Monday 2 August 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood

This is by far the most violent Batman cartoon I've seen and if it weren't for the lack of blood, this film could rank among the more violent movies I've watched in terms of body count and physical beatings.

Black Mask's power over the drug lords in Gotham is waning as a new villain, Red Hood, is quickly taking control of the trade.  Red Hood's motives are good but his methods are unethical--he will he will clean up Gotham by straight up killing all the bad guys.  Batman's stance is clear, he cannot abide Red Hood's antics, but he soon finds himself trapped in an ethical quagmire when Joker comes between him and Red Hood.

Similar to Mask of the Phantasm, Under the Red Hood gives us a glimpse in to Batman's character, but whereas we came to know Bruce Wayne in Phantasm, we understand a bit more about Batman's psyche in Red Hood.  Of particular interest is Batman's ethical code of conduct and the film addresses Batman's seeming inability to simply rid the world of Joker.

Unlike Phantasm, however, this movie appears to blend a variety of visual styles.  Red Hood still retains the some of the noir qualities that helped make TAS famous, but design elements seen in Batman Beyond and Teen Titans are also present.  Interestingly, Red Hood's Gotham City appears to have been partly influenced by Nolan's films, suggesting that Warner Bros is mining the entire Batman franchise for artistic inspiration.

Despite their changing visual aesthetics, contemporary Batman television and film franchises have continued to be dark and violent, and Red Hood is no exception.  The film opens with Joker very nearly beating a man to death with a crowbar.  Later on, a man is burned alive, someone's head explodes, and countless victims are simply shot dead.  Nearly all the violence is couched within the delicate terms of the ethical treatment of criminals and meted out by would-be vigilante Red Hood.  The violence perpetrated by Joker is unfettered--he's psychotic and his actions aren't subject to introspection.  Although the film would appear to be somewhat hypocritical in that Batman is the only character who's use of excessive force is never called into question, a clear distinction is made between the two vigilantes: Red Hood uses guns, Batman does not.

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