Watch This Shit

I’m usually pretty on top of upcoming films that pertain to my interests. The Internet makes it absurdly easy to follow a project from announcement to release and everything in between, and something that piques my curiosity rarely escapes my notice.

Batman: Under the Red Hood totally escaped my notice.

Batman: Under the Red Hood is totally fucking awesome.

It opens with the death of Robin #2 (Jason Todd) at the hands of the Joker. Fast forward five years later, and a masked vigilante calling himself the Red Hood has appeared on the Gotham scene, appointing himself the immediate successor to the city’s other masked vigilante. Batman, needless to say, isn’t all that into the idea of premature retirement. Throw in appearances by Nightwing, Ra’s Al Ghul, Black Mask and the Riddler, and shit is gonna go down.

Hood manages to balance all these characters without ever losing sight of the story’s main theme – Batman’s guilt over his second protege’s murder. They all tie together smoothly into the plot; it never feels like overstuffed fan service.

But it is fan service in the literal sense of the words, in that fans will love the hell out of it. They’ll love the crackling, quasi-anime visuals, the alternately moody and pounding score, the unsettling but never gratuitous violence. They’ll especially love the maturity of the story, how its handled with loyalty to character, and with such poignancy at times that I felt myself genuinely moved (the very last scene and image in particular killed it for me).

Rare is the film without noticeable flaws, and Hood does have a few. There are too many one-liners that fall flat, and Jensen Ackles (Red Hood) doesn’t have the chops to pull off his character’s most emotionally charged dialogue. I’d also have appreciated a more menacing and less comically over-the-top Black Mask – he may look like the Red Skull’s minority counterpart, but that’s where the similarities end.

Still, flaws and all, this is a very fine Batman film that I found more honest and affecting in its emotional beats than The Dark Knight. I’d rank it behind Batman Begins and Return of the Joker as my third favorite entry in the Batman canon and I recommend it to anyone looking to add a little badassery to their day.

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