As promised: 'Batman: Gotham Knight' DVD review

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010

 

This might be a first about something Batman-related: I'm almost at a loss for words.

 

I just finished watching the "Batman: Gotham Knight" DVD last night, along with the extras.

 

Needless to say I was impressed, although I had no idea what to expect even though I had seen an extended preview for it on the "Justice League: New Frontier" DVD. (The same footage is available under the "videos" section of www.warnervideo.com/batmangotham...)

 

"BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT" content: Warner said this weaves "six interlocking stories that reveal Bruce Wayne's journey to 'The Dark Knight'" in announcing the DVD project March 19.

 

However, there are very few direct connections bridging "Gotham Knight" to TDK.

 

You don't need to see one to enjoy the other. It's more accurate to say there are elements that remind us these Batman adventures (could?) take place in director Chris Nolan's world: scientist/inventor Lucius Fox is in the story "Field Test," Jim Gordon is a lieutenant in charge of the GCPD Major Crimes Unit (as we've learned in the TDK online viral campaign), Gordon loosely resembles Gary Oldman and there's a mention or so of The Narrows.

 

It's interesting to speculate if "Gotham Knight" is considered "Begins" and TDK canon since Nolan's wife, Emma Thomas, is one of the executive producers.

 

I won't go into the details of each story, but the directors and writers of each installment either intentionally or inadvertantly give their own visions of Batman. That means the Caped Crusader's costume looks decidedly different in each story, but seems to look similar in the last two or three.

 

I would have preferred a more, uh, uniform approach to Batman, but it's honestly not that distracting. What helps is going in knowing that each creative team emphasizes different aspects of Batman's/Bruce's personality. This in turn actually provides a more holistic insight to the complex character, who has been open to various, yet valid, interpretations since his 1939 debut.

 

It’s stunning to experience how American film and comics writers have collaborated with Japanese animators to create a unique storytelling and visual approach to Gotham City and its sworn protector.

 

Somehow the extreme camera angles and overly angular faces complement the noir atmosphere we’ve seen in “Begins” and probably again in TDK.

 

I can't say enough about Kevin Conroy as The Animated Voice of Batman/Bruce. It's wonderful to hear him back voicing the Dark Knight. Although, his deep voice doesn't quite match the mop-topped Bruce Wayne in "Working Through the Pain."

 

What's fun is to pay attention to the other voice credits. The most obvious connections to Batman's various animated incarnations are George Newbern, Superman in "Justice League," and Will Friedle, Terry McGinnis (the future Batman) in "Batman Beyond," who both do three different characters.

 

The coolest? Long-time voice casting director Andrea Romano handles Bruce's mom in a flashback and a police dispatcher.

 

The style? Where to start.

 

Bruce Timm, the mastermind behind virtually all of DC's recent animated projects, is once again executive-producing, but this is not your "Batman: The Animated Series"-style cartoon you might expect. All the stories are done in anime, which would seem to be at odds with an iconic American superhero. But the extreme camera angles (at times), the angular facial features, heavy shadowing (I'd call it inking in a comic book) and bold jewel tones work well with the aura of a dark knight protecting the dangerous Gotham City.

 

Overall, "Gotham Knight" is a thoughtful and unique approach to Batman. There's no doubt fans will be as impressed and enjoy it as much years from now as they will when they first see it. Grade: A

 

THE EXTRAS:

 

"A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City": If you ever had a thought, philosophy or insight about Batman or any member of his Rogues Gallery of Villains, this impressive collection of "Gotham Knight" and B:TAS creators, DC executives and writers say it here. I'm not kidding. The footage and comic book panels is a nice complement to the talking heads.

 

"Batman and Me: A Devotion of Destiny - The Bob Kane Story": Having read the "Batman & Me" biography and lots of Kane info over the years, I thought I pretty much new everything there was about Batman's creator. Wrong! (And that's saying A LOT.)

 

The researchers found some great audio and family pics.

 

I didn't realize he and Stan Lee were such good friends. And Mark Hamill's brief impersonation of Kane is frighteningly right-on!

 

"Sneak Peek: Wonder Woman": A recap of her origin and comics history, more prerequisite comics covers and panels, talking heads and the rough sketches of what we'll see in the DVD movie. You'd expect that, but how about a female director, Keri Russell ("Misson: Impossible III" and "Felicity," of course) as Wonder Woman and a voice cast also featuring Alfred Molina (Doc Ock in "Spider-Man 2") and self-admitted comic book geek Roasrio Dawson? I can't wait for spring 2009!!

 

All this plus the audio commentary by Conroy (!), legendary Batman comics writer and editor Dennis O'Neil & DC Comics' Gregory Noveck (who basically moderates the commentary); Bruce Timm's four favorite B:TAS bonus episodes and the trailer for the Batman Lego video game. (It's hilarious seeing Catwoman sashaying and kissing Batman.)

 

And do you think I'd get tired of seeing the first full-length TDK trailer?!? Naaah... Grade: A-

 

Now go reserve your copy on Amazon!

Comments

Cary

Don't hold back - tell me how you REALLY feel.

Yes, I agree Bill Finger was instrumental in the early years of Batman's creation and development, but I'm not sure I'd say he's "far more deserving." Calling Kane — even as egotistical as he was — a thief seems a bit extreme. He was definitely full of himself, but it added to his charm and most fans take that for granted.

mtoast

If you know so much about Bob Kane, you must know that Bill Finger was far more deserving of the title "creator of Batman." Bob Kane was an egotistical hack who negotiated sole credit and royalties for the character, leaving Finger out in the cold. It's shameful that they waste a bonus feature on that thief.

Kenry

I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff

Vereen

Hey, is there a section just for latest news

Cary

Kenry, Thanks for taking time to give me some feedback. Please come back as often as you'd like.

Vereen, the top three or so general news stories from the Norwalk Reflector can be found at www.norwalkreflector.com.