At this point, I’m solidly in love with Warner Bros.’ animated DC movies. Check out my post about Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which I just reviewed recently. When I first heard that the Red Hood story which brought formerly dead Robin Jason Todd back from the dead after being pummeled to death by the Joker. His return was explained by the fact that Superboy Prime was punching walls leading up to Infinite Crisis which sent shock waves throughout reality that changed it in various ways. I actually dug the story which was written by Judd Winick, a favorite of mine, though it was one of the worst kept secrets in comics when the issues were coming out. Who was under the red hood? Who else? Of course it would be Jason Todd. To call the story controversial would be an understatement, but even worse has been Todd’s treatment since he returned. Bruce Jones wrote some of the worst comics of all time with the One Year Later Nightwing issues which starred Todd taking on Dick Grayson’s identity to fight crime. He then got sucked into the pointless nonsense that was Countdown which eventually turned him into Red Robin, which referred to Dick Grayson’s Kingdom Come identity. Now his early days are being retold thanks to Winick in a mini that I’ve enjoyed from the few issues I’ve read. It would actually seem that Winick incorporated elements from that mini in this movie, which he also wrote the scripts for.
I watched the movie with the missus and we can’t remember if she read the issues or not, but she remembered at least parts of the story from flashbacks and whatnot. My main worry was that this story might be a little too inside comic ball to work for the uninitiated, but she enjoyed the movie as much as I did. The inclusion of our shared favorite actor Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Nightwing helped a lot and was an interesting take on the character: that of brash hero that reminded me of how much I actually miss seeing Nightwing in the DCU. Dick as Batman makes a lot of sense, but I always liked the lighter version of Batman that he created for himself as Nightwing.
Anyway, the story follows along pretty closely to that of the comic with just a few changes to streamline things and take out all the Infinite Crisis references. There isn’t a box full of colored Kryptonite and Nightwing doesn’t come into the fight hurt, though he does leave it that way. And, most importantly, Jason wasn’t resurrected by other-dimensional wall-punching but thanks to Ra’s al Ghul who hired the Joker to distract Batman but never expected or wanted Robin to be murdered. In an attempt to make it up to Batman, Ra’s switched Jason’s body with a double and put the actual corpse into the Lazarus Pit which turned the boy quite mad. Soon enough he showed up in Gotham making a play for Black Mask’s territory and having all kinds of run ins with various hoods.
Action-wise, there’s equal amounts of good and bad. When it comes to the bad, the moments aren’t super important, but did rub me the wrong way a little. There’s a scene where Batman’s chasing the Red Hood. Bats is driving the Batwing while Todd’s in a car speeding along. The scene is well choreographed, but my problem lies in the fact that they used CGI vehicles instead of traditional animation like the rest of the movie. That always bugs me. The other sticky situation was when Batman and Nightwing were chasing Red Hood on foot over various rooftops. Anything through the air looks awesome (I actually really like how acrobatic Nightwing comes off), but when the characters are actually running they look kind of ridiculous. I think it’s their arm movements, but those scenes took me right out of the moment.
Aside from those quibbles, though, the movie’s damn good. The fight where Batman and Nightwing square off against the Amazo robot was tons of fun. The animation choreographers did a great job of showing how in-sync these two fighters are. There’s also a scene where Batman and Red Hood fight a quartet of armored foes with various abilities that was a lot of explosive fun. But the real fulcrum of the story rests on the relationship between Jason and Bruce. Jason blames Bruce not so much for his death, but for letting the Joker run around after he killed Jason. Jensen Ackles, an actor I’ve only seen in My Bloody Valentine 3D, does a surprisingly good job with the speech that actually hit me in the gut a little. I was kind of surprised they didn’t shy away from this and now have even more respect for these movies. They’ve got home runs in both original interpretations of characters like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and straight-up adaptation of stories like the various Superman/Batman arcs and now Red Hood. I’m extremely looking forward to whatever comes out next.