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Monday, November 30, 2009

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) review. The best of Both Worlds

Overall verdict: 9/10

Current Availability Status: 2 Disc special edition On DVD in stores at discounted price

DVD features:
disc 1
- A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City”: A stimulating documentary covering Gotham City’s most nefarious of characters, combined with a look into the symbiotic relationship Batman shares with his enemies.
-“Sneak Peek: Wonder Woman” - DC Universe animated original movie
-Audio Commentary - Featuring the filmmakers of Gotham Knight.
disc 2
-Batman and Me a Devotion of Destiny: The Bob Kane Story” - The comprehensive chronology of the remarkable life of the creator of Batman.
-“Batman: The Animated Series” Bonus Episodes - Bruce Timm selects his favorite episodes from Batman: The Animated Series.

Deep engaging stories written by renown American writers, rich detailed art and animation from top Japanese animation companies. Batman:Gotham Knight is truly a blend of the best from the east and west. 6 different animation directors and writers lend their own vision and creative flair to the legend of batman with highly successful and entertaining results.

First is "Have i got a story For you" written by Josh Olsen("A History of Violence" screenplay), directed by Shojiro Nishimi(who worked on TekkonKinkreet)and animated by Studio 4C(TekkonKinkreet, Spriggan). Most people i know say this is their least favorite of the short films. I find it quite good. It is about a bunch of kids relating their encounters with Batman, each giving a different spin on who the DArk Knight is and what he can do. HE is envisioned as vampire-like specter(no doubt inspired by the "Red rain" elseworld's Batman title), an invincible fighting machine(A hybrid of Gigantor and Iron Man) or like a feral bat-beast(similar to the Man-Bat) by 3 different kids. This segment is a metaphor basically for what the entire movie of Gotham Knight is all about. Different people giving their own different unique spins on Batman. It also speaks about how the legend of Batman in Gotham is fueled mainly by exaggerations made by the public. This first short film's art detail is kept painfully minimal but the character movements are flowing and fluid. The backgrounds are also the most intricately designed of all the 6 short films.

The second is "Crossfire". Written by Greg Rucka(comic book writer of 52, Ultimate Daredevil and OMAC project) directed by Futoshi Higashide in his directorial debut and animated by Production I.G(Ghost in the Shell, Sky Crawlers). It is more closely tied to the ongoing story arc of batman Begins and Dark Knight in that the police are not so trusting toward Batman. This story is a very straight forward tale of Batman gaining the trust of a skeptical detective after a daring rescue. THe director's inexperience shows in the poorly choreographed fight scenes. Where it falls short in the story and directing department, Crossfire makes up for it with some of the most beautiful character design seen in anime films. Batman's design here is possibly my favorite among all the 6 and the most true to the armored look of batman Begins' design.

THe 3rd short film is "Field test"(and my LEAST favorite among all). Written by Jordan Goldberg(film writing debut) directed by Hiroshi Morioka(Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles) and animated by Bee Train(.Hack). Aside from the moral at the end of the story about batman unwilling to put other's lives in danger for his own sake, this tale has nothing much to speak off. The story is a bore for the most part and the action is uninspired. The character designs are also very out of place. Bruce Wayne is suddenly a bishonen teenager and Batman looks more like "Eagleman" than Batman. THe fantasy-ish designs doesn't fit with the otherwise down to earth serious plot.

THe 4th, "In Darkness Dwells", can be easily seen as the definitive follow-up to Batman Begins. Written by Batman Begins writer himself David S Goyer, directed by Yasuhiro Aoki and animated by Madhouse(Ninja Scroll, Spawn). This story involves Batman going against the scarecrow and killer croc. It is a straight forward crime busting story with whacked out action sequences and a refreshingly stylized look. The character designs, colors and art style all lend to a very haunting and almost scary look to the whole segment. Action packed from start to finish, the fight scenes are truly epic. No so much in the story but since it is only a bridging piece between the Batman Begins and Dark Knight, i do not expect much resolution to the scarecrow plot here.

The 5th short film is my favorite in terms of story. "Working Through Pain" is a direct continuation of In Darkness Dwells, featuring a wounded Batman wandering the sewers in a daze due to loss of blood remembering his training days in India. Written by Brian Azzarello( comic book writer of "Superman: For Tomorrow" and "Batman: Broken City"), directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka(Origin: Spirits Of the Past) and animated by Studio 4C again. There is minimal art detail but extremely smooth an realistic character movements and animation. A nice break from the action heavy stories that came before, this one is a purely character driven tale about a seldom touched on time of Bruce Wayne's life. By the end of the story, we find out it is not so much physical pain that Bruce was looking to be able to bear. But it was in fact his own inner spiritual pain and the pain of the burden he now carries as Batman(reflected in the metaphorical final scene)

The last short film "Deadshot" is my all time favorite. It has an intriguing yet action packed story with a moral, and it has the best animation, choreography and artwork in the entire movie. Ironically, this one is the only one directed by a Korean, Jong Sik Nam(BASTof syndrome, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 2002). Written by animation veteran Alan Burnett and animated by Madhouse(Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust). A very well paced chase story hearkening back some of the best episodes of the 90s Batman animated series. I could not help but realize that the animation, fight choreography and even some character designs seem like a homage to the style of Yoshiaki Kawajiri(Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Ninja Scroll). Slow motion inter-cuts, muscular square jawed protagonist, flowing capes and full motion backgrounds all lend to this short film's awesome look and feel.

All in all, Gotham Knight is truly the blending of the best of both worlds. Most of the best animated movies have always been co-productions and this one is no exception.
*****************************Review End******************

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Animation: A
Acting(english): A
Replay value: B-
"Brains": B+

Go for it: if you love Batman Begins, Dark Knight and great animation in general

Avoid: if you prefer more linear stories or if your idea of "anime" is synonymous with "kawaii"

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