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Perception is an interesting thing. When it comes down to understanding something, everyone can perceive it to be anything they wish. Take the Loch Ness monster for example. Many have heard of it and so many more have claimed to have seen it, but how does it really look? Better yet, does it really exist? We’ve seen picture after picture, but we really don’t know the truth. Ask one person to draw Nessie and you’ll get something that looks like a brontosaurus. Get someone else to draw the beast and you may end up with a weird sea creature with fangs and hair. It is amazing how one person’s mind can differ from the next when it comes to a particular topic. The same holds true when it comes to wondering exactly who is…the Batman?
Gotham Knight is not your ordinary run of the mill Batman film. You may think that already simply because it is animated, but it stems from much more then that. It is split up into six short tales that are bound together rather loosely to create one feature length film. The different stories are each written by a specific writer, directed by someone different each time, and even are animated by completely different artists. They are then brought together into one collection showcasing all the interesting ways that Batman is viewed by multiple minds.
The first story is entitled “Have I Got A Story For You,” and it takes a look at what the people of Gotham perceive Batman to be. Some consider him to be a hero that has saved the city from mass destruction. Others believe he is nothing more then a vigilante who is out for himself and seeks the spotlight above all things. It’s a really cool look inside the minds of four kids in particular who say they have seen the Batman and to them he looked like a shadow, a human bat, or a robot. They each have their own interpretations of how they saw this phenom, but are all witness to the truth when he shows up and reveals his true self.
Next up is “Crossfire” which would have to be my least favorite of the entire bunch. Two detectives are given the task, from Commissioner Gordon, of transporting a prisoner. Along the way they have a discussion about Batman with Detective Allen who is unsure about Batman – saying he is an untrustworthy vigilante – while Detective Ramirez puts a bit more unproven faith into the man in the cape and cowl. As they are driving back from dropping off the prisoner, the detectives stumble right into the middle of a gun battle between Maroni and the Russian. Needing back-up and in a hurry, it comes down to Batman showing up and proving that Ramirez was right.
Thirdly is “Field Test” which keeps the action rather light, but is more enjoyable then “Crossfire.” Bruce Wayne is seen talking to Lucius Fox who is coming up with some fun new gadgets for Batman to try out. The newest and most important one is a creation that allows for the user to be able to block a bullet at the sound of its firing, with an electromagnetic shield. A run in with Maroni and the Russian again allows Batman to use this new weapon and it turns out that it causes more trouble then it is worth so it just isn’t for him.
Let me just tell you that the Bruce Wayne in this story with the messy hair and looking like a teenager is not appealing in the least bit.
Our fourth tale is “Darkness Dwells” and it goes down a much darker and morbid path then any of the first few did. This is one of my favorite stories in this film because it brings in two of the traditional Batman villains, Killer Croc and Scarecrow. There are some big things going down underground in the sewers so the Bat takes to going deep down into the depths to find out what’s happening. Along the way he needs to rescue a bishop and try to avoid the affects of Scarecrow’s poisonous fear toxin. Although way too short to ever really get going; this is an awesome story. I would have loved to seen this story as its own feature length film.
Part five is called “Working Through the Pain” and even though it brings in a lot of history and backstory, it’s another of my less favorite tales. Thanks to some injuries and a severe loss of blood, Batman is wandering around the sewers trying to make his way out so he can get help from Alfred. As he searches for a way out, he goes back in time in his mind to times when he trained and learned how to filter his pain elsewhere.
The final section is another great story as another classic villain appears in the appropriately titled “Deadshot.” Deadshot has great accuracy and is not afraid to kill which is the main reason he’s been contracted to take out Commissioner Gordon. The cops of Gotham City are doing everything they can to protect him with police escorts, bulletproof vests, helmets, and keeping their Commissioner on the move. Deadshot isn’t fazed though as he likes a moving target more then anything. Batman is determined and dead set on keeping Gordon safe and also making sure that Deadshot’s accuracy doesn’t make him the next victim.
Okay, so you’re either going to love or hate Gotham Knight and the reasons for both are easily evident. I absolutely loved just about everything about it, but have one serious complaint. Why the hell wasn’t it longer? Without the end credits, it clocks in at right about seventy minutes. Each tale is given ten to twelve minutes each to tell their little story and it only left me gasping for more every time. These are some excellent stories and would have benefited greatly from even getting an extra five to ten minutes a piece. It wouldn’t have hurt anything to make this ninety minutes in length letting us have more then just a slight taste of each director’s look at Batman.
The animation takes a little getting used to if you’re not into anime or have never seen much of it. And once you’re used to one artist’s rendition and style, then it’s time to jump into the next story and another artist. Oddly enough, the animation stays rather consistent throughout with the only noticeable changes coming in “Deadshot” when Bruce Wayne gets a totally different look then he’s had in the earlier stories he appeared in. The Japanese animation does make the mood and overall feeling that Batman has always shown forth seem right. Every hard drawn edge and line. All of the complete detail and little touches in the dark. The drops of blood puddling on the ground after leaking out of a fresh wound in Batman’s side or from his mouth. They all make for the mysterious and demented world that Batman must reside in and take care of as the villains of Gotham wreak havoc.
The film is shown in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and you can’t help but call it beautiful. Any small amount of color is bright while the greens, blues, purples, grays, and blacks all look excellent without ever being too dark. The animation is wonderfully done and really made this whole experience that much better.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also makes viewing so much more enjoyable. All dialogue can be heard clearly on a nice level while the music and sound effects resonate nicely around the room.
Audio Commentary – Kevin Conroy, Gregory Noveck, and Dennis O’Neil gather together for the commentary track to the film. One of the best things about these three getting together is that they never really fall into the dead silence. They are constantly talking about something pertaining to Batman even if it isn’t necessarily about the film at hand. Some good inside information does spill forth though and it’s worth listening to.
Batman And Me: The Bob Kane Story – If ever anyone is synonymous with Batman, it’s creator Bob Kane. This thirty-eight minute and twenty-three second documentary takes us through the life of Bob Kane all the way from childhood up to his death in 1998. Kane created Batman not really knowing where it would go, and it ended up being one of the most well-known and successful characters in comic book history. Some great people sit down for this feature to talk about Kane including Tom Aundrae, Stan Lee, Mark Hamill (awesome!)
A Mirror For The Bat – Enough about Batman here as it is time to talk about all those who oppose him, the villains. This is a very in depth look into Batman’s enemies and how they have come to be who they are. Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and so many others have crossed paths with the Caped Crusader and each has their own reasoning for wanting the Bat dead. They also have their own motives and inspirations for getting deep into the mind of Batman along with using their strengths to take him down. One of the most interesting parts here is that the writers, artists, and others make it a point to show that great heroes only survive by the strength of their villains. And Gotham is such a messed up place that it produces some of the most insane and evil villains known to man. This feature runs thirty-five minutes and forty-four seconds.
Bruce Timm Presents 4 Bonus Batman: The Animated Series Episodes – Includes “Heart Of Ice,” “I Am The Night,” “Legends Of The Dark Knight,” and “Over The Edge.” These are simply four episodes from the excellent animated series that aired for a number of seasons. Not entirely sure why this is a feature on Gotham Knight except maybe to compare and contrast the different animation styles, but who knows? Each episode lasts about twenty minutes are still well worth checking out.
Exclusive Sneak Peek At DC Universe’s Wonder Woman – This preview of one of DC Universe’s next projects runs ten minutes and twenty-eight seconds and gives a good glimpse at the life and history of the Amazon beauty. Not only does the crew sit down and talk about Wonder Woman, but the vocal talents give their thoughts and feelings on her which makes for some fun and different views.
Trailers – 10,000 B.C., Appleseed Ex Machina, The Dark Knight, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Lego Batman, and Popeye The Sailor 1938-1940 Vol. 2
With all the talk being about Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, this DVD could kind of sneak past those that aren’t hardcore fans and that would be an immense shame. Gotham Knight is a great look at how so many different directors, writers, and artists see a comic book character that has been one of my favorites since I was a child. Batman is just so damn awesome because of how dark he is, how mysterious and secluded he keeps himself, the awesome toys and gadgets he has, and how much he simply wants to be a loner and do everything on his own. All of those things are showcased in Gotham Knight in ways that make him seem all that much more awesome. Throw in the fact that they keep the violence and language up with a PG-13 rating and it makes it jump straight out of the kids’ neighborhood and into the adults’ den.
The special features are really great too making this set even more of a must buy. The episodes of Batman The Animated Series kind of confuse me as their inclusion does nothing really to promote the new anime animation and darker style Batman is portrayed in here. That series was aimed at adults as well, but could be viewed by children without worrying. Gotham Knight is along the same lines as the graphic novels in that it should stay for adults’ eyes only. The other featurettes show some great history and include some fantastic quotes and words from those who have been associated with the Batman over the years. This is a required purchase for anyone calling themselves a Batman fan and a great build-up for the soon to be released Dark Knight.
Warner Home Video presents Batman Gotham Knight. Directed by: Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Shoujirou Nishimi. Starring (voices): Kevin Conroy, Gary Dourdan, David McCallum, Parminder Nagra, Ana Ortiz. Written by: Brian Azzarello, Alan Burnett Jordan Goldberg, David Goyer, Josh Olson, Greg Rucka. Running time: 76 minutes on 2 discs. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: July 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com