G3 Review: Batman-Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood
Rating: PG-13
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs

If you’ve been a geek for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered your Scott and Jean — a comic book topic that makes you so angry that you can’t discuss it without going completely off. I’m not talking casual disdain, but full, frightening-the-children rage. As someone who was deeply affected by Batman: A Death in the Family when it was originally published, I’d long considered Jason Todd’s return from the grave to be my Scott and Jean. Especially since said return has often amounted to little more than violent douchery. (Big spoilers ahead.)

While I eventually reached a sort of Zen acceptance about Jason’s resurrection, I had no intention of watching, let alone enjoying, the animated film adaptation of Judd Winick’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. My husband ordered it On Demand, and after a long day, I simply didn’t have the will to get off the couch. The bottom line: Jason’s presence remains problematic in a bigger sense, but it works surprisingly well in a self-contained story. And despite the inherent cheapness of bringing characters back from the dead, Under the Red Hood has some truly gripping moments that evoke the raw sadness of A Death in the Family.

Nothing annoys Bruce Wayne like a fellow vigilante, particularly one who has no problem capping criminals. So when a nouveau Red Hood shows up in Gotham City and starts blowing shit up, Bruce and Dick Grayson (still Nightwing in this context) go after him. Even if you’re not familiar with the Judd Winick-penned comics the movie is based on, it doesn’t take much to figure out Mr. Hood’s identity. After all, the story is punctuated with flashbacks of Bruce and Jason’s time together as Batman and Robin, including the latter’s sickening death at the Joker’s hand. That scene alone is worthy of a PG-13 rating, so make no mistake: Under the Red Hood is not appropriate for small or sensitive children.

Speaking of the Joker, John DiMaggio’s voice work as the cackling menace to society is excellent. His delivery is alternately ha-ha funny and ha-ha-now-he’s-freaking-me-out creepy. Bruce Greenwood is a solid Batman, and you can never go wrong with Neil Patrick Harris, who gives voice to Nightwing. Jensen Ackles is fine, if not memorable, as Jason Todd. The animation is well executed, and it’s more fluid than some of the earlier DC direct-to-DVD offerings.

Under the Red Hood is sure to rekindle the conversation about Batman’s no-killing code, particularly where the Joker is concerned. As the Red Hood himself puts it, we’re not talking about Penguin or Harvey Dent (Two-Face), but a serial, gleeful murderer who beat an adolescent to death and put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. Seriously; go back and look at those panels of the Joker clubbing Jason with a crowbar and tell me that guy doesn’t deserve far worse than a presidential suite at Arkham. (Gee, maybe THIS is my Scott and Jean.) I get Bruce’s concern about tumbling into the abyss, but somehow, I think he’d be OK. And this being DC, it’d only be a matter of time before the Joker came back to life!

My non-geek spouse, who completely dug this movie, had the advantage of being able to view it without the continuity baggage. We both agreed that the final scene is real heart-tugger, but it also reminded me of what an awkward position Jason Todd now occupies within the DC Universe. Considering all he’s been through — including the readers’ decision to off him in the first place — I can’t help but think he deserves more than a gold Crazy Medal.

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8 thoughts on “G3 Review: Batman-Under the Red Hood

  1. My comic reading has slowed significantly in recent years (stupid work, school, etc) but I’ve always been a Batman fan and keep meaning to catch back up on his Saga.

    I also haven’t watched a whole lot of animated films based on comic. I think the last one I watched was Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. I may have to check this one out though. It sounds like a fun way to help ease me back into the market. :)

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  2. Let me know what you think of it, Okie. I thought the voice work was very good overall, and I can’t deny that it’s a touching story. If only DC could figure out what to do with Jason Todd now.

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  3. Somehow I had never heard the phrase “Scott and Jean” in this context before… I think I love it.
    Are you guys reading the Rise of the Red Hood mini series? I think I like where it is going. Hopefully we won’t run off the tracks before it’s all over. I feel bad for Jason. I did then (Death in the Family appeared when I was 14) and I do now.

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  4. My LCS owner keeps nudging me toward the miniseries, but I’m resisting! Grant Morrison did some interesting things with the character in a Batman and Robin arc, but I’m with you: I really feel for Jason. There’s no real place for him in the Bat-family, especially with Damian occupying the Loose Cannon seat.

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  5. Finally got a chance to watch this film last night and I LOVED it. As I said before, I feel bad for Jason, but this script really puts the point on his anger. How could Bruce let the Joker go on living? Loved Alfred’s responses throughout. I liked the Ra’s angle and it gave a nice end run around the entire Superboy Prime nonsense… I do wish Dick had been more involved in the story (just a bit).

    I do have one question – did they get Jason’s suit wrong? I’d have sworn that was what Tim was wearing during the end of his tenure as Robin (colors changed to honor Conner Kent post Infinite Crisis). I thought Jason’s suit had the traditional colors. And where was Tim? I will have to go dig up the original book for this.

    p.s. – Give in to the red hood miniseries, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s up to 4 and I’m not disappointed yet. More than I can say for what they did in Cry for Justice or the Arsenal nightmare….

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  6. Serafine, I’m so glad you enjoyed the film! And thanks for the recommendation on the Red Hood miniseries, too. The reviews have been pretty positive, so I’m just being stubborn. As for the suit — YES! Totally wrong. He wore the pixie boots, too, not the modernized outfit Tim wore. I guess they were afraid it would look silly, but if it was good enough for Dick Grayson …

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  7. We found the emotional tone rather flat, or consistent. We agree with you that it did bring to light Batman’s no killing ethics. We thought it wsa nice to see him fighting FOR them against the dark tide trend.

    It is not for everyone. It is well made with good production values and action, all wrapped up in darkness and tied with a bow of brutality.

    Here is our take with a lot of pics and a little humor if your are interested:

    http://fortresstakes.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/batman-under-the-red-hood-2010/

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  8. “Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot.” True Bats. (May we recommend Hydroxitone for those laugh lines?)” Hahahahahahaha! Thanks for sharing this, Fortress Guy. I loved it. This movie is definitely not for the kids, and like you said, delicate adult viewers should steer clear of it, too. That crowbar scene was excruciating.

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