We Want Action: Batman Under The Red Hood (2010)

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.

Halloween Scene: My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Faithful Kicking It Old School readers will remember that I only recently saw the original My Bloody Valentine, so it’s not like I have a huge amount of love for the original, even though I did like it. I was actually pretty excited when I heard about the remake, mostly because it would be in 3D. I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t playing in 3D anywhere near me and I got the DVD through Netflix, so I still haven’t seen it in 3D, but you bet your ass I’m gonna see the Pirana 3D remake when it comes out.

I ended up liking about 75% of MBV. The kills were cool, the cast was good and unlike, say, Friday the 13th III, I didn’t feel like I was watching a lesser movie because it wasn’t in 3D. Yes there are some gags solely filmed for the 3D audience, but it’s nothing cheesy like a yo-yo at the camera. Oh, plus, the killer in this movie, and the original, has one of the coolest and creepiest designs of all time. Love that mask and the all-black suit.

Before getting into the negative, a few more notes on the good stuff. The cast was rad. I even liked Jensen Ackles’ performance, dry as it may be, it fits his character. I wouldn’t be surprised if that dude ends up playing a superhero soon. I could even see him as Captain America if they wanted a younger guy (but, Matt Damon’s still my number one pick, age be damned). Fellow CW/WB alumni (Ackles is on Supernatural) Kerr Smith (Jack from Dawson’s Creek) also does a good job as the cop who seems like the prime suspect throughout the flick (unless you count his deputy who seems thrown in just to be a kinda-sorta suspect). It was also nice to see Jaime King again. I can’t for the life of me remember where I remember her from, but I feel like she was involved with something on MTV when I was younger. She gives a serviceable performance, though I never buy her as a mom. I also got the feeling that she was overacting a little because she was in a remake of an 80s horror movie. Or maybe that’s just how she acts, I’ve got nothing to compare it to.

My favorite two bits of casting though are of the two main older guys in town. You’ve got Tom Atkins of Halloween 3, Night of the Creeps and Lethal Weapon fame. I just love that guy. Kevin Tighe is the other old guy in town that matters. It’s not a name you might recognize, but you’ll definitely recognize his face as Locke’s asshole dad from Lost and from one of the best movies of all time Road House. And, SPOILER WARNING, they both get pretty amazing death scenes. I’ve never wanted to see a jaw flying at my face in 3D more in my life!

I’ve also got to give credit to the screenwriters and director Patrick Lussier for using the original movie like you would use images from a magazine to make a collage. The good elements (suspense over who the killer is, the killer’s look, the relationships, the party scene at the mine, the hearts in the heart boxes, etc.) are all there, just not in the exact same order as they were in the original, which is nice, because otherwise there aren’t any surprises. There were two specific scenes I really hoped got carried over from the original and they were: a woman in a laundry machine (though not in the same manner as the original which was cool) and the scene where the killer walks down the mine shaft knocking out the lights. That’s an awesome scene and they even added their own special effect/edit to it to make it their own.

Which brings me to what I didn’t like and this is definitely SPOILER territory because it has to do with the reveal of who the killer is. Now, because I had seen the original, I knew there was a twist. I was never convinced it was Harry Warden (the guy who went crazy 10 years ago and killed people and whose body was never recovered), but that’s because I’d seen the original. So, it basically comes down to Ackles and Smith because everyone else is either dead or has been chased by the killer. Then we get a scene where Ackles gets attacked by the killer along with another guy down in the mine. So, you think it’s gotta be Smith unless it really is the red herring deputy. So, you spend a good chunk of the movie expecting it to be Smith (who is married to King, even though King and Ackles have history as lovers as seen in the opening “10 years earlier” scenes). At this point I’m thinking that this isn’t very suspenseful because Smith’s gotta be the killer, right? Then it turns out that Ackles is crazy and has absorbed/co-opted the Harry Warden persona and has been killing everyone without knowing it. They don’t explain it, but I’m guessing split personality or whatever. The problem with this reveal is that I have a hard time rooting for the mentally sick guy to get his just deserts. That’s not how I get my horror rocks off.

And, unfortunately, the ending kind of taints the rest of the movie for me, kind of like High Tension, though this makes a lot more sense after the reveal. I do wish we would have gotten a little more explanation about Ackles’ condition. We hear over the walkie talkie that he was in a mental institute and we see him popping pills throughout the movie, but his malady is never explained and it seems like the filmmakers could have easily done that in the aftermath scene. I’m usually not in favor of having things spoon-fed to me, but I think it would have been appropriate in this case. Plus, if a dude has been mentally unstable for years, would laywers really let him have control over a mine that his dead father owned? Who knows.

Overall, it’s an okay horror movie. I think I’d rather watch the original again even though this one looked really really slick on the nice TV. I would definitely watch it again if someone had the 3D glasses. Heck, maybe Lionsgate will release a 2-pack, that’d be rad. I’d buy that.