Friday, July 11, 2008

Holy Anime, Batman! (Gotham Knight Review)

Batman: Gotham Knight released Tuesday (July 8, 2008). I wasn't really sure what to expect at first, but I had watched some previous animated features involving some my favorite comic book characters. The Ultimate Avengers animated films and the Invincible Iron Man animated film by Marvel were all worth watching. So, I had a little time to kill, and I decided to rent this latest contribution to the Batman mythos from iTunes.

Right away, I was pretty excited, just by the great music and dark intro. Now, it's important to know that this film is actually six short films about Batman, all of which are set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (the latter film releases in about a week). Another thing you should know is that the artwork in these films is beautiful, but they are done in an anime style. If you enjoyed the Animatrix, then you'll likely enjoy this movie. Actually, if you remotely like Batman at all, you'll be entertained for the duration of the 1 hr., 15 mins. of footage. Oh, and one more thing — this one isn't necessarily for the kiddies. It's rated PG-13, but keep in mind, there is plenty of blood and a guy does get his head cut off on-screen.

The cool part about this film having six chapters is that you don't have to watch it all at once. This is one reason it's such a great iTunes download. Each story is independent of the other and acts as a vignette about how Batman's character developed in between the two live-action films in the franchise's rebirth. Each chapter is about 12.5 minutes long. Here's a brief look at each one:

"Have I Got a Story For You" — Four kids each tell a story about their encounter with Batman, meaning we get a different perspective each time. This is cool because we see Batman portrayed as a shadow monster, a bat-thing, and even a robot. The ending here is classic, by the way.
4 bat signals out of 5

"Crossfire" — Two Gotham City police detectives distrust Batman, declaring him a vigilante with no right to be involved in crimefighting activities. Perhaps there are ways he can gain their trust...
2 bat signals out of 5

"Field Test" — Batman grapples with technology and has to decide how far he will go to do his job. Is he willing to put others' lives at risk to protect his own while fighting crime?
3 bat signals out of 5

"In Darkness Dwells" — The Scarecrow has escaped and makes his return in this short. Batman must also face the Killer Croc. An action-packed chapter that really makes you feel as though you are watching a Batman movie.
5 bat signals out of 5

"Working Through Pain" — Bruce Wayne continues his martial arts training, especially in a spiritual way, as he attempts to learn to handle the pain he feels, both externally and internally. This is a powerful look at the inner workings of a complex character, and the film cuts between two timelines that connect for a great conclusion that is an ultimate realization for Wayne.
4 bat signals out of 5

"Deadshot" — Batman must take down a villain named Deadshot, one of the classic DC villains who had yet to be included in a Batman film. What's so interesting about this villain is that he helps us examine a character who is opposite of Batman in the sense that Deadshot loves guns, and Batman vows not to use them, even though his enemies do. There is an excellent sequence in this film where Bruce Wayne actually talks about how he feels about guns. This is a great chapter to end this group of films.
5 bat signals out of 5

Best Quote: Either "Croc bit me!" or "I'm willing to put my life on the line to do what I have to, but it has to be mine — no one else's."

Voice Acting: Great, the Batman voice is what really matters, and it's believable. (5 bat signals out of 5)

Story: Each chapter has its own rating above, but overall, they weave a story that provides us with some great entertainment, a brief look into the inner workings of Batman, and a nice fix until the next movie releases. (3 bat signals out of 5)

Music: Heroic, dramatic, what you'd expect. (5 bat signals out of 5)

Attributes/Animation: This is straight comic book movie goodness, not much else. The storytelling is deep, rich and better than a Saturday morning cartoon, though. The anime style seems out of place at first, especially when Bruce Wayne looks as though he belongs in Final Fantasy. You get used to it quickly, though, and luckily, some of the best animators in the business are on board. (4 bat signals out of 5)

Overall Rating: 4 bat signals out of 5!

See It/Don't See It/Buy It/Rent It: If you like action, anime, Batman, comic books, comic books movies, etc., even a little bit at all, you should see this movie. I'd recommend renting it unless you are a hardcore Batman fan. However, you do get some extra episodes of past animated Batman series and some commentary from Bob Kane if you buy the movie. I really think this couldn't be better-suited than for putting on your iPod or laptop to watch a chapter at a time during your lunch break and such. Personally, once my iTunes rental expires, I probably won't watch this again for some time, and I doubt I'll buy it. That doesn't mean it isn't good, but it's just not something I feel like I have to own. It's not a full-length, live-action Batman movie, and for me, it's mostly just feeding my realization of how cool of a character Batman is and making me want to see the new movie at the same time.

What do you think?

Note: I also had a Roanoke Times article published yesterday for anyone who enjoys local music events in the southwestern area of Virginia.

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