Batman: Year One (2011)

Batman: Year One (2011)

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Jim Gordon: man of action.
Jim Gordon: man of action.

Twitter Plot Summary: Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham after 12 years away and sets off on the path to becoming the Batman.

Five Point Summary:

1. Baseball bat beating.
2. Payback.
3. Jim Gordon: action man.
4. Bats. Lots of bats.
5. A calling card.

The original graphic novel of Batman Year One, written by Frank Miller, is oft cited as one of the best story arcs from Batman’s long and chequered history, and with good reason. Going back to the very beginning (as if the title didn’t give that away), Year One sees Bruce Wayne return to Gotham after 12 years out of the city, time which he spent learning how to put his skills to good use – to fight crime, instil justice and so on. Meanwhile, new cop on the beat Jim Gordon has to deal with rampant corruption in the police force whilst also having to cope with this new bat-themed vigilante stalking Gotham’s criminal fraternity every night. For anybody who has seen Batman Begins, the story will feel familiar, although that script did ultimately go off in its own direction. There are a number of sequences that are common to both, which thankfully doesn’t spoil either of them if you’re clued up and know what to look out for.

Gravitas is provided by Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon, adding weight and experience to the character despite the fact this is supposed to be a younger man than we’re used to seeing. In the grand scheme of things that’s a very minor gripe. Let’s face it – post-Breaking Bad, if Bryan Cranston says yes to a project, you use him regardless. Of course this isn’t the prim and proper Gordon we’re used to seeing – he’s human just like everybody else. This also very much applies to Bruce Wayne, here voiced by Benjamin McKenzie, who is yet to form that hard emotional shell that separates him from the rest of the world. Here is has concerns and worries that extend beyond his existence as the Bat.

Batman's hiding place was a little too obvious.
Batman’s hiding place was a little too obvious.

The animation follows the style of the source material, but adds in detail where appropriate, giving Gotham City a dirty look that is a perfect metaphor for the state it finds itself in when Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon make their return. Gotham City, as is frequently the case, becomes a character in itself, as if years of criminal activity have reduced it to a literally grim appearance. Those living there are in an equal state of degradation, including a Selina Kyle who is working as a dominatrix in one of the even less reputable sections of the city.

It’s perhaps a little to slavish towards the source material, overdoing the voiceover narration and not doing enough to distinguish it from being anything more than a slightly advanced motion comic. With that said, Frank Miller’s graphic novel is so good that any adaptation of said graphic novel either needs to be slavish or a completely unique beast in its own right. It does the job but could perhaps do with being a little longer, as just over an hour isn’t nearly enough time to do this story justice. Otherwise, in many respects it’s just as good as the graphic novel and Bat-fans will be in their element.

Score: 3.5/5

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