Moody, moody, moody moody Batman… Batmaan… Batmaaaaan.
The key word, if you haven’t already guessed, is moody. The latest straight to DVD movie from the DC stable, Batman: Year one, is based on the comic series by Frank Miller of the same name, which in turn was the basis for Christopher Nolan’s equally moody Batman Begins. If you’re comic aficionado or just happen to have seen Sin City, you’ll know what to expect from Miller’s tale of the Caped Crusader’s first steps into crime fighting.
Inner monologues that sound like the same person no matter who is talking? Check.
Laughable attempts to make everything seem grown up? Check. Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman is a prostitute, Batman says ‘fuck’ and 90% of the fight scenes happen in Gotham’s red light district.
That sneaky feeling this is all a bit misogynistic? Check. As well Catwoman being a lady of the night (did I mention that?) who looks after a 12 year old prostitute, the only other strong female character is merely used as a plot device for the soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon to have his end away with.
As this is a serious film about serious grown up things – did I mention Batman says fuck? – there is a huge effort to ground this all in reality. A commendable effort that is somewhat skewed by the fact that everyone appears to have unbelievable superhuman strength. If it’s Gordon kick boxing like Sagat from Street Fighter II, it’s Selina Kyle leaping out of a four storey building before landing safely on concrete and Bruce Wayne punching a pile of bricks to dust before kicking a tree in half. Seriously. In half.
Yes, this is a cartoon world, films have to earn your suspension of disbelief. A man dressing as a bat is going to be difficult already without him having to ability to beat the shit out of oaks.
The plot hangs around a series of snapshots taken during the course of 12 months. Whilst this makes for interesting viewing, some sub-plots are picked up and dropped quicker than an X-Factor winner. Depending on how you look at this, this can be a bit frustrating. How come Batman’s life journey is acceptably concluded whilst Catwoman’s is left open?
It’s not all bad. The minimalist animation works is effective and the denouement is equally low key (if you count babies falling from a bridge low-key), which goes some way to showing that the film can do subtlety when it can be bothered.
Overall, Year One isn’t so much a bad film as a missed opportunity. It has a criminally short running time (just over 60 minutes) and there is just not enough of an attempt made to get inside the head of Bruce Wayne. Did I mention it’s incredibly moody? I’m not saying Batman needs to light a fart or anything, but the darkness would contrast better if it was up against some lighter moments.
Oh yeah, Batman says ‘fuck’.