Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

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Batman. The Smooth Knight.
Batman. The Smooth Knight.

Twitter Plot Summary: A Batman anthology featuring six tales about the Dark Knight.

Five Point Summary:

1. Batman as seen by kids.
2. Fire. Fire burn.
3. Killer Croc and Scarecrow arrive.
4. Batman in pain.
5. Deadshot strikes.

Ostensibly set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (although it has been acknowledged that the stories could fit into any Batman continuity), Gotham Knight features six stories featuring Batman. Each story has a unique animation style, very similar in tone to The Animatrix. Despite being an anthology there is an ongoing narrative, although this is mostly linked through minor story points rather than a central thread. The guy captured by the Bat in the first story shows up in the second, and so on. Beyond that, each of these stories could and does stand on its own.

Covering various aspects of Batman’s existence and the work he does to take down crime, Gotham Knight’s various animation styles go hand in hand with the tone of the individual stories being told. The real issue is that it never feels like a film in its own right, despite the connective tissue between each of the tales. yes it’s more violent and dark than previous DC animated releases (it has a 15 rating here in the UK), but on the whole this is a minor quibble.

The voice cast is a pleasing link to the past – Kevin Conroy returns as Batman in each of the six stories, but there are also appearances from the likes of Will Friedle (Batman Beyond), Corey Burton (Brainiac in the DC Animated Universe) and Kevin Michael Richardson (too many Batman credits to count) all add to the classic DC Animated feel. It would have perhaps helped to have the film cast step in and do voice work, but any excuse to use Kevin Conroy is a big bonus point. That and Batman doesn’t sound like he has a sore throat.

Testing of the fire retardant cape was a resounding success.
Testing of the fire retardant cape was a resounding success.

The beauty of the anthology format means that we get a bounty of animation styles in a very short space of time. Mix that in with some gorgeous shot choices and some interesting exploration into the methods and thoughts of Batman, the people of Gotham City and the criminal fraternity that have taken hold there, and you have a near-definitive view of the world in which Batman exists or, indeed, needs to exist. The story entitled Field Test is a particularly good example of Batman’s process – he uses a piece of technology that results in somebody accidentally being shot, and what he chooses to do as a result.

The most engaging story is Working Through Pain, which analyses Bruce’s methods for dealing with physical and emotional pain by showing us flashbacks to his time assisting a doctor in a war zone who has to complete surgery on a patient without anaesthetic, and a later time being taught by a woman in the Middle East to control his pain. It all builds up to an impressive character study of Bruce Wayne and how the death of his parents led him to this path. Perhaps there’s nothing new here for longtime Bat-fans, but for those who were new to the character following Nolan’s Batman Begins, there’s a lot of depth to be found here.

Score: 3.5/5

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