Batman: Gotham Knight
Batman: Gotham Knight 2008
It had been a long time since I visited this movie so I figured it was overdue for a revisit. Gotham Knight is one of the more unique entries in the DC Animation canon. It’s an anthology consisting of several short films loosely tied together and all featuring Batman in one way or another. While they did try this again later on with Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, this one is done by different anime directors with very different styles while Emerald Knights all shared the same style as they were done by a single director within DC Animation. While there are a few high points, and a few weak spots, overall it’s quite enjoyable and Batman generally translates quite well to an Anime style. The only thing I don’t think translated quite as well is that Bruce Wayne is generally shown in a Bishounen style, as in he has a more effeminate look to him which is very different from the very masculine style in western animation and comics. But aside from that, it was an enjoyable movie and a welcome departure from the traditional animation style without going too far into typical Anime philosophizing and introspection that plagued the recent Iron Man anime Rise of Technovore.
I am a big fan of anthologies and short films in general, and while there are several connections between the shorts in this film, like the references to the feud between the Russian and Marcone as well as the loose idea that the events all take place somewhere in between the events of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight even though there are no strong connections to the Nolan movies, the shorts are pretty much taken as stand alone segments. I won’t go into detail on all of the shorts, but I will focus on a few of them. It starts off with one of the most humorous, as well as the least Batman-like story “Have I Got A Story For You” where four kids end up seeing Batman in very different ways. The first three recall their encounters with Batman facing a masked criminal and translate his presence in very different and exaggerated ways. The first sees him as some kind of shadow demon, the second as an actual bat creature, and the third as a cyborg. The animation for this one in general is also fitting of a child’s exaggeration, with a more simple style and less focus on proper anatomy or proportion. I loved seeing the interpretations of Batman in these more fantastical situations, and it had a great conclusion to it.
The second of the shorts, like “Have I Got A Story for You” focuses on side characters, “Crossfire” follows two members of Gordon’s MCU including Chris Allen who is distrustful of Batman. Where the first one was a pretty light and humorous story, this one kicks it right into more serious territory and I think out of all of them, this was my favorite. It has a great style to it, and I like the characters in it. It also probably more than any of the other shorts helps set it in the right timeline of being still in the early stages of Batman’s career where only a few people really trust him as being someone who’s doing the right thing, rather than just a crazed vigilante.
Honestly, the shorts that I liked the least were the two that focused the most on Bruce Wayne. Both “Field Test” where he gets a device (that coincidentally looks a lot like the device used in the this past week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) that uses electromagnetic fields and sound detection to deflect bullets, but one deflects into the shoulder of a gang member who Batman then rushes to the hospital. It’s a little overbearing especially since one of the later shorts has him fighting Scarecrow in the sewers and he brings giant pipes crashing down around everyone, nearly killing Scarecrow in the process. He didn’t seem to concerned about risking other people’s lives there. And there’s also the short “” where he is also/still in the sewers, badly injured and has flashbacks to when he was training under someone who learned from the Fakir’s in India how to suppress and control their pain and right before he gets rescued by Alfred, he starts finding all these stashed/discarded guns within a large pile of trash. It was one moment where it felt like there was a bit of overbearing symbolism that just didn’t sit well with me.
Throughout many of the shorts, there is actually quite a bit of violence which I had forgotten about since I saw it last. It’s something that I’ve brought up recently in both Dark Knight Returns and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox because it seems to be pushing the limits of what they can do in a PG-13 rated feature. But there is a similar level of violence in several of these shorts, part of it was probably because I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, and another part is probably because Anime is much more well known for similar levels of violence as well as plenty of what would be R-rated material, though I think much of it is simply released as “unrated”, and since this is Batman done by Anime directors, a similar level of violence is expected, where the more Bruce Timm style DC Animation comes from Saturday morning and after school cartoons where the level of violence was minimal to none.
I don’t watch nearly as much Anime as I used to, and what I do watch is more often girl-and-kid-friendly that my wife and daughter are interested in watching, so it was refreshing to come back to an Anime that was something that I really enjoyed, and to combine it with Batman was just icing on the cake. Not every short in this compliation was among the best that I’ve seen, but they are all well made, and it makes me curious to see more of Marvel’s attempts at anime adaptations of their characters, even if the Iron Man movie wasn’t the best. If DC were to attempt something along these lines again, I actually think it would be interesting to see how Anime directors would handle The Punisher, but that’s Marvel so it’s neither here nor there. Gotham Knight was an unique experiment and honestly I wish it was something that they’re willing to try again sometime. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.