Thursday, January 17, 2013

Batman Animated Double Feature: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) and Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

So the other day a friend and I had an animation day, which we'd been planning for a while. We wanted to watch like 15 animated movies but settled for four, hoping to continue another time. Of the films we watched, I've already reviewed ParaNorman and Anastasia, so I figured I'd just do a double feature post about the two Batman movies my friend brought over. I will remind you guys that I'm not especially well-versed in the Batman universe. I enjoy all the films and I've seen the 1960s show and some of the animated ones, but I haven't read much of the comics. So revisiting the futuristic world of Batman Beyond where the Joker canon is somewhat altered, while also diving into the sad story of Under the Red Hood that draws from the comic arcs dealing with Jason Todd, the second Robin, was an educational experience too.

For those who weren't hanging out watching tons of cartoons in 1999, Batman Beyond is a re-imagining of the character's world set several decades into the future. Bruce Wayne is an old fuddy duddy who takes on young upstart Terry as the new Batman. This means new toys, new villains, and a lot of grungy electronica. Oh and hovercraft. Always hovercraft. The film has Terry facing off with Batman's ultimate nemesis, the Joker, despite the villain's definite death years earlier. Terry tries to unravel the mystery of his return, enlisting the aid of Commissioner Barbara Gordon, while also contending with Bruce's ever-increasing moping. Perhaps something happened in his past involving one of the Robins? Hmm?

This movie is a pretty fun time, but it helps if you're into Batman Beyond to begin with. I loved that show when I was in middle school and it was great to revisit it. I love this lithe, acrobatic, snarky take on Batman as a superhero, it's a little more Spider-Many than Bruce. And I love the very late 90s take on the future, where everything is neon and there's a lot of black leather. The animation's a little choppy, and the final reveal about the Joker's return is almost too weird and nonsensical, but I found the story leading up to it very compelling. There's even a bit of Harley Quinn, and best of all, Mark Hamill's Joker!


Ok now we take an angsty turn. There's a lot of brooding in this one. Under the Red Hood first reminds us of Jason Todd's death at the hands of the Joker, and everyone is sad for a while, but then flash forward and there's a new anti-hero in town! His name's Red Hood and he's taking control of Gotham's organized crime scene, while also destroying the competition. He's highly trained and seems to have no qualms killing anyone who doesn't serve him, and Batman is determined to find out who he is. Nightwing's there to help, but Batman gets all testy because he's still depressed about Jason or something.

Obviously these two movies have a lot in common, both dealing with Batman's whole thing for taking in young boys, training them to fight, and then sending them out into the night in a brightly colored costume to wantonly attack armed criminals. This film is generally very dark, sometimes ridiculously so, but it has an interesting story and I was glad to know more about this comic arc that I'd heard about but wasn't overly familiar with. The action scenes are good, surprisingly bloody at parts, and I dug John DiMaggio's Joker even if it's not as iconic as Hamill's. All in all a strong animated feature.


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