Early DVD Review: Batman: Gotham Knight

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Batman: Gotham Knight is a collection of six short animated films from some celebrated anime studios and terrific comic book writers.  It’s similar to The Animatrix DVD that came out years back and features six short films.  The shorts are uneven at times and not every short is an instant classic, but I liked a great deal of it.  The version for review is the 2 Disc Special edition, which is the only choice for fans of Batman, as the one disc edition has only a commentary and sneak peak of the new Wonder Woman origin animated film (which looks excellent, incidentally).

The first short entitled “Have I Got a Story for You”, is the most fun and unique of the six shorts.  It features a group of hip skater teens telling their own tales of what Batman really looks like.  When the real Batman shows up fighting a villain, all Hell breaks loose.  Cartoony and edgy art mixes with Josh Olson’s clever screenplay (he wrote A History of Violence, of all things).  The next short is called “Crossfire” and features two detectives who have differing opinions on Batman and his close relationship to Lt. Gordon (this seems to take place shortly after the events of Batman Begins).  This one has nicely stylish film noir art that matches Batman perfect from the acclaimed Production IG Studios (Ghost in the Shell).  “Field Test” features both the tumbler and Lucius Fox and features Bruce Wayne testing out a new weapon.  The animation is gorgeous to this one (and the most traditional anime style).  Wayne resembles a 25 year old anime pretty boy and the animation is smooth and stylish.

“Darkness Dwells” is written by David Goyer (Batman Begins) and features both Scarecrow and Killer Croc.  This one isn’t as strong story-wise as the others but I still enjoyed it.  “Working Through the Pain” is easily the best short of the DVD.  An amazing script from comic book star on the rise Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) deals with Bruce’s pain as he deals with a massive wound, at the same time flashing back to India, where a mysterious woman teaches him techniques to overcome pain.  Slower and more thoughtful than the other shorts, it’s a must-see for fans of Batman.  The final feature called “Deadshot” is pure eye candy.  The animation is from Madhouse and it is beyond gorgeous.  The assassin Deadshot shows up in Gotham and Batman has to defeat him.  Their battle has some of the best animation (bullet-time Batman on a moving train!) I’ve seen yet involving Batman and the short is well-written as a game of cat-and-mouse between hunter and prey.

The DVD looks and sounds excellent and several features make this two-disc version a must-buy for fans.  The first featurette runs around 30 minutes and it explores Batman’s amazing rogues gallery of villains while Paul Dini, Greg Rucka, Bruce Timm, and many other DC comic book heavy hitters discuss each villain in depth.  The second featurette called “Batman and Me” is about the life of Batman creator Bob Kane, and it’s also fascinating and runs right around 30 minutes.  Four amazing episodes (including my personal favorite episode, Heart of Ice) of the animated series are also included on disc two.

Batman: Gotham Knight is the perfect treat for Batman fans eagerly waiting for The Dark Knight to open in theatres in a few weeks.  Six short anime films and a generous selection of extras make it well worth your time and money.

DVD Grade: A-

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