Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Producer: Warner Bros., Premiere
Film Rating: Rating:
Blu-Ray Rating: Rating:
Review by: Archie Easter
Based on Judd Winick’s original six-issue Batman story arc Under the Hood, Under the Red Hood streamlines and slightly modifies the original without compromising the writing or integrity of the story in the process. The end result is one of DC’s best animated films to date, and an absolute must-see for fans and newcomers alike.
The movie begins by showing a flashback set at the very end of the now famous “A Death in the Family” storyline from the Batman comics. The Joker has captured Robin (aka Jason Todd) in a warehouse, and has begun savagely beating him to death with a crowbar. Batman races toward the location as the Joker, his grim task complete, leaves Robin clinging to life. Seconds after the Dark Knight arrives at the scene, the Joker’s timed explosives detonate, destroying the warehouse and killing Jason before Batman can save him.
Five years later, Gotham’s crime syndicate has now fallen under the control of the Black Mask. However, a new player in Gotham emerges calling himself the Red Hood. Walking a thin line between vigilante and crime-boss, the Red Hood is determined to control crime in Gotham, and unlike Batman doesn’t mind spilling the blood of the criminal elite in order to accomplish the goal. Hood’s battle for dominance with Black Mask quickly draws the attention of Batman, who must discover the Red Hood’s identity and in so doing face his greatest failure.
From start to finish, Judd Winick tells a great tale here. There’s plenty of action, great dialogue and some truly epic moments. The film’s PG-13 rating allows it to take more mature storytelling risks than many other animated features, and the violence definitely pushes the rating as far as possible. Make no mistake; this film is for mature viewers. The animation is truly top notch, and can best be described as an evolution of the Batman The Animated Series look, with more modern character designs and subtle uses of computer animation to bring Gotham to life.
The voice cast, while good, can be slightly inconsistent at times. Bruce Greenwood’s performance as Batman and John DiMaggio’s turn as the Joker are both decidedly different than what audiences have grown accustomed to hearing. While these actors give great performances, they are not of the same caliber as Kevin Conroy’s and Mark Hamill’s now legendary voice roles. DiMaggio’s Joker in particular has a bit of a husky voice that takes some getting accustomed to.
The animation is crisp and clean on this Blu-Ray, and while the sound mix is a bit front heavy with few rear channel effects to speak of, the effects presented are solid and further bolstered by the film’s excellent soundtrack. Under the Red Hood has quite a few extras “under the hood” that really serve to put the icing on the cake for this release.
The Blu-Ray version of Under the Red Hood has a bevy of special features. They include four episodes from Batman the Animated Series, handpicked by Producer Bruce Timm, an animated Jonah Hex short and two featurettes that delve into the origins of Dick Grayson and Jason Todd (the latter of which being exclusive to the Blu-Ray version of the film). A promising first look of the next DC animated film, Superman/Batman Apocalypse, rounds out the list of extras. It does seem odd that there are no real “making of” features on the disc for Under the Red Hood itself, and the noticeable lack of any commentary tracks is a bit puzzling.
Minor quibbles aside, this is one of DC’s finest animated films to come out of the studio to date, and with so many extras included in the Blu-Ray version of the film, it’s definitely the version to own.
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Pads and panels received a copy of the Blu-Ray from the studio for review purposes.