Jason Todd, AKA the second boy-wonder Robin, was killed off from the Batman series in the late ’80s in one of the most vicious scenes in the industry’s history. Bludgeoned with a crowbar by the Joker, with the The Clown Prince of Crime laughing maniacally throughout, the scene warped millions of young comic book fans’ minds and brought the Caped Crusader back to his roots as a lonely, brooding hero.
This is how DC comics’ newest DVD feature “Batman: Under the Red Hood” begins and much like the lore it’s based on, is entertaining throughout and worthy of being in the same league as the comics. Excellent animation and quality voice acting by some higher-quality names [albeit not the ones you grew up on] help guide the story and despite an ending that lacks any real closure, it’s ultimately a treat to hardcore fans and new ones alike.
While anyone who’s watched a Batman animated anything over the past 20 years has grown accustomed to having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as the Batman and the Joker, the duo of veteran big-screen actor Bruce Greenwood [Star Trek, Eight Below] and John DiMaggio, perhaps the best voice actor of this generation, do a great job as hero and villain. It may take some time to get used to them, but by the end, as a viewer, you’re more than comfortable with their voices and take them seriously.
Neil Patrick Harris is also in the cast and does a solid job as Nightwing, providing several witty one-liners and breaking up some of the serious moments. Make no mistake about it, Batman here is pretty frazzled, especially after finding out that his former sidekick hasn’t taken the dirt nap he thought he did. Having Nightwing in there as well also expands the universe and spices things up a bit, making things a bit unpredictable, even if you’re pretty familiar with the story already.
Having “Prison Break’s” Wade Williams voice Black Mask is another great addition and seeing this character being ruthless and scurrying around like a chicken with no head simultaneously is also a brilliant side story. The way everything ultimately connects as well is the signature of a Batman story and there’s no disappointment here by the end.
This intriguing plot development is aided by Todd, who like his mentor, is a master detective. However, along the way, he loses sight of the ethics and morals Wayne has tried to instill within him and has become something entirely different. Voiced by Jensen Ackles, the heart-throb from “Super Natural,” Todd is a super cool character, who is equally as deranged and dangerous. You can’t help but feel for him in the situation he’s in and you may even find yourself hating Batman for being such a boy scout. Because of this, the dynamics for an excellent animated feature are here, with plenty of shocks and awes along the way.
However, the thing seems to end a bit quickly, with a cliffhanger ending the makes you want even more. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the story it’s based on also ends in similar fashion, making it a close-enough retelling with more than enough added excitement to warrant the attention of the biggest Batman fans out there.
Overall, it’s safe to say that the recent string of worthy DVD entries from DC has continued.