10 July 2008

Ink Blots - Batman: Gotham Knight


From start to finish, Batman: Gotham Knight is sheer eye candy and just like when you fill up on candy without a real meal, you will go to bed with an upset stomach. The idea was to present six tales of Batman, all interrelated, but with different anime influenced styles. Before I give a blow by blow account of each of the six tales, let me say that in presenting different interpretations of Batman, the film was a success. The best part of this movie is seeing all of the varying takes on the Dark Knight. For that, I quite enjoyed the film. Having said that, I could not in good conscience recommend the movie to a casual Batfan. The story is paper thin and if you didn't know the stories were connected, it would be hard to tell because of the act breaks and changes in artistic styles. In other words, the individual chapters really are not all that related.. and there certainly isn't an overarching story. One thread that does tie them together is a consistent voice performance by the Animated Series' own Kevin Conroy. Good to hear him one more time.

Sadly, of all the animated Batman movies out there (Mask of the Phantasm, Subzero, Mystery of the Batwoman, Vs Dracula, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker) this one has the weakest story and the weakest replay value. On the other head, this stands head and shoulders above the unwatchable Superman Returns cash-in Superman: Brainiac Attacks.

Let me break down the tales:

Have I Got A Story For You

The opening tale had three kids each giving their account of an encounter with The Batman. It was cool to see these interpretations of Elseworld Batmen, even if the idea itself wasn't too original. More on that is a moment.

The first described a monster that could melt into shadows.

The second kid described Batman as a Man-bat with fangs wings and claws.

The third described him as a robot.

The real shock is that after these three fantastical versions of Batman we see the real deal who turned out to be kind of a fat guy.


The other main shortcoming of this segment was that it would inevitably be compared to the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Legends of the Dark Knight" which was a VERY similar tale which gave varying versions of Batman as told by kids, who ultimately had a run-in with the real Batman. These versions focused on a campy 50's Batman and Batman from The Dark Knight Returns. The comparison to that episode is begged for, as that very episode is included as an extra on the Gotham Knight DVD.




I don't know, this was still one of my favorite segments for providing 3 cool variations on non-human Batmans.

Crossfire

Next up, the story shifts from the perspective of kids to that of the Gotham PD. Who get caught in the crossfire between two rival mafia organizations. This is another problem with the film. It claims to tie Batman Begins and The Dark Knight together, and from what I have read, some of this mob stuff will be included in The Dark Knight, but its not like any of the happenings are set-up or explained. Just to say that "one of these characters will be in The Dark Knight" doesn't really, to me, qualify this as mandatory viewing. The segment makes other token mentions to the Narrows and Arkham, but those aspects are forced into the story and slow down the segment.


The capey Batman looked pretty good but the story in this segment lagged. Not my favorite.

Field Test

Enter the worst of segment. This tale included Lucious Fox inventing a bullet diverting pulse that Batman could fit into his suit. But fearing that ricocheted bullets could hurt his assailants, Batman opts out of the device. Strike one is the lame story. Strike two is the horrible design of the Batsuit. He looked more like Chickenman than Batman. Wayne doesn't look much better. Also, the perspective again changed from the police officers to Batman (finally).

In Darkness Dwells

If you hadn't notice, there really hadn't been too many villains to contend with yet. In this segment, Batman tangles with Killer Croc of all people, and dodges a couple of scythes thrown by Scarecrow. It was nice to get some action even if the idea of Scarecrow from Batman Begins leading an underground cult seems a little odd. This Batman looked the most like that in Batman Begins. Overall, the segment was an improvement over the last one.

Working Through Pain

In this segment, a wounded Batman has a number of flashbacks to his days learning to manage pain. It was an interesting segment, but again, only very loosely attached to the movie as a whole, and the present time story doesn't really make sense.

Oh, and we also got to see Batman through the eyes of a fear toxined thug. Cool.

Deadshot

This is the segment I would show to people. We have a great looking Batman taking on Deadshot, who, though not a super well known villain, fits into the tone of this segment brilliantly. There is good action and as a stand-alone tale, this one holds up. Sure, it doesn't tie into a bigger arc either, but at least there is a self contained plot which some of the others seemed to lack.


Overall, it seems like someone had an ambitious idea for a Batman movie, but in order to get it ready in time to release with the new theatrical film, they had to slice and dice it and farm it out to 6 companies. Some did better than others. The movie is fun to watch, mostly for its style and designs, definitely not for its story. I would say the first and last episodes were my favorites, and the other ones were mostly OK (aside from Field Test). Oh and one last thing. My DVD had a sticker that said "The first PG-13 animated Batman movie." Now, this is certainly the bloodiest Batman movie with a decapitation and lots of blood, but to be technically correct, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker has a PG-13 cut that I own on DVD. It is also animated and I would argue that it is a Batman movie (though I guess the sticker makers disagree). Anyways, if you are a Batman fan, check this out. If not, find a Bat friend and ask to watch the Deadshot segment which I would give an A-. But overall, in spite of great visuals, without a story I would have to give the film a C+.

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