Nov 2, 2008

Bruce Timm's Batman Gotham Knight

Among my favourite TV shows of all time, and definitely on the short of best comic adaptations in my book is Bruce Timm's DC animated series (Batman, Batman Beyond, Superman, and Justice League). Of course sadly after the fourth season of Justice League this line of shows came to an end, and Bruce Timm moved on to make direct to DVD animated movies for DC.

I'd been meaning to check these out earlier, but due to their very delayed release in New Zealand it hasn't been till this month I started to track them down. Finding Superman Doomsday in the bargin bin, and than Batman Gotham Knight at the rental shop I've suddenly got more than I can effective watch in my busy schedule.

Since it had to go back Gotham Knight got the first viewing, and I have to say if its the norm than I'm regretting the $8 on Superman (hopefully that's not the case, but that'll have to wait till another day).

So the very brief review is of course I'm very very glad I rented this, and didn't buy it.

In a style similar to the Animatrix a bunch of independent animation teams did some shorts on Batman which were than combined to make a movie. To call it a movie is frankly a stretch, and this product is in essence is 6 shorts that barely tie together.

If there is one thing this "movie" has its style. So much of it you feel it being shoved down your throat the whole time the DVD is playing.

Sadly they over crammed it so much with style they forgot to put in anything else. There are some impressive drawings of Gotham, Batman, other characters from the comics that appear on screen for huge chunks of time, but forget this supposed to be an animated show. Rather in some of these sketches (the second in particular) feel more like a slide show of the artist's sketch book.

The majority of this style derives from anime, and sadly in most cases from the type of anime I don't enjoy. Story, dialogue, and action take a back seat to establishing a setting or a mood as characters just sit there blankly starring into space, at each other, or where ever and shots of locations of things go on for tens of seconds.

Making for some really dull view frankly. This shot being a key example. The only difference between this still shot and the movie is that, after the crook holding the hostage threats to kill her, the fire moves and we get to watch that for about 10 seconds.

Making it especially boring is that to establish the effect of Batman, most of the creators feel that Batman should appear as little as possible. Sort of like the shark in Jaws. So instead we spend 90% of sketches with kids, COPs, or Bruce Wayne flash backs.

The opening short was certainly the worse. Which I thought was stupid. Opening on the weakest just seems silly to me.

In a classic cliche a bunch of street kids sit around telling their tales of run ins with the Dark Knight. Only these are truly from a kids point of view which portray Batman as everything from a giant bat, a robot, and a living shadow (ALL terribly drawn I'll add!) with Batman showing up for 5 seconds in the end of the short. In the actual Bruce Timm there is a brilliant episode with this concept only the kid's tales are all adaptations of different eras of Batman meaning you get lots of Batman rather than none...

From here on the sketches tried to feel interconnected, and be in the Batman Begins universe. Note I did say try to. The sketches that were good were those that really tried to stick to this format.

However due to the 6 different styles it jarred you out of this illusion quickly. If not for Kevin Conroy being the constant voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman there were some sketches I wouldn't have caught on to who was supposed to be Bruce Wayne (though one of them once you catch it was a GREAT anime-ized Christian Bale)

So out of the 6 shorts, 2 were amazing/awesome, 2 were meh, 1 was just too boring to be anything above meh, and the first was just awful.

The success of the 2 good shorts was the fact they had some story to them. Overall these shorts had no build of any sort other than again mood/style. Most of them just putter storytelling wise with some dialogue about a gang war, and nothing more than that until suddenly for no reason gangsters show up and shot at things till Batman shows up to beat them up.
Sketch 3 really broke this mould with a great little story of Luscious Fox designing a belt gizmo that deflects bullets for Batman. The problem with it is that it works too well rather than not at all a repelled bullet critically injuries one of the gunmen leading Batman to realize with such a device its not just his life he is putting on the line.

Sketch 6 works due to the great adaptation of the villain Deadshot to the Batman Begins universe. I'll take my quick moment to state I've been saying we'll see Deadshot in Batman 3 since immediately after viewing Dark Knight. Forget those stupid Penguin and Riddler rumours, how would they work in the ubber real Nolan movies? Deadshot does, and I really think we'll see him.

Sadly short 4's attempt at adapting Killer Croc was just lame. Between him being a big thug who sharpened his teeth and wearing a crocodile skin and his in the end being a lackey of Scarecrow's this short's story was all over the place. If it had more than 10 minutes it might have been a mediocre story, but crammed in like it was it was just all over the place and lacked any suspense.
So to sum up. Gotham Knight had style to spare, but not much else. The 3rd and 6th shorts are definitely worth a watching if you get your hands on the DVD, but overall its not worth more than a $1-3 rental that alone buying.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!! I won't even watch it let alone see it then.

kahrani said...

To be honest I can't even remember the 4th and 5th skits, they just merged into one long blur of boringness. Number 3 and 6 were superior by far. Still I think we should watch Superman next then you can review that too :)

Michael Hoskin said...

Aw, man! You can't go home again, eh? *sigh* I guess the golden age of DC animation is over.

Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

I remember having seen a trailer of this show on youtube and it seemed to be an excellent production. I like this Animatrixlike Batman.

Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

BTW the Penguin rumor was officially debunked