Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 15 min.

Release Date: July 8th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam, Shoujirou Nishimi Actors: Kevin Conroy, Jason Marsden, Scott Menville, Crystal Scales, Alanna Ubach, Hynden Walch, Corey Burton

 


 

“B

atman: Gotham Knight” takes the same concept that 2003’s “The Animatrix” devised for “The Matrix” franchise: to prepare (or tease) audiences for the highly anticipated, upcoming theatrical sequel. Here, six short animated episodes are strung together to create an interlocking storyline of Batman’s various crime-fighting adventures. Each cartoon is directed by a different anime legend, and each adds to the already noticeably darker tone that “Batman Begins” adopted. This bloodier, more torrential collection of tales forms the first ever PG-13 rated Batman animated movie.

“Have I Got a Story For You” by Shoujirou Nishimi (“Akira,” “Tekkonkinkreet”) is easily the least impressive of the six episodes – and it sluggishly starts off the film. Using a disagreeable, more abstract form of animation, the blobby characters spill in and out of their dimensions, moving in a sketchy, jerky manner. Four skateboarding kids exchange yarns about their encounters with Batman, each painting a completely different picture. This storytelling method is stolen from Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” although here it is clichéd and uneventful.

“Crossfire,” by Futoshi Higashide (“Samurai 7”), finds detectives Cris Allen and Anna Ramirez escorting a psychotic prisoner into dangerous territory. Allen is skeptical of Batman’s vigilante methods, while Anna admires the Dark Knight for his ability to help the crime-ridden city. A bullet-frenzied confrontation puts Allen and Anna in a dire situation that ends in a dramatic rescue by Batman himself. “Crossfire” is not only animated in a much more appealing style, it is more serious, more intense, and certainly more engrossing – it’s arguably the best chapter in the collection.

The third episode, “Field Test,” by Hiroshi Morioka (“Violinist of Hameln,” “.hack//Legend of the Twilight”) demonstrates Lucius Fox at his mechanical best. After Fox creates a device that essentially makes Bruce Wayne bulletproof, the new Batman sets out to test the variable mechanism. In a battle between a Russian mobster and an Italian gangster, the caped crusader proves to himself that endangering his own life is the only acceptable risk in vigilante justice.

The mutated psycho Killer Croc makes an appearance in the fourth episode, “In Darkness Dwells,” by Yasuhiro Aoki (“Steamboy,” “Digimon: The Movie”). He plays henchman to the Scarecrow, who rallies troops in the sewers of Gotham. Where the first few segments lacked strong villains, “In Darkness Dwells” finally introduces audiences to some recognizable Batman baddies. Perhaps the most thrilling chapter of the lot, it also contains some of the most awe-inspiring action scenes.

“Working Through Pain” by Toshiyuki Kubooka (“Wings of Honneamise,” “Project A-Ko”) is barely a story, serving instead as a training sequence for Batman. As he struggles to surface from the squalid Gotham sewers with a fresh wound in his side, he recounts earlier years of his life, in which he learned about dealing with pain. An Indian teacher named Cassandra (Parminder Nagra) instructed him on controlling physical and mental anguish, but it’s apparent that the vengeance inside Batman is only ever momentarily quelled.

The last episode, “Deadshot,” by Jong-Sik Nam (“Spiral Zone”), features the most memorable villain of the film, and a story that neatly concludes the series. Expert marksman (from over 2000 meters) and assassin Deadshot (Jim Meskimen) is hired to murder Lieutenant Gordon. When Batman hears of the villain’s mission, he shadows the policeman – only to discover that the real target is himself.

The six animated shorts are all related to one another, occasionally picking up directly before or after the preceding episode. While a couple of the chapters are definitely more spectacular than others, the sum of the six parts only equals a mediocre movie. They all appear heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s edgier, updated rendition of Batman, but this project is still unable to present anything entirely unmissable.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10