Twitter Plot Summary: Batman has to face up to the Red Hood, a new criminal vigilante in Gotham who has links to Batman’s past.
Five Point Summary:
1. Poor Jason Todd.
2. Hello Nightwing.
4. Never trust The Joker.
5. Batman fights dirty.
After the success of their animated films set in the Animated Series/Batman Beyond/Justice League universe, in more recent years DC’s animated movies line has moved away from the shared continuity established by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and taken to adapting stories from the comic book source material. Under The Red Hood adapts two crucial and popular story arcs from the comics, namely 1988’s A Death In The Family and 2005’s Under The Hood.
The animation is crisp and sufficiently grim for a Batman tale, and certainly goes to darker places than would have been possible in the Animated Series, which in fairness went quite a way down the path of darkness during its run. Batman hasn’t always been about action – he’s a detective after all – however this story requires action set pieces by necessity. In this respect it’s an absolute winner, well choreographed fights that aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun. One sequence in particular sees the Bat climb through a car as it’s thrown towards him, which takes up only a couple of seconds of screen time but is a really interesting and entertaining use of a prop and a location to do something that wouldn’t look half as good if attempted with CGI.
Whilst Bruce Greenwood is ideal as Batman/Bruce Wayne, it seems that the spectre of Kevin Conroy is hanging over his every word. By comparison, John DiMaggio’s Joker is unique enough from Mark Hamill to stand on his own, although his occasional New York twang is all the more obvious when you know he also played Bender in Futurama. Adding Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Isaacs to the cast, as Nightwing and Ra’s al Ghul respectively, only improves things further.
This is yet another story where Bruce Wayne has to face up to his past, the possible mistakes he has made and work out how to make amends as best he can. Yet again the Red Hood is another villain created as a direct result of Batman’s existence. Clearly if Bruce Wayne wasn’t mentally prepared for this sort of thing, you can imagine him having a breakdown years ago. It can’t be doing much good for his mental health having all of these weirdos crawling out of the woodwork, but then the man does dress up as a bat to fight crime, so he’s probably used to it. In this case the Red Hood is a vigilante who has fallen on the other side of the big crime fence, choosing to take down the bad guys using methods that Batman would never consider, nor would he approve.
Of course, once you work out who the Red Hood actually is – and to be fair if you’re a fan of the comics you probably knew already – then things start to make a bit more sense. In one respect you can see how easily it could have been for Bruce to do exactly what the Red Hood is doing had circumstances been slightly different, and that’s what makes this story so compelling. Apart from adding a new villain to Batman’s pantheon of bad guys, it also provides an opportunity to put a mirror up against Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s reflection and ask some serious questions. And therein lies the appeal of the character – after all these years and despite many similar stories covering the same ground, there are still layers to be peeled back and explored, and Under The Red Hood adds yet another facet to the discussion.