Batman: Gotham KnightThe Caped Crusader x6
The premise behind DC's latest direct-to-DVD release is simple. Take six renowned anime directors and six influential writers and compose an anthology of six short films about, you guessed it, Batman.
Like "The Animatrix," each segment in "Batman: Gotham Knight" has its own artistic style and brand of storytelling - much in the way different writers and artists have interpreted Gotham's caped crusader over the years. Fans of "Batman: The Animated Series" will be interested to know that Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, lends his voice to the anthology.
The first film, "Have I Got a Story For You," is directed by Shoujirou Nishimi and written by Josh Olsen ("A History of Violence"). The story follows street kids who tell stories of encounters with the Batman; each one describing a very different interpretation of what they saw.
Reminiscent of an episode from "Batman: The Animated Series" entitled, "Legends of the Dark Knight," each interpretation shows Batman's various natures. One kid sees him as a monster - a gigantic bat with claws and fangs, flying through the city at breakneck speed. Another kid sees him as a ghost - a walking shadow - while another sees him as more machine than man, an indestructible fighting robot.
"Crossfire," by Futoshi Higashide and Greg Rucka, is your classic cops versus mobsters story. A couple of police officers on Gordon's squad get caught in the crossfire of two gangs fighting. The cops aren't sure if they can trust Batman, but when he enters the fray they realize they have to trust him if they want to survive.
The third film, "Field Test," is by Hiroshi Morioka and Jordan Goldberg, producer of "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight." In this story, which includes Lucius Fox, Batman tests a new device that makes him completely bulletproof, but at a cost to his morals, as the device has the potential to harm innocents.
"In Darkness Dwells" is one of the best films in the anthology. Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki and written by legendary Batman scribe David S. Goyer, this story follows Batman as he battles with the Scarecrow and Killer Croc. The cool thing about "In Darkness Dwells" is the back-story given for Croc. He's a more relatable, realistic villain - not some crazy crocodile monster with any sense of character.
The fifth film, "Working Through Pain," is the low point of the anthology for me. Directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka and written by Brian Azzarello. In this story, which is mainly a flashback, we travel with a younger Bruce Wayne as he travels to far-off lands to find enlightenment. He meets a mysterious woman named Cassandra and is trained to resist pain through an ancient art.
They saved the best for last with "Deadshot," directed by Jong-Sik Nam and written by Alan Burnett, who has written countless episodes of Batman and Superman animated shows. In this short film, Batman must face Deadshot, an assassin who never misses. His aim and skill are impeccable and he's quite a handful for even Batman.
The animation and art throughout "Batman: Gotham Knight" is top-notch and beautiful. It's a fresh, imaginative take on the Batman mythos, offering several visuals and stories that are completely new to the franchise. If you're a fan of Batman and looking to whet your appetite until "The Dark Knight" hits theaters than you should certainly check out "Batman: Gotham Knight." If you're just an appreciator of fantastic animation or Japanese anime in general, then why not check this out.
Overall, some of the stories were kind of boring - and the idea that this anthology bridges the story between "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" seems implausible, being as there is really no mention of the events from the previous film, nor any hints toward the Joker's existence. That just seems like a clever marketing ploy, not that "The Dark Knight" really needs it.
Anyway, see this film for the animation and chance to experience batman six different ways in one sitting. I hope DC continues to make direct-to-DVD anthologies and standalone films like this after "The Dark Knight." The two-disc edition of this DVD includes some pretty cool bonus materials, such as a featurette on Batman's rogue gallery and a documentary on Batman creator Bob Kane. Also included are four episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series."