[Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers.]
Directed By: Brandon Vietti
Written By: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles & John DiMaggio
Original Release Date: July 27, 2010
Five years after the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, the mysterious Red Hood attempts to take over Gotham’s criminal empire.
This is easily my favorite of the DC animated films. Judd Winick takes his interesting concept from the original comic and manages to improve upon it to make a really compelling film. Generally, I find Jason to be obnoxious and kind of whiny. Winick nails the potential of Red Hood in a way I’ve never seen in any other story involving this character. He’s sympathetic but still villainous. Batman does need to stop him, but Jason has some solid points. Because DC wants endless Batman stories, crime can never stop in Gotham. Jason is making things a little better but there is a cost in terms of morality.
The best addition is Ra’s al Ghul and his place in the story. I love Ra’s’ guilt and his attempts to help Bruce in his own weird way. The best aspect of this is the Lazarus Pit’s potential effect on Jason. It’s possible that Jason has been driven mad but it’s just as possible that this is the way he is. The flashbacks show how violent he was and that he didn’t mind punishing criminals. That makes Jason a lot more engaging and adds another level of mystery to it.
The voice cast is pitch perfect all around. Bruce Greenwood is a great Batman but especially an older Batman. There’s clearly some gruff in his voice that Greenwood doesn’t have in the flashbacks which is really cool. This feels like a seasoned Batman that’s been through hell. Jensen Ackles is fantastic as Jason. He’s charismatic and fun to watch; he can be sympathetic and sad but also be intense and intimidating. John DiMaggio is wickedly fun as Joker. He gets great lines and delivers them wonderfully. This is one of the darker versions of Joker we have had on screen and it’s appropriate for this material. Like Greenwood, he also sounds a little older which is nice.
I like how the film handles its violence. This is a brutal film but most of the intense violence is implied. Shadows and sound effects are both used really well throughout the film. For me, that makes it a little more intense than if we actually watched Joker hit Jason with a crowbar ten thousand times.
Is the mystery too obvious? It’s hard for me to tell because I am aware of the source material. I know who Red Hood is. Naturally, the film plays it like a mystery which makes sense. But it seems pretty obvious; there isn’t anyone else it could be. Maybe Winick didn’t intend it to be a mystery and I’m just being dumb. I just don’t know if casual fans who don’t know anything about Jason would be shocked by the reveal.
My big problem is that the dialogue explains too much. The idea of whether Jason is insane or not is interesting but the film feels the need to spell it out in actual dialogue. That’s unnecessary and one of my pet peeves.
This is an excellent film; it’s one of my favorite Batman stories and the best example of an adaptation that is better than the source material. It’s an interesting film that does convey the consequences of Batman both good and bad. The characters are compelling with some solid acting backing them up. In terms of action scenes, there some great chase sequences. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching this film.