“BATMAN YEAR ONE,” the new animated movie, the latest in the excellent ongoing series of DC Universe Original Movies, is now available as a Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and thru iTunes as well as other outlets. It packs a punch and delivers a gritty story loyal to the original masterpiece comic by writer Frank Miller and illustrator David Mazzucchelli while providing its own energy and style.

When that landmark comic was unleashed in 1987, New York City was still very much a classic crime capital and Gotham City proved an easy stand-in. Today, things have reconfigured in a mass of complexity but vice is still vice and crime is still crime. The movie is set in a timeless present befitting the eternally crime-ridden Gotham but, if you look closely, there are definite nods to the ‘80s with old computers and VHS shops. The main thing is that this is a double origin story, Frank Miller’s take on what it was like to have both Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon come into their own during that crucial first year.

The hallmark of the DC Universe Original Movies is their faithful adaptation of landmark DC comics, like “All-Star Superman.” Even a sense of the artwork from the original comic is attempted. I’m not so sure that Mazzucchelli’s style is retained but that’s fine. Where the comic has its intrinsic literary and artistic qualities, the animated movie keeps pace in ways special to its medium. The action is spot on. And, there is no doubt that the voice actors bring out another dimension to this.


At the top of the list is Bryan Cranston as Lt. Jim Gordon. A three-time Emmy Award winner, Cranston is known for his role as the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle” and for his recent starring role in AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Talk about adding heart and soul to a work, it is Cranston who holds this movie together as the driving force. In fact, “Batman Year One” is very much focused on Lt. Jim Gordon and how he navigated through the corrupt political system of Gotham, struggles with his domestic life, and tries to make sense of this amazing vigilante in a bat costume. As Cranston describes in a special Warner Bros. interview, he brought a lot to the role, including his background in police training:

“In thinking about James Gordon, basically I used my own background. I went to college to become a police officer. There's a certain similar decorum that all police officers have – it’s a skepticism and a curiosity and a bit of cynicism, too. And what I found in reading the script was that all those elements seem to be in place for the character. So all I wanted to do is to bring out that sensibility and make him real. He has to be a real guy, someone you believe could be this police officer, in order for you to accept the plight and the dismay that he's going through, and trying to do the right thing in a city that is surrounded by corruption.”


Rounding out the Blu-ray package are some cool extra features which include a “Catwoman” short movie, a documentary on Frank Miller, two episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series,” handpicked by producer Bruce Timm, and a roundtable discussion about Batman with a stellar cast of DC comics talent. Overall, it is quite an impressive package. The only warning is to keep in mind that this is a Frank Miller PG-13. Some of the stuff here is simply going to be too intense for kids, including extreme violence, sexual content and basically the disturbing noir stuff you’d expect. That said, this is definitely a good movie and a great companion to the original book.

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