Batman: Year One (2011, Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery)

Batman: Year One should be much, much better. As it stands, as animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s comic books, it’s a fantastic proof of concept. It’s no surprise, given much has already been adapted, albeit uncredited, into Batman Begins. I guess Christopher Nolan doesn’t know how to cite.

But co-directors Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery are so reverential of the source material, they don’t seem to realize certain obvious things… like having a date appear every thirty seconds, as it does in some sequences, doesn’t work in a moving picture like it does in a comic book.

It’s a period piece, set in 1983 or so, which should be great, but the animation’s cheap and often lifeless. The car tires usually don’t move.

It should be better.

But it’s well cast for the most part. Bryan Cranston, as someday Commissioner Gordon, is amazing. He sells the first person narration and he sells the dramatic dialogue sequences. As Batman, Ben McKenzie’s earnestness works for the narration, though he doesn’t make the talking scenes work. Year One, as a movie or a comic book, isn’t about Batman talking.

Jon Polito and especially Fred Tatasciore are good as bad guys. Alex Rocco isn’t. Eliza Dushku’s Catwoman’s without presence (and her character has been whitewashed in terms of skin tone from the comic).

Christopher Drake’s music practically does the whole thing in occasionally.

The adaptation often reminds of the excellent comics. But as a standalone piece, Year One’s lacking.

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