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Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 7/8/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/8/2008
Despite the fact that we are surrounded by great modern inventions, we are never satisfied. It seems that wanting more has become a national past time. (I promise that this isn't a political rant...I am going somewhere with this.) This can even be applied to entertainment. There is definitely an audience out there for side-stories and spin-offs. We've gotten this in novels and comic books for years, and now it's moved into feature film. (Although, there have always been tie-in books and comics which went beyond the movie.) A recent example was The Animatrix, animated shorts which explored the world of The Matrix. We know get a similar tie-in to The Dark Knight with the animated Batman: Gotham Knight. (However, the ultimate example is probably the direct-to-video Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control, which premiered just after the opening of Get Smart.)
Batman: Gotham Knight features a series of six animated shorts, which are tenuously related. They all take place in Gotham City and feature Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) in some way. The bulk of the stories take place in a time when two mob bosses, The Russian (voiced by Corey Burton) and Maroni (voiced by Rob Paulsen) are at war. As far as I can tell (as I haven't seen the film yet), some of these ideas echo The Dark Knight. The six shorts are as follows:
"Have I Got a Story for You" -- Directed by Shojiro Nishimi, Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by Josh Olson -- This piece features four skateboarding youths, B-Devil (voiced by Scott Menville), Porkchop (voiced by Corey Padnos), Meesh (voiced by Crystal Scales), and Dander (voiced by Alanna Ubach), who share stories about their own eye-witness accounts of seeing Batman in action. This is easily the worst piece of the six. The animation isn't very accessible and it borders on amateurish. The depiction of Batman as a liquid shadow is a nice idea, but it doesn't really work in practice. The characters are annoying, and there's no real story here. I can't imagine why they chose to open with this -- it didn't raise my hopes for the rest of the movie.
"Crossfire" -- Directed by Futoshi Higashide, Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by Greg Rucka -- Gotham City Police Detectives Ramirez (voiced by Ana Ortiz) and Allen (voiced by Gary Dourdan) are delivering a prisoner to Arkham Asylum (where The Narrows, as seen in Batman Begins, have become overrun with criminals) when they are caught in a battle between The Russian and Maroni. Despite their best attempts, they can't escape and must rely on Batman to help them. This piece isn't bad, and the action animation is pretty good, but the only thing resembling a story is the fact that Allen sees Batman as an out of control vigilante and doesn't trust him.
"Field Test" -- Directed by Hiroshi Morioka, Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by Jordan Goldberg -- Lucius Fox (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) has developed a gyroscopic device which can create a force field around the person wearing it, making them virtually bullet-proof. Batman arranges an impromptu meeting between The Russian and Maroni and when the gunfire begins, he's able to utilize the device. This piece is notable for the design of Batman's costume. It looks like something from Battle of the Planets AKA Gatchaman, where the mask is quite beak-like. This short has a nice, concise story and Batman's reaction to the "field test" say a lot about his character.
"In Darkness Dwells" -- Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by David Goyer -- The Scarecrow (voiced by Corey Burton) has kidnapped a religious leader, Cardinal O'Fallon (voiced by Brian George), and taken him into the sewers. The Scarecrow's cult have nefarious plans for The Cardinal. Gordon (voiced by Jim Meskimen) calls upon Batman to save the day. Oh, did I mention that he has to get past Killer Croc as well. The animation here has sort of a Mike Mignola look, and Killer Croc is ridiculous looking, but otherwise there is some surprisingly violent action here. But, again, lack of story is the culprit, as we don't learn why Scarecrow wants The Cardinal.
"Working Through Pain" -- Directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by Brian Azzarello -- Batman has been injured while pursuing a criminal through the sewers and must attempt to find his way out. While he's making the journey, he remembers a time when Bruce Wayne was seeking training on how to deal with pain. He meets a woman named Cassandra (voiced by Parminder Nagra) who trains him in this. We see how she is able to teach Bruce the techniques to ignore pain, but not how to calm his temper. This story is reminiscent of the first act of Batman Begins. While there is some Batman here, it's always interesting to see the stops which Bruce Wayne took on his journey to become The Dark Knight.
"Deadshot" -- Story by Jordan Goldberg, Screenplay by Alan Burnett -- An assassin named Deadshot (voiced by Jim Meskimen), who sort of looks like the Marvel character Deathlok, has come to Gotham City and is killing prominent figures. Batman realizes that Gordon is next and races to stop Deadshot. Of this six shorts, this one is the best and the action here best parallels that seen in the recent Batman films. While Deadshot isn't exactly an original character, he does have personality, and that really helps this piece. Also, the animation is very sleek and the visuals are quite dynamic.
Overall, I would have to say that Batman: Gotham Knight is a disappointment, at least when viewed as a whole. Some of the pieces are OK, but none are great. "Have I Got a Story For You" borders on awful. Stories like "Deadshot" and "Field Test" would be great to catch between shows on Cartoon Network, but only die-hard Batman fans will want to spend time with this entire DVD.
Batman: Gotham Knight tells its tales on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The segments are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Variations in animation aside, the image here looks very good. There is no grain here and no defects from the source material. The picture is quite stable and is never too dark or bright. Again, the pieces vary, but overall, the colors look fine and the black tones are realistic. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some excellent stereo effects here and the speaker placement accurately reflects the on-screen action. However, the subwoofer and surround sound effects are quite bland and don't add much to the proceedings.
The only extra on the Batman: Gotham Knight DVD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Gregory Novick of DC Comics, Voice Actor Kevin Conroy, and Batman comic writer Dennis O'Neill. As Conroy is the only one of the three which worked directly on this project, they mainly critique the episodes and discuss how they relate to the Batman universe. Conroy also talks about his experiences, having worked on animated Batman projects for over 15 years. The 2-disc version of Batman: Gotham Knight, which wasn't viewed for this review, contains several more extras.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long