Friday, July 30, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood | Why DC Cartoon Movies Are Good

This Cartoon Movie Is Better Than Any Single Episode.
Batman aficionados should get their utility belts ready because DC has recently put out the latest installment of Batman. The story of Batman: Under the Red Hood follows Batman voiced by Bruce Greenwood (Start Trek, John From Cincinnati) in his investigation of a new criminal force in Gotham City called The Red Hood. The main story takes place 5 years after the brutal murder of Robin at the hands of The Joker. The Joker is voiced by John Di Maggio whose raspy voice you may recognize from Futurama as the lovable alcoholic robot Bender. The Red Hood is voiced by Jensen Ackles, that’s right one of the Winchester brothers from Supernatural. To top things off Neil Patrick Harris who was the voice of the short lived but very good Spider-man cartoon, he is filling in the voice for Nightwing. So, if there was ever a movie to have a cartoon nerdgasm over its Batman: Under the Red Hood.

It Is more Than Just The Voice Actors.
The story of this DC film is one of the best stand alone Batman cartoons movies ever made. It manages to play out one of those what if scenarios that comic book types love to concoct: What if Robin were murdered by The Joker? What would Batman do, would he break his moral code and kill The Joker to avenge his partner and friend? This movie also touches on another issue often brought up by Batman followers, what would Batman do if there were another vigilante in Gotham and he didn’t play by such noble rules? What if this protector of the city would kill? These are the scenarios that get to unfold in Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Batman: Under the Red Hood (The Story)
As a new power moves in on the Black Masks territory a red hooded (its more of a red helmet that covers the face), gun touting tough guy who calls a meeting with all of the head crime lords under the thumb of the Black Mask and shows them that he means business by giving them a duffle bag filled with the heads of their bosses. The Red Hood promises them all protection from Black Mask and Batman as long as he gets a 40% cut of the profits and they don’t push drugs on kids or innocents. This is the sort of moral relativism that Batman can’t stand so you can see that the two of them, both Batman and Red Hood are going to but heads down the line and Black Mask will be stuck in the middle.
The Dark Knight is called to a meeting with the Red Hood at the chemical factory where he accidentally created The Joker. Interestingly in this version of the Batman, Joker mythos The Joker had been one of the original Red Hoods and falls into a vat of chemicals as that persona. Batman admits to the latest Red Hood that this factory is the location of one of his greatest failures the other being the death of Robin. Batman at this point in the story already suspects that the Red Hood that his is dealing with now is Robin, as impossible as that might be. The two of them get into a bit of a pissing contest but end up having to fight together against a group of assassins sent by Black Mask. The only difference real difference between the two masked men is that Red Hood is more than willing to kill the assassins, demonstrated by the Red Hood’s unnecessary use of a powerful Taser which leaves on of the attackers with less weight on his shoulders.
Batman and The Red Hood part ways under poor conditions and Batman still not able to understand how his former partner can be alive and seemingly brutal. 
As a matter of self-preservation the Black Mask formulates a plan to recruit The Joker to take care of his new competition while employing an age old focusing technique, punching his lackies one after another. Very Zen. But things don’t go quiet the way the Black Mask thought it would. After busting The Joker out of Arkham Asylum in order to eliminate the underlings of Red Hood, Black Mask soon finds himself being deuced with gasoline right along side of the hoodlums he sent The Joker to kill. The cookout was being held atop of a turned over armored vehicle on one of Gotham’s bridges. The Joker’s plan to draw both Batman and Red Hood out happens just after The Joker ignites his passengers only to have them be put out by a Batwing moments later, but while Batman is playing fireman Red Hood captures The Joker.

What Happened to Jason Todd A.K.A. Robin?
Batman after digging up his former partner’s body discovers that his body has been replaced by a high quality silicon duplicate, which along with some DNA recovered from an encounter with Red Hood leads him to believe that Jason is in fact alive. But this begs the question who is capable of resurrection within the Batman universe. The answer, Ra's al Ghul leader of a secret league of assassins with the sole purpose of destroying civilization as we know it. It turns out that while Batman and Robin were investigation some of Ra’s exploits in eastern Europe, Ra’s hired The Joker to distract The Dark Knight by capturing his partner. But Ra’s found out just how unpredictable The Joker can be when he killed Robin. Since this was never the intention of Ra’s to kill the partner of a man he truly respects, he attempts to make amends by submerging Jason Todd’s body into the Lazarus Pit (the magical pool that Ra’s uses to rejuvenate his aging body). After Jason’s body has been resurrected he bursts out of the strangely coloured pool kills one of Ra’s al Ghul’s guards and dives off of a cliff.

Don’t Be A Kidder, Let’s All Die Together.
Batman, now fully apprised of the situation, sets out to find Jason/Red Hood and The Joker. Meanwhile, Red Hood and The Joker are getting reacquainted in a bit of a role reversal Jason begins to beat The Joker with a crowbar in the same fashion he was beaten nearly to death by The Joker. The Joker familiar with his own brand of cruelty realizes that he is being given beating by the boy wonder himself, not needing any rationalization for the very alive Robin, The Joker takes his beating in good humor.          
Batman and Red Hood get into a final battle that climaxes with a stand off between Batman, the now unmasked Jason Todd (Robin) and The Joker.  Jason can’t understand how he couldn’t kill The Joker after he murdered him and insists that if Batman were the one killed by The Joker, Jason would have killed The Joker without hesitation. Batman attempts an explanation for why he cannot kill The Joker even to save the people his might kill in the future and avenge those he has killed in the past. It would be too easy for him to kill The Joker, and that it is this difficult distinction that separates Batman from the people he puts in jail.    Now with a bomb ticking toward zero, Jason gives Batman an ultimatum: kill me or else I kill The Joker.  Batman firm in his belief that there is no justice is killing another person regardless of the circumstances simply turns and walks away. But in classic Batman style the world’s greatest detective manages to disable his former partner’s gun and defuse the stand off. The Joker having been locked up for the last couple of years can’t help but make a play to go out with his arch enemies in one big bang. He breaks free from Jason and pins Batman as the final second of the bombs timer countdown. The bomb goes off, both Batman and The Joker manage to survive (for some reason) but Jason is nowhere to be found.