Batman: Year One was the second Batman book I purchased, and the third I ever read. Many years have passed and it’s still one of my favourites, raised higher by it’s influence on my favourite Batman film, Batman Begins. So anything that tries to interpret it or use it is going to fall under some pretty close scrutiny.
With the little one in bed and my wife reading, the urge came over me to read the book again recently. It still holds up, it’s gritty noir pervading every panel as Bruce and Gordon begin their journeys in Gotham. I fell in love with it all over again.
The animated version passed me by upon release, but maybe it contained some of the magic of the book? It looked like a faithful representation at least, and the voice cast looked impressive. Could it hope a candle to it’s progenitor?
Nope. Not at all. Sharing a visual style is all that’s familiar quality wise when it comes to comparing the two. Animated Year One takes a very lean and focused story, adds in unnecessary action, and gives it perhaps the worst Batman performance I’ve ever seen/heard.
Ben McKenzie has by all accounts been a reasonable Gordon in the TV series Gotham. Here however he’s completely inert. Whether he’s fighting hoodlums, talking to his dead Father, or washing the dishes, there is no change in tone. Regardless of who made the decision it’s awful, and completely saps any energy out of the character. I cringed every time he drained the dialogue of all energy. There is some great stuff to say too! Such a waste.
Bryan Cranston fairs marginally better as the budding Commissioner, but the entire voice cast is ‘meh’ overall. The additional action scenes don’t make sense in the context of the story and are clearly padding. The animation itself is decent if not inspiring, as it loses some of the grit that the comic does so well. My gut feel is that it’s mainly down to the colouring, ending up far too clean and clear.
I would love to be positive about Batman: Year One. The source material is truly excellent. Unfortunately this animated version, rather than provide the energy of movement, conspires to bring it to a standstill. Some things don’t need remaking or adding to; they’re perfect as they are. So in this case, read the book instead please.