There have been numerous of these animated straight to DVD batman movies in the past. While none have been great, most of them were entertaining to say the least. Batman: Under the Red Hood is the best one that I have seen by far. Of course it is not perfect, but you could tell that a lot of work was put into it. Some straight to DVD movies I’ve seen have been decent, but it could have been better if some more effort was put in. Well, I’m glad some effort was put into this one. This one is also not for young kids. I know, an animated batman movie not for kids? How could that be? Batman: Under the Red Hood has a more of The Dark Knight vibe to it than anything else. It takes a darker path. It does pay off, this is a “real” movie. I hate when a movie tries overly hard to be dark. A few swear words will be thrown in, and other things similar to that for no particular reason. That’s not the case here. Director Brandon Vietti does some of the same stuff that Nolan did in his Batman trilogy. Not to that high of a level, but it manages to get pretty close.
Now for the story. I was shocked to see how it opened; defiantly caught me off guard. It opens with the Joker beating Robin to death with a crowbar, and then blowing him up (you start to realize it’s not good for kids fast). Batman was too late to save him, he failed. After this, we cut five years later. Batman faces his ultimate challenge, as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by storm. He is part vigilante and part criminal kingpin. The Red Hood begins cleaning up the city of Gotham with the same efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. Killing is an option for the Red Hood. As Batman, with some help from Nightwing, chase down this new opponent, it may become more clear that Batman and the Red Hood share some old history together.
Batman: Under the Red Hood has a really great story. It’s put together well. When the movie finally reveals who the Red Hood, it is no surprise. You can already guess who it’s going to be after the first ten minutes or so. That’s where it could have been done better. I mean Batman should have figured it out sooner than he does. The movie does make up for it however with the climax happens. The final confrontation between Batman and the Red Hood is remarkable. This is where the movie truly shines. Everything is perfect, especially the dialog for the whole climax. It also brings up complicated questions that I did not expect from this type of film. With complicated questions, you have complicated characters. All the characters have depth to them. Like all the best superhero movies, it focuses on characters and their history. It’s way more than just non stop mindless action.
Of course there are still action scenes. They are all well choreographed, and aren’t tedious to watch. It also helps that we get involved with the characters. Like I said before, there were some complicated aspects to be found here. The best one being how they examine the psychological subtext of why Robins have ever existed. Also, what they really mean to Batman.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil are not the voices of Batman and the Joker in this one. I wasn’t so sure about this, those two were really good. Those were big shoes to fill. Thankfully the new people fill them well. Bruce Greenwod is the voice of Batman, and John DiMaggio is the voice of the Joker. It takes a little while, but you get used to them. Neil Patrick Harris is the voice of Nightwing and Jensen Ackles is the voice of the Red Hood. They got great actors to do the voice work. For a straight to DVD movie, this is pretty rare. The voice work is truly immaculate from everyone.
My main complaint is it’s too short. I understand that this is an animated batman movie, but this one had the potential to be up to par with The Dark Knight. It has a great story, great voice actors, complex characters, above average directing, and the dialog is surprisingly good. I can just imagine how amazing it might have been if it was two hours long – oh well. It was still made with great care, though. I had low expectations for seeing this, and I was surprised at how good it turned out to be. It is a little gem of a movie. So despite its minor flaws, I am extremely happy I saw it.