As this blog becomes more active I’ll be posting different reviews of comics and movies. To start off with I’d like to review one of my favourite animated movies, Batman: Under The Red Hood. Having come out in 2010, it became the highest rated direct-to-video Batman film until the release of the The Dark Knight Returns in 2012. Jason Todd is my favourite comic character, so it was great to see his story told faithfully and maturely in this film.
The story involves the conflict between Batman, voiced by Bruce Greenwood and the gun totting Red Hood. Jensen Ackles of Supernatural acclaim lent his acting chops to the vengeful vigilante. Todd was the second Robin who came to a violent end via crowbar and explosion at the Joker’s hands in the 1988 A Death in the Family comic arc.
Ackles’ bitter yet sympathetic portrayal injects the character with the complexity he has become known for since his resurrection in the original Under the Hood arc written by Judd Winick. Alexander Martella and Vincent Martella as a child and teenage Jason respectively deserve praise as well. Winick penned the script for the film and takes liberties with his original material but always stays faithful to the tragic nature of Bruce and Jason’s relationship. We don’t only see the hurt between the grieving father and misguided, angry son but feel it in the delivery from both actors.
Although Kevin Conroy has come to epitomize the ‘Batman voice’, Greenwood does a serviceable job as the Caped Crusader. He captures the deadpan severity and raw emotion that makes the character so compelling. He finds the balance between low and menacing and portraying righteous fury. John DiMaggio makes a decent attempt at The Joker. There are certain points where his voice sounds too gravelly for how I imagine Joker (though this may just be my Mark Hamill bias seeping through) but he makes the role his own.
Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing meshed well with Greenwood, mirroring the chemistry the original Boy Wonder shares with his mentor.
The decision to have Ra’s Al Ghul mastermind Red Hood’s resurrection instead of his daughter Talia in the source material was a disappointing if not understandable choice. Jason Isaacs’ take on the League of Assassins’ leader is enjoyable to watch.
The most touching scene is saved for the finale. It involves a younger Jason wearing the green pixie boots for the first time and exclaiming it’s the best day of his life. It made me emotional the first time I saw it and watching it again was no different.
Batman: Under the Red Hood as a film and comic is ultimately the tale of justice, and how far you would go to enforce it. Does justice walk hand in hand with vengeance? Is it ever justified? The question of good and evil, black and white, shades of grey is an ever prevailing question that comes down to perception.