Batman: Under the Red Hood [Blu-Ray] Brandon Vietti

Batman: Under the Red Hood [Blu-Ray] Brandon Vietti
The Batman franchise has always walked a thin line of credibility. Born out of tragedy, fuelled by revenge, Batman is a vigilante on the outskirts of the law, but bound near-masochistically by a strict moral code that prevents him from killing the Gotham City criminals he so deeply loathes. He's also, let's face it, a rich dude dressed as a bat in skin-tight leotards (or sometimes, bullet-proof rubber) with an impossible arsenal of gadgets (Bat Shark Repellent?) and a rogues gallery of enemies who dress up like cats, clowns and penguins. Something like the Adam West TV series gets around the moral questions by simply embracing the absurd: Batman is good, the villains are bad and the Dark Knight can be trusted to be a responsible, deputized crime fighter. Christopher Nolan's recent films downplay the absurdity by meticulously explaining how Batman might plausibly exist in the real world. The entertaining, new direct-to-DVD animated film, Batman: Under the Red Hood accomplishes the tricky feat of balancing comic book shenanigans (a key plot point involves a fountain of youth) and philosophy because it takes Batman and his world so seriously, and doesn't pander to a younger or broader audience. The tone is dark and downbeat, with surprisingly sadistic violence. The animation style — halfway between anime and Batman: The Animated Series' film noir/art deco look — is simple and strikingly gloomy, with the endless parade of skyscrapers in the Gotham cityscape rich in detail and earthy colour. The film opens with the Caped Crusader's greatest failure: the apparent death of the second Robin (aka Jason Todd) at the hands of the Joker. Five years later, Jason re-emerges, abandoning the quixotic goal of eradicating crime in favour of controlling and monitoring it as crime boss Red Hood. Perfectly happy to kill the scummier elements of the Gotham underworld, Jason challenges Bruce Wayne to consider who is the more efficient and effective crime fighter. The most interesting and alarming thing about Batman: Under the Red Hood is that Jason Todd/Red Hood seems much more persuasive than our hero. Even when he's accompanied by Nightwing (the grown-up first Robin), Batman is more guarded and monosyllabic than ever, and one gets the sense that his no-killing policy is the one arbitrary way he is able to separate himself from the criminals in his mind. Blu-Ray extras include an interesting documentary on the evolution of Robin, who was originally created by Bob Kane so that Batman would have somebody to deliver exposition to. The documentary makes a convincing enough case for the oft-maligned character's place in the Batman universe; DC Comics editor Len Wein says, "He is obsessive, he is relentless and he can be really inhuman. Robin [reminds] him who he is doing this for: not just for revenge, not just to get the people who killed his parents, but to save the people like Robin." Other extras include four Robin-centric episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. (Warner)