Film Review: Batman: Year One (2012)

Batman: Year One
Directed by Lauren Montgomery & Sam Liu
Based on work by Frank Miller

Rating: A-

Frank Miller has two very important legacies in the history of Batman. The first of these is The Dark Knight Returns, a completely non-canon alternate reality story in which Batman comes out of retirement in middle age to kick some more ass and act like a total asshole. It is often seen as one of the great comic book stories of all time, but portrays Batman as chauvinistic and completely unlikable in attempt to make a grittier version of the dark knight. It is criminally overrated.

The second and far superior story that Miller contributed to the history of Batman is Batman: Year One, an aptly titled telling of Batman’s first year fighting crime as the caped crusader while future police commissioner James Gordon endures his first year on the force in Gotham as an honest man in a dishonest police department. Gordon is really the main character of the story; almost all of the narrative is from Gordon himself, voiced perfectly by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame in this film version. Catwoman also appears in an almost-so-minor-it’s-pointless supporting role, portrayed very capably by Eliza Dushku. Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica is Detective Essen, Alex Rocco is mob boss Carmine Falcone, and Benjamin McKenzie is Batman himself.

A film adaptation that takes the source material and translates it to the screen exactly is almost pointless, but thoroughly enjoyable anyway. Although there is absolutely nothing different about it, seeing the film is a lot like reading the original story for the first time, and that has value. The voice cast is almost entirely stellar, although Batman could have been better cast. The visuals are perfect, and the entire production makes for an animated film that is just as enjoyable as the Christopher Nolan live action films. That being said, if you have already read the book, there is nothing new to experience here. Still, if you can appreciate a quality transfer between two mediums, Batman: Year One will be enjoyed.

We Can, But Won’t, Remember It For You Wholesale

The summer movie season is about to explode, as movies like Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises are come, in the case of the former, as soon as last Friday. It is interesting to see among the list of upcoming popcorn flicks is a remake of Total Recall, an Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi film that is ever so very loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For Your Wholesale”. The original film was essentially enjoyable for how crappy it was, remembered more for a three-breasted woman than anything else in the film.

The new film stars Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Kate Beckinsale, and Bill Nighy, in what is a much more impressive cast. Based on preliminary information, it would seem to be a little bit more faithful to the source material, but judging from the fact that the film uses the title of the original adaptation, it is clearly more a remake of the original film than a new adaptation of the short story. The trailer was released a short while ago, and looks decided darker than the original film.

With any luck, the newest version of Total Recall will have the basic feeling of the short story so that it is faithful to Dick’s brilliant vision but still has the pure enjoyment factor of a summer science fiction action movie. Based on the trailer alone, it seems like it will at least be better than the original rather mediocre film, and that the aesethetic of the movie is pretty brilliant. It remains to be seen how good it will actually be, but it is nice to see more pure science fiction as a part of the summer movie season.