Batman: Under the Red Hood is the latest in the series of DC Universe Animated movies. This film is based on two series of comics, Batman: A Death in the Family from the late 1980’s, and Batman: Under the Hood from the mid-2000’s. It certainly doesn’t follow everything page-by-page, but takes the overall themes and most necessary elements to translate to the screen. The introduction to the movie is a quick retelling of, arguably, one of Batman’s biggest failures. The following may seem like a spoiler, but any Batman fan is very familiar with this story, and it’s only the first 5 minutes or so of the movie. The Joker has apprehended Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin (Dick Grayson is all grown up and has taken the name Nightwing). He’s beating Jason within an inch of his life with a crowbar, taunting him the entire time. Meanwhile, Batman is speeding to the rescue on a Batcycle. Joker gives a farewell and exits the building, leaving Robin staring at a bomb ticking down to its final seconds. Batman hops off the bike and starts running toward the building, only to have it blow up in his face. He tears through the rubble, only to find Jason’s lifeless body. Yes, it’s an intense introduction leading into the opening credits.
The first thing I notice when watching any of these direct-to-video animated movies is the voice acting. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths was a good movie, but the people cast for the voices was disappointing. To replace the iconic voice of Kevin Conroy is a huge responsibility. William Baldwin was far from a convincing Batman. Bruce Greenwood, however, was surprisingly fantastic as The Dark Knight. At times he sounded very similar to Conroy, and at others he sounded unique while still maintaining the dark and smoky voice without going the Christian Bale gravelly route. John Di Maggio had a giant task in front of him as well, as fans have grown to accept nothing less than the voice and laugh of Mark Hamill’s Joker. Di Maggio made the smart decision to not even try to imitate Hamill’s Joker, but instead go his own way with it. I would describe the result as a cross between Hamill’s and Heath Ledger’s versions of the Joker. While I missed Hamill’s rendition at the beginning of the movie, by the end I had an appreciation for Di Maggio’s performance as well.
As far as the story and how this stacks up against the other DC Universe Animated movies, you’ll be happy to know that Batman: Under the Red Hood is among the best of the bunch. While some of the other recent releases, such as Green Lantern: First Flight or Superman: Doomsday, felt a little stale, B:UtRH is in a league along with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Wonder Woman. The characters are completely fleshed out and put into dramatic moments that will grip you. The animation is beautiful, the character design is flawless, and there are enough characters thrown in from the Bat-universe to keep fans happy without watering down the story. The one drawback for some might be that the movie doesn’t waste time with history lessons, assuming that you have a familiarity with the majority of characters involved. I appreciate that DC is willing to do this for the fans, because what we’re left with is the meat of the story without having to rehash so many things we already know.
Bottom Line: “Dare To Look Beneath The Hood”, and you’ll find one of the best animated superhero movies in existence.