.

Angry, the Black Mask sends some ninjas (who look a lot like OMACs) after Red Hood and Batman and Red Hood join together for the fight, which is choreographed and animated with such precision that it's jaw dropping. It's so obvious that these two were partners, so if there had been any doubts as to the identity of the Red Hood, they're pretty much gone in the moment the Red Hood pushes Batman out of the way and takes a shot for him. Plus points include flambeed bad guy and a head exploding too. I do enjoy it when the Red Hood is that brutal.

A highly charged emotional scene between father and son among the fallen ninjas is fast paced, but it explains a lot about the characters, even having a line from Morrison's Revenge of the Red Hood in the recent Batman comics into it. Having Batman reach out was a wonderful touch of humanity that so often, Batman lacks. He has excellent commentary on what Gotham is like now, as well as a few good points about what happens when Batman is not effective. Blood from the scene solidifies that this is Jason Todd, but anyone who's read the comics knows that. Having Alfred drop the tea tray as it comes up on the screen is heartbreaking and exactly what he does in the comics when Stephanie Brown, Robin IV, returns from being thought to be dead.

Another thing I'm glad they kept was Red Hood using a rocket launcher on Black Masks building. These scene was word for word and action for action what it was in the comics, including Red Hood's little wave just before he fires. It's the sense of humour that always added to this character for me and I think this film shows it off. Having Red Hood give commentary on the scene in the same way Nightwing had before is such a great touch.

We then see how Jason is not buried - he brought back a dummy made of latex instead of his body. This scene is gorgeously heartbreaking, from Bruce emotionally losing it to Alfred trying to comfort him and telling him that he was so distraught that anyone could have made that mistake, as even he could barely deal with it. Bruce's angry yell of "STUPID AND CARELESS!" shows exactly how much this is getting to him because it's showing Batman, who is always prepared and always controlled, losing it for not being more careful about his son. This is actually plausible too, as anyone who knows the comics knows that Alfred made all of the arrangements for Jason's burial because Bruce was unable to cope. Alfred sounds very parental here and it's so good to see. This isn't just harsh on a level of a new villain: this is a family being torn apart.

Having the Black Mask be forced to make a deal with the Joker is such a great moment, as DiMaggio really shines here as he's both creepy, brilliant and a little funny in a way you feel guilty for laughing at. I'd love to know whose idea the water and crisps are because they're brilliant props.

I want to spare a few moments for Jason Isaacs, who pulls off Ra's as both an international terrorist and someone with honour, something Ra's has been a little iffy on in the comics for a while. It was a good return to form, as we discover how Jason was brought back in a world with no Superboy punch. As in Morrisons recent run, the lazarus pit now brings back the dead, soit's in keeping with a possible canon and we get a little Talia cameo (who was the person I really missed in this film) and it cut out a lot of what Lost Days is giving us in the comics to bring it back to bare bones. It works very well in a film environment.

We get a little more background on Jason from a conversation with Bruce and Alfred, in which Alfred tries to convince Bruce that Jason was not his failure. We get a great little juvenile detention photograph (again, a callback to the Gotham Knights arc) and Bruce's desire to help him on the right path so he wouldn't fall on the wrong one. "Then I got him killed. My partner. My soldier. My fault." This adds an additional weight to some of the things that have happened in the comics as well as showing the relationship Bruce had with his adopted son.

Putting a Joker and Red Hood showdown in the middle of Gotham with Black Mask and his goons as hostages and the press and police everywhere was a stroke of genius. It's a tease, it's funny and it leads into the fact that dealing with the Black Mask has always been about getting at the Joker. He's who the Red Hood wants and now we know it's Jason under the hood, we know why. Great little quote from Black Mask when he finds this out: "You can't trust anybody!"

Red Hood captures the Joker and brings the Joker to Crime Alley, leaving a message for Batman to come there. Just when I thought they were going to leave out a fantastic scene from the comics, they prove me wrong as a silhouetted Red Hood beats the Joker with a crowbar. This isn't as chaotic and varied as the Jokers was - it's done with power and rage.

The flashback of Jason boosting the wheels off the Batmobile is done as a ghost and it's so pretty. There's no other word for it. It just looks fantastic, with everything from the old costume to the old batmobile. The fact we come out it with Batman giving a little smile, as a breathless Red Hood shows up in the alley, gives a sense of hope that things will all work themselves out. I have got to compliment Ackles here again - the emotion, the broken tone and the anger in what Red Hood is doing to take out Batman is being illustrated through voice and animation in a way I wasn't sure it would be able to. It requires repeated viewing, because it just blows you away the first time, but the emotion really hits your chest after that.

I was so glad not to lose the moment the belt is ripped off (echoing something Batman does to a young Jason to stop him relying on gadgets in the comics, just as Batman is relying on his here) and Batman’s cowl is ripped off, but in a way, I'm glad it's in crime alley as in a lot of ways, this is where both Batman and Jason were born into the lives they now live. Jason removes his own mask, to reveal he's wearing a Robin domino - something we learned he did for dramatic effect in the comics and boy, is it ever dramatic.

The sarcastic, brash and arrogant Robin comes out strongly in Jason in this scene and you can marry up the boy in the flashbacks with the Red Hood from it. There's an excellent moment where you wonder if it was this is just Jason or if it is the the lazarus pit, the trauma of dying and coming back or just the unconfined anger and sadness that he didn't seem to mean anything to his 'father' that turned the bright Robin into a killer vigilante. It's a question still being asked in the comics today.

We see that he thinks himself as Gotham's protector, not destroyer so it adds a different level that we don't often see in our antagonists in the films. There's a great moment where Batman tells him he's acting like just another villain, which brings in the other perspective. This fight is impressive, but also familiar: it's so obvious that Jason is playing around at this point, taking jabs at him emotionally and reminding him of what he's lost. Batman has upped the playing field, as it's almost like once he knew who he was fighting, he knew how to bring him down. Cracking Jason's head on a toilet is one of the funnier fight scenes in the film.

The next scene with them crashing into where he's holding the Joker is almost word for word what it is in the comics. Batman expressing regret at not saving him and Jason forgiving him for that, but being unable to understand why the Joker was still alive. He asks a question many fans have wondered throughout the years, considering all the Joker has done. He explains to Bruce that if it had been him, he'd have have made him pay and finally, we understand this was not a story of someone trying to take over the criminal underworld or someone trying to be a better Batman, but one of vengeance.

I never needed to worry that Ackles and Greenwood couldn't pull off the emotion between these two. They do it in spades, to the point my chest was a little tight. Watching the anger, pain, regret and vengeance unveil to a background of the Jokers insanity is unbelievably effective. The animators did a great job of feeling the desperation in Jason to have the Joker dead and to have Bruce understand where he's coming from and the regret and pain Bruce is carrying, because he knows it's the wrong thing to do and he can't do it. The moment he's yelling as Bruce walks away and eventually just shoots is incredibly heavy. It doesn't have the same weight Batman as cutting him with the batarang, but it's still intense, as Jason is now showing he's willing to have them all die just to finish it. In a way, it's reenacting his own death as he triggers the explosion and just sits down as he did when he realised he was going to die at the beginning of the film. It's disturbing, lump in the throat painful and builds to the climax as Batman tries one more time to save Jason, for them to all go up and flames.

He finds the Joker in the wreckage, but there is no sign of Jason, much as we got in the comic. We have a round up that the Black Mask will likely not be charged due to a lack of evidence, a cameo from Dick who seems to have recovered is watching the news feed on a miniature screen perched high on a Gotham building, Ra's watches the news feed from the plane with a heavy look and we end with Bruce, who turns it off to look at the costume. The film ends on the memory of Jason's first time in the Robin costume, something that reminded me a little of Legends of the Dark Knight #100 which has a similar scene. Another fantastic little callback is Alfred noting that Dick primped and preened for half an hour the first time he donned his costume. Seeing Jason bound about and call it the best day of his life, while seeing the happiness in both Alfred in Bruce is bittersweet, hard to swallow and an incredible ending to an emotional wrenching but ultimately satisfying film.

I had faith in Timm and Winick, being two of the people who made me originally love comics, but this was beyond that. It was stunning. Bruce Greenwood stepped into the role with emotion, edge and just a little bit of humour as well as making Batman believable as the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne as a person dealing with loss. Jensen Ackles made the Red Hood both a threat to be taken seriously and very human, with coming out with things like "Crap!" and coming across as very down to earth. John DiMaggio blew me away. I was so worried about not having Hamill, but his laugh chilled me, his behaviour made me flinch and yet, he still managed to make me laugh. Neil Patrick Harris was born to do Nightwing. Funny, camp and never shutting up, he was the perfect Dick Grayson. I could have sat all night quoting him in this and his delivery was spot on. Jason Isaacs came across perfectly as what I thought Ra's would be, a little altruistic but ultimately, more about settling scores. Isaacs almost bored narration of Jason's return, along with how his detached view just came across great. Though we lost a lot of great Black Mask moments, Wade Williams did a great job with what he had. He made me laugh, but at the same time, then adjusted his tone to be chilling.

There were really only three things I missed about this adaption and even then, they were compensated for. One was Talia's involvement, another was the epic scene of Jason crawling his way out of the grave and lastly, the hilarious relationship between Deathstroke and Black Mask. However, trading it in for more time with DiMaggio's Joker is fine with me. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. The film hits you like a punch to the gut but you keep watching because the characters are riveting, the animation is flawless and it's an excellent story. It's left me craving more, reminding me how much I enjoyed this incarnation of the Red Hood and making me miss it, miss Bruce and miss the Dick Grayson incarnation of Nightwing. With Bruces return imminent and Lost Days going on, I can definitely see this film bringing in a new audience to the Batman world through wanting to know more about these characters. For a seasoned fan, it's got more than enough to keep you very happy and desperate for more. Outstanding!

Rating: 5/5



This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. 4th to 17th Oct, including Batman: Knightfall Pt11.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. 20th Sept to 3rd Oct, including Batman: Knightfall Pt10.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. 13th to Sept 20th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt9.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. Aug 30th to Sept 12th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt8.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. Aug 23rd to Aug 29th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt7.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. Aug 9th to Aug 22nd, including Batman: Knightfall Pt6.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. Aug 2nd to Aug 8th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt5.


This week we have a new host and review Batman: Under the Red Hood along with all the news from the week.


This is our SDCC '10 coverage special covering all the news from July 19th to July 25th.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. July 12th to July 18th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt2.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. July 5th to July 11th, including Batman: Knightfall Pt1.


This week we interview writer Judd Winick about the Red Hood.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. June 14th to June 20th.


This week we cover the amazing release of Batman #700. June 7th to June 13th.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. May 31st to June 6th.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. May 24th to May 30th.


This week we cover the usual news in the Batman Universe. May 10th to May 23rd.


We return for a quick April round table episode.


This week is our 25th Anniversary episode including a new co-host.


This week we interview with artist Lee Garbett to talk about his current run on Batgirl