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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Batman Under the Red Hood [Blu-ray]

 

(Brandon Vietti, 2010)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Production:

Theatrical: Warner Bros. Animation

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE!

Runtime: 1:15:49.586

Disc Size: 22,440,121,987 bytes

Feature Size: 13,989,181,440 bytes

Video Bitrate: 16.944 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: July 27th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish & Portuguese, and None

 

Extras:

• Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson (24:13)

• Robin's Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd (20:58)

• DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (11:53)

• First Look: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (12:12)

• Bruce Timm's Top Picks (Robin's Reckoning, Pt. 1 and 2, Mad Love, The Laughing Fish) (1:28:07)

• Trailers (Jonah Hex Motion Comic), The Lord of the Rings (Animated), Legend of the Guardians, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Gotham Knight, Superman: Doomsday)

 

Description: DC Comics goes back to the mid-1930s, having given us over the years such superheroes as Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, among others, first as comics, then in animated forms. Over the past couple of years Warner Bros Entertainment, who has been right there alongside DC Comics since forever, has been putting out animated direct-to-video “episodes” featuring characters from the DC Universe on the Blu-ray format every few months (Batman: Gotham Knight; Superman/Batman: Public Enemies; Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths). Alas, none of those made use of lossless, uncompressed audio, an oversight that the new Batman episode corrects, and which we expect will continue with Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, coming in September.

 

 

The Film: 8
I think the worst thing one can say about “Batman: Under the Red Hood” is that its title, which unintentionally brings to mind a story about a perverted superhero and a certain fairy tale waif. Indeed, for anyone new to the story line written by Judd Winick going back to 2005, the title must seem peculiar which, as it turns out, refers to the mysterious identity of a new crime lord in Gotham City, an athletic superhero type known as the “Red Hood,” after his mask, which completely covers his head. Red Hood tells Gotham’s assorted crime bosses that he’s in charge now, and if they don’t like it – well, there’s always plenty of room at the cemetery. When he comes mask-to-mask with Batman and Robin (Nightwing), on the other hand, Red Hood positions himself as a vigilante, willing to do what Batman is not: namely to kill bad guys. Given how bad these bad guys are, there is a certain resonance with Red Hood’s ethical posture and his practical solution to the problem.

Case in point: The Joker, locked up in an asylum for the criminally insane. The Joker was responsible for the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, an event that still plays havoc with Bruce Wayne’s guilt-ridden memory: He and the first Robin, Dick Grayson, had both lost their parents when they were children, and later Wayne took on a mentor/father relationship to the boy. The whole Robin thing was Batman’s idea – or, as we learn in the extra feature that delves into the backstory, it was deemed necessary from a purely graphic storytelling point of view for co-creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger to give Batman someone to talk to as he does what he does. Like a vampire who outlives any mortal he or she may form an intimate relationship with, Batman suffers the tortures of the damned each time a Robin meets his fate and is eventually replaced by another. They’re not pets, after all.

When The Joker is sprung from his cell by Gotham’s leading crime boss, Black Mask, in order to help dispose of The Red Hood (I wince every time I see that name) Batman relives his guilt over Jason’s death (as we first read in the 1988-89 comic book arc “A Death in the Family”). Batman confronts his ethical dilemma in a terrifying and intensely poignant scene where he stands between Joker and Red Hood, the ironies of which are played out to the last row in the balcony.


 

Image: 7/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
A number of transfer issues mar this otherwise excellent animation: Banding is probably the most dominant (surprising considering its generous bit rate of 24 Mbps), but noise and artifacts also crop up now and again. The casual viewer will be distracted, as they should, by the movie’s bold color saturation, inky blacks, and, most laudably: movement across the screen, which is handled exceedingly well. Check out the elevated train that speeds away from Batman and Nightwing at the end of their pursuit of The Red Hood. I am used to seeing things like light seen through the windows of a passing train handled very jerkily in animation, but here it’s clean and smooth. We are also happy that that old bugbear edge enhancement does not undo the animator’s line art. Other recent examples of DC Universe original animated movies (of which three are previewed in the Bonus Features) fare a little better in PQ, especially Green Lantern: First Flight. All the sadder, since this Batman episode may be the best of Warner’s animated DC Comics thus far.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/7
No such complaints are present in Warner’s aggressive soundscape, made that much more vivid in DTS-HD MA. This is a movie with a number of lengthy action pieces with more effects than you can shake a cape at – crashing, zinging, exploding and whooshing. There’s plenty of gunfire and falling pieces of buildings, the panned whoosh of a car or plane darting from one side to the other. Perhaps the rear channels are not as engaged as hoped, but I didn’t count it as a defect.

 

 

 

Extras: 7
For those, like myself, relatively unacquainted with the history of The Caped Crusader and his various Boy Wonders, you’ll not want to miss Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson and Robin's Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd in which a whole platoon of Batman aficianados and artists talk about how Robin came about and Jason Todd in particular. Most interesting. The specs indicate HD, but the PQ could pass for decent standard def. Four 22-minute episodes from “Batman, the Animated Series” are presented, alas, in standard definition: Robin's Reckoning: Parts 1 & 2, The Laughing Fish, and Mad Love. In case you passed on the feature length version, you might want to catch DC Showcase – "Jonah Hex", a 12-minute animated short in HD.

 

Bottom line: 8
Despite a problematic transfer, the story and its animation, voicing, color and production, the slam bang whiz bop audio design and useful bonus features make this a recommended purchase.

Leonard Norwitz
July 24th 2010

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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