So far this summer I’ve reviewed movies where Kevin Conroy voiced Batman and given my first thoughts on the final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. So let’s look at a film that combines both of these things.
At first viewing I wasn’t sure I really liked this film because it’s really a series of vignettes that all have different styles and story lines, and on the surface don’t seem to connect together outside of all taking place in the Nolanverse. But like Nolan’s movies this movie too becomes better with re-watching as new layers emerge. I began to see that there were connections throughout all of the six shorts after all. From big ones like Maroni and the Russian having a gang war in Crossfire and meeting to do it again in Field Test, to smaller ones like Teresa Williams who we were told was killed in Field Test by gang violence was actually revealed to be one of Deadshot’s victims in the final short. Or the gun that Batman knocks away from the injured gang member falling into the grate that Batman will later be in when he crawls out of the sewers, in Working Through Pain. And of course the sewers connect Working Through Pain with In Darkness Dwells because they take place one right after the other.
As for the shorts themselves I like that they all look at different angles of the Batman mythos. From how the average person would view Batman, how the cops view him, how he views his position as a crime fighter; that he won’t risk someone else’s life, only his own. I think I like Working Through Pain the best of the bunch because we got to see more of Bruce’s training which is something that isn’t really looked at all the much. It was great to have a woman as one of Bruce’s teachers and to see the suffering of people in that area of the world. I mean a guy is being operated on with no anesthetic or even a blind fold on, way to push the PG-13 rating guys.
As a collection I love the backgrounds in all the vignettes. It really gives the feeling of Gotham as a character in itself. I also love that almost all of them had a scene of Batman watching over the city with his cape flowing in the breeze. It’s an iconic image of him as a protector and it never gets old. I like the character designs for the most part in all the shorts with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is the character designs in Have I Got a Story For You. I think it’s because the characters are designed to be flat and ill-proportioned and then they are placed in these wonderful elaborate backgrounds and I don’t think it fits right. However the one thing I did like about that first short was its title shot. It was great to incorporate it as part of the graffiti of the skate park and it actually makes the other title shots look boring by comparison in my opinion. The other titles all look like the lettering from Nolan’s movies of course it takes places in the same universe so I think that was fine for the Gotham Knight title, but if you were going to do such an interesting title shot for the first short why not do it for all of them? The other problem for character design is the design of Bruce Wayne in the second story Field Test. The way he looks no just…no. I know that was made with Japanese animators and directors and so of course that distinct anime style is present, and in many respects I really like it. It’s interesting to see Eastern styles of animation with a character that was created in the West but this particular design doesn’t work, because he looks like he’s fourteen. The design of Bruce in Working Through Pain I found far better, it captured his youth without going too young, and I thought the design in Deadshot was the best of them all. That one though had the darkest shading of all the stories, giving it a distinct comic book look, and that probably explains it.
Kevin Conroy does a really marvellous job with the voice acting here and I like that he still manages to bring such a distinct voice to Bruce Wayne in contrast to Batman, and a young Bruce at that, that I truly miss in Christian Bale’s performance.
I liked that they brought in other characters from Batman’s rogues gallery and managed to use interesting ideas like Batman hallucinating on fear toxin to give Killer Croc and Scarecrow new looks, but not take that out of a real world based universe that Nolan's world is because we can’t be absolutely certain what Batman was looking at. I love all the fight scenes in here, the choreography and the angles were all great. Again I think my favourite comes from Working Through Pain, because we got to see Bruce do exactly that and handle multiple opponents which is always fun to see. I don’t think I’ve ever found a multiple opponent fight scene that I didn’t like, but I’m sure I’ll find one, one day.
To conclude it has wonderful animation, a great blend of East and West. It has great character designs for the most part and I love the background designs. Overall I think it’s a great film that fits well within the Nolan set of movies and I kind of hope they make another one someday.