I specifically made Batman Year One my 100th Review. It would have been very easy, and obvious, to make The Dark Knight my 100th because it is my favourite film of all time but ever since I heard they were making a cartoon version of Frank Miller’s amazing origin story, I have been desperate to see it. Luckily, in Tesco of all places, there was a five animated Batman film boxset, Batman: Year One being one of those movies.
This also shows how far behind I am with my reviews because I’m cheating by reviewing this before the others. I have watched well over 100 films this year but I am determined to review every film I see and can’t quite keep up… I’ll get there though. Batman: Year One felt like a suitable, milestone film to review and it did not disappoint.
I love the original source material. Frank Miller created and defined the origin of Batman with his comic series (if you haven’t read it, even if you’re not a comics fan, you have to pick it up!). The film version follows the comic almost panel for panel and word for word which I began to think would get slightly irritating, especially because I know the comic so well, but it actually helped my enjoyment as I excitedly anticipated the cool set pieces I knew were coming up next.
The animation follows the style that Frank Miller’s book adopts without looking too dated. It reminded me of the amazing Animated Series which managed to make a “mature” kids cartoon and is still hugely watchable as an adult. The voice acting was very good too, even if it did jar with what I imagined the voices of these characters would actually sound like.
It was great to watch an animated movie that was intended as a pure homage and straight retelling of the classic story. It didn’t hold back on the violence or the swearing and the film being animated meant that nothing had to be spared when it came to the action sequences either. You can see where Christopher Nolan drew inspiration for Batman Begins and though this film is slightly too short at just over an hour, I actually prefer the simpler, bare bones origin story that Miller’s version is. There isn’t a huge plot to destroy Gotham or even a crazy villain to stop but actually humble beginnings for a “superhero” making a lot of mistakes. The story wouldn’t work for a huge blockbuster film but is perfect for a smaller, animated show.
That is where I began to get disappointed with this film because it is a “one-off.” I would love Warner Bros. and DC to commission a whole series, using the same style as Batman: Year One, made specifically for the older viewer. It wouldn’t even have to be original material either, Jeph Loeb’s Long Halloween is ripe for the same animated, re-make treatment.
When you main complaint is that a film is too short and doesn’t continue with a series or even a sequel, you know that you are on to a positive. It was great to see Frank Miller’s fantastic story being played out on-screen and I just hope they can continue their magic when they bring The Dark Knight Returns to the animated screens too.
Overall, this is a perfect retelling of a superb origin story. Some people may not like the fact that it is a straight remake, with little to no deviation from the comic, but that is the point. Batman’s origin has never been bettered, not even by Nolan and I would love to see this one film creating a whole series.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)