Batman: Under the Red Hood
Batman: Under the Red Hood 2010
Even before starting this site, I was a fan of DC’s animation studio and had watched most of their earlier releases like New Frontier, Doomsday, and Gotham Knight. They were all pretty good and I enjoyed watching them as I did some of the Marvel releases around that point like Ultimate Avengers and Planet Hulk. All of them were good. Under the Red Hood is great. It’s interesting that I watched this after Superman vs. the Elite because they both deal with slightly similar ideas, and yet Under the Red Hood takes those ideas and instead of using some random anti-heroes/villains that were never heard of before or since, they take characters much more rooted to the core of the Batman mythos and break down the story on a completely personal level. I must say that this is the best one of these movies that I’ve seen so far. There are a couple weak spots, but it’s pretty impressive overall.
I won’t go too much into the plot of the movie, because it is set up to be a mystery. A mysterious figure who goes by The Red Hood shows up in Gotham and lays down the law with the local drug dealers. But even at the beginning there’s something a little bit off about him when he says that if he hears about one of the dealers trying to sell to kids, they’re dead. It then becomes a three way war between the Red Hood, the Black Mask, who was the previous high crime lord in Gotham, and Batman, with bit players in Nightwing, the Joker locked away in Arkham, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Jason Todd Robin in flashbacks. If at all possible, go into this movie reading nothing except for this review, which I will keep spoiler free. I only glanced at the movie info before watching the movie and expected the Superman vs. the Elite connection, but thankfully missed another connection which is at the heart of the mystery of who the Red Hood really is under the mask.
I don’t generally talk about the voice acting in animated movies unless it’s notably bad, but I do have to mention the disappointment that Mark Hamill doesn’t do the voice of the Joker in this movie. John DiMaggio does an adequate job, especially at giving the Joker a much darker edge that really helps sell the story of the movie, but I had recently listened to three podcasts with Mark Hamill talking about the Joker (via SModcast and Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen) so it was still a bit of a letdown. Everyone else is great, especially Jensen Ackles from Supernatural doing the voice for the Red Hood, I hoped it was a slight nod that during one of the car chases he drives a vaguely similar car. Which brings me to one of the other things I thought wasn’t done very well. In the car chase and a couple other brief scenes there was some very poor CGI animation that really stood out against the rest of the well done hand drawn animation.
I also thought that the scene with Amazo was somewhat out of place. He’s a robot that absorbs superpowers that basically comes out of nowhere and merely serves as a random excuse for another action sequence. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty fun action sequence, but in a movie with this much plot that is so well layered, this scene didn’t feel like it had any connection to the rest of the story. It was just an excuse to show that Batman could take down a superpowered robot. But anyone who’s at all a fan of Batman already knows that. I mean, he is Batman after all. I would have rather seen a fight that had some greater connection to the story as a whole.
The violence in this movie is actually fairly surprising. The movie kicks off with a very brutal assault by the Joker on a defenseless Robin with a crowbar. And throughout the rest of the movie, there are several killings with varying amounts of blood, although it’s never used in excess. It really helps sell the fact that this isn’t a kid’s cartoon at all. It’s a story that tackles some real heavy issues of mortality and morality. I did say that it is similar to Superman vs. the Elite, but in that movie the issue of morality is centered around the idea of might makes right. When someone has the power of a superhuman, it’s easy to make your own rules and abuse that power to become something that people fear rather than respect. But this movie takes a look at a different side of morality. Instead of looking at it in terms of having power, it’s more about the inner workings of crime. If the Red Hood can become the crime boss, then he could actually make much more of a difference, taking out criminals that don’t play by the rules, while using the lesser criminals for his own purposes while trying to keep them away from the greater crimes. And as is often the case in a Batman story, the Joker is thrown in as a wild card, and he plays that card very effectively in this movie.
The main reason I watched this movie for the first time is on the many recommendations of my readers after watching a few of the other DC animated movies, and I will gladly say thank you for recommending it to me, and I will mirror that recommendation to anyone else reading that hasn’t watched this movie and is any sort of Batman fan at all. This is one of the greatest Batman stories on film out there, it has action, mystery, great villains, and a personal touch. I’ll be finishing out this mini-marathon of DC animation by re-watching one not quite as good as this one, but one I still enjoy: Wonder Woman. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.