Review: Batman: Year One

by on October 13, 2011 >> MoviesReviews

is a universally loved character and there are a lot of different ways he can be written. You can make the cartoony over the top that you saw with Adam West and the currently running : The Brave and the Bold. You can write him dark and serious like : The Animated Series and Christopher Nolan’s films. There’s of course a mix in between but my favorite version of is the one in the shadows, the detective, the true crime fighter.

isn’t Batman’s story, not by a long shot. Year One is the story of two men coming to Gotham, finding corruption around every corner and trying to stop it. It plays out more like a crime drama about dirty cops, like a heightened reality version of The Shield more than a comic book . After twelve years over seas, and eighteen years since the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham. In the same day Lieutenant James Gordon joins the Gotham PD and seems to be the only man on the force that won’t take a bribe or bend to the will of corruption.

While we get glimpses of what Bruce Wayne is like, and we see him as Batman in scenes where he takes the lead, this is Gordon’s story. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) voices Gordon with such intensity and truth, that it doesn’t take much to realize he should play Gordon in the inevitable Batman reboot we’ll see after Nolan’s films are done. He’s young here, only a few years older than Batman, and able to handle himself. In fact there’s a shot where a shirtless man is getting into bed and before you can see his face you’d think it’s Bruce Wayne, but it’s not, it’s an incredibly ripped Gordon with a six pack of steel. Gordon is the weary, beaten down cop that he can be portrayed as… he’s a young hungry cop that wants what’s best for his family, the city and his daughter who is on the way.

Batman here is voiced by Ben McKenzie of The OC and Southland. He’s not bad, but he’s not great either. He’s a step above Diedrich Bader on The Brave and the Bold. He’s trying a little too hard to do the Christian Bale gruff voice and it comes off as hokey. It’s not that big of a detriment, but when put up against Cranston’s brilliant narration and character work, it shows that McKenzie isn’t cut out for voice acting. Like I said, this isn’t Batman’s story, despite being in the title.

Playing a third role is Selena Kyle, Catwoman (Eliza Dushku). She starts her story as a prostitute along with her friend Holly, a young girl who she looks after, who is also a working girl. When I say “young girl” I mean 13 or 14 years old. Catwoman has a competitive angle with Batman which is interesting, but she comes so late into the story that it’s almost pointless.

Year One is a pretty good adaptation of the must read comic of the same name. Batman stays in the shadows, and has a few big action moments, but really at it’s heart, this is a story about corrupt politics, heart break, standing up for what’s right even when you don’t have a billion dollar empire to find your crime fighting. Year One shows why Gordon is a better person than Bruce Wayne, a better character and a more dynamic one. He fights for good, and despite having flaws, he’s unflinching in his take on crime.

If you like Batman give this film a watch. It’s not quite a Batman origin story, but it is very good, and very worth your time. If it weren’t for some lack luster voice acting it’d be nearly perfect. It’s paced incredibly well and gets a lot of story across in it’s 94 minute running time.

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