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Batman: Under The Red Hood Film Review
Despite the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, the history of Batman in the movies is, at best, a mixed bag. Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992) was a disappointing follow-up to his very successful 1989 Batman, and the less said about the Joel Schumacher films, the better.
Batman Animated Movies
Batman has appeared in several very good animated films, however, that are often overlooked by fans who dismiss animation as inferior to live-action, or consider animation to be merely kid stuff.
One example is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, an excellent Batman movie, better than several of the live-action releases (despite its less than stellar performance at the box office during its 1993 theatrical release). The direct-to-video adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One (2011) is also very good.
The best of the animated Batman movies, however, is the 2010 direct-to-video release Batman: Under the Red Hood, featuring Bruce Greenwood as the voice of Batman.
Under the Red Hood, based on a storyline that ran in the monthly Batman comics in 2005-2006, touches on decades of Batman mythos. The character of the Red Hood goes all the way back to the Joker's origin, as revealed in Detective Comics #168 (1951). Another key player, Ra's Al Ghul, was created in 1971 during the Neal Adams-Denny O'Neil era. Al Ghul, one of Batman's most complex foes, was part of an attempt to rehabilitate Batman's image following the campy Adam West TV show, and return him to his roots as a dark creature of the night.
Batman: A Death in the Family
The main roots of the Under the Red Hood storyline come from the Death in the Family story arc that ran in Batman #426-429 in 1988-1989. That storyline was actually a very strange publicity stunt in which DC Comics had the Joker capture the second Robin (Jason Todd), and then had readers vote via 900 telephone numbers as to whether or not the Joker would kill Robin. The readers voted, and Robin was killed. It was a terrible failure that has haunted Batman ever since.
Not the Superfriends Batman
Batman: Under the Red Hood is an animated movie, but parents beware: this is not the Batman from the Superfriends cartoon of the 1970s. Due to violent content, the film has a PG-13 rating, and is unsuitable for younger viewers. This is a movie for older teens and adults.
Under the Red Hood
In modern-day Gotham City, a new character who calls himself the Red Hood is attempting to take over the city's drug trade. The name is significant, as the original Red Hood had been Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker himself, prior to his transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime. The Joker, however, is safely locked-up in Arkham Asylum, and claims to have no knowledge of this new character.
Batman's attempt to stop the Red Hood are thwarted, as the Red Hood posesses skills and training equal to those of Batman himself. Even with the aid of Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the first Boy Wonder, now an adult), Batman is unable to put a stop to the Red Hood's activities. The story leads to a powerful climax involving Batman, the Red Hood and the Joker.
The art design and animation in Under the Red Hood are very good, and the voice acting is excellent. I wish they could have gotten Mark Hamill to return to voice the Joker, but John DiMaggio's Joker, while quite different from Hamill's, is actually quite good.
I was pleased to see Nightwing in the film, but somewhat disappointed that, having introduced the character, they didn't give him more to do. Overall, however, the plot and writing are strong. Batman: Under the Red Hood is more than just a good animated Batman movie, it is a good Batman movie.