December 9, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Batman: Year One

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Batman: Year One

Today's movie: Batman: Year One, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because despite watching less and less cartoons anymore specifically aimed towards a teenage crowd, this one just happens to be a straightforward adaptation of the 1987 Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli graphic novel, which I was a huge fan of when I actually was a teenager, which is why I thought I'd break my stance and add it to my queue.

The reality: So yes, it's true -- now that I'm in my forties, I find myself very purposely curtailing the amount of animation projects I watch anymore, and graphic novels that I read, and especially the ones that were designed specifically with teenage mentalities in mind; and that includes the series of highly stylized Batman shows that have been on television over the last decade, highly praised by others but that always leaves me feeling like a cranky middle-ager whenever watching one of them. But like I said, I did decide to take a chance on this special movie version of a Batman story, from the same team that does the TV shows, mostly because it's a highly faithful adaptation of the original graphic novel that I was so obsessed with when I was eighteen myself; and indeed, if this had come out in the late '80s back when my own Batman fever was at its highest pitch, I would've peed in my pants at how fantastically amazing this turned out to be. And that's because the filmmakers do a literal adaptation of the graphic novel, the thing that no one seemed capable of back in the '80s when these Miller books were first coming out; everything from the color palettes to the shots themselves are literal frame-by-frame apes of Mazzucchelli's original artwork, and the dialogue is pretty much a word-for-word repeat of Miller's original scripts, which granted can get a little stale in a world where the "Dark Age" in comics is now 25 years old and counting, but that very viscerally reminded me of the excitement my friends and I all felt when such darkly Postmodernist takes on superheroes was still a fresh, daring and controversial idea. Featuring animation that is several steps above the usual television series (think Akira), this is still probably only going to appeal to the most hardcore fans of the franchise out there; but for all of you, Batman: Year One is a must-see, even if like me you put away your superhero comics years and years ago.

Strangest piece of trivia: Bryan Cranston originally turned down the part of James Gordon, thinking that this was going to be a cheap children's show; he confessed in a later interview, "I wasn't aware of this level of storytelling in animation."

Worth your time? For comics fans and nostalgic Gen-Xers, yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:13 AM, December 9, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |