Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Hu, Wade Williams, Jim Piddock
Director: Brandon Vietti
Runtime: 75 minutes
With DC’s Animated Universe long behind us, and a brand new one just starting up (both Young Justice and a Green Lantern animated series are on the way), DC continues to flourish with it’s long line of animated features. There have been quite a few hits (The New Frontier, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) and a couple of misses (Superman: Doomsday and both Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman are considered financial failures despite favorable reviews), but overall the acceptance of these features has been more than favorable.
DC continues to release the features. A sequel to Public Enemies is on the way, this one entitled Apocolypse and adapting the Superman/Batman storyarc “Supergirl“. But before that romp, the Dark Knight gets another solo outing in Batman: Under The Red Hood.
Based in large part on the acclaimed storyline Under The Hood, the film sticks rather close to the source material for it’s first act. The mysterious Red Hood arrives in town and begins taking over criminal territory from Black Mask, prompting Batman to intervene before he realizes that Red Hood is in fact Jason Todd, the long dead second Robin.
I feel pretty comfortable putting that sentence right there. Even if you don’t know that Todd is resurrected and becomes the Red Hood, the movie opening with the sequence in which The Joker beats and murders Jason is a pretty strong tell as to who the mysterious new villain in the film is going to be. Much like previous films, Under The Red Hood is a faithful recreation of the story for it’s first act, then begins to weave it’s own tale. Fortunately, the writers are smart enough to continue to salvage the best moments from the original story, including the climatic standoff between Red Hood and Batman.
We’ve got an entirely new line-up of voice actors for this feature. Bruce Greenwood (Captain Pike from Star Trek) voices the Dark Knight for the first time, bringing a stern yet fatherly tone to Batman, which is fairly appropriate for the stories tone. Jensen Ackles of Supernatural shockingly shines as Jason Todd, doing much better than I felt he would in the role, while John Di Maggio (Bender on Futurama) cements his place as a new generation’s Joker. While obviously not as memorable or classic as Mark Hamil’s performances, he brings with it a creepy, serial killer laugh to the role, and a darker, more sadistic Joker.
Shockingly, the performance that felt the weakest here is New Frontier alum Neil Patrick Harris. I loved Harris’ Flash in New Frontier, but here his Nightwing feels out of place. The energy and awe that Harris’ voice acting encompasses feels muted as he tries to fit in to the world of Batman, creating a Nightwing who sounds bored and stiff. Jason Isaaces and Kelly Hu rounds out the cast as Ra’s al Ghul and Miss Li (she’s also credited as Talia al Ghul) respectively, turning in great performances (though one has to wonder, didn’t Kelly Hu have a film career at one point?).
Continuing the strong precedent set by it’s predecessors, Batman: Under The Red Hood is a strong animated feature which is inspired but not restrained by the story it’s based on. Strong voice acting, gorgeous animation and a well told story (with an especially heartbreaking final scene) make this one a definite hit from DC’s line of animated features, and one which deserves a well told sequel.