#11: Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
It’s actually nearly impossible to believe Batman: Under the Red Hood was a direct-to-DVD release. It had a cinematic quality that would’ve made it excellent to experience in the theaters. This film is actually an excellent example of the fact that DC Comics’ animated features show much more fidelity to their characters than their live action versions, and arguably are just better films in general.
Batman: Under the Red Hood adapts both the similarly-titled Under the Hood and the one Batman storyline I never thought I’d see any medium of adaptation try to touch: A Death in the Family. I actually like this film’s version of Jason Todd’s return much better than Under the Hood‘s. While the essential elements were the same, and the conclusion is similar, it’s much more streamlined both structurally and in terms of the actual story.
The production values here are as impressive as they’ve ever been for the DC Universe’s animated features, and Christopher Drake turns in arguably his best performance as soundtrack composer. I was surprised by the choice to recast many of the voices for this film as I think the original voice actors would’ve been excellent reprising their roles, but I can hardly argue with who they got to replace them. Bruce Greenwood (as Batman) and Neil Patrick Harris (as Nightwing) bring serious Hollywood prestige to the cast, while veteran voice actor John DiMaggio (as the Joker) is, as ever, impressive.
The quality of this film stands out even among other DC Universe Animated Original Movies, which have been with few exceptions consistently excellent. I would love to see more major Batman storylines told in a similar vein. I’d love to see a (probably at least two-part) adaptation of Knightfall and Knightsend, largely glossing over Knightquest, and definitely a sequel adapting Prodigal. The Long Halloween and Dark Victory (still the best interpretation of Dick Grayson’s origin story ever) would be spectacular as well.
So far, though, the only additional storyline they’ve used is Year One (which was okay but not great), and there’s a forthcoming two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, which I must confess I’m not especially looking forward to. But then, my bias has always been for more exploration of the “Batman Family,” a concept which modern interpretations of Batman have largely tried to ignore. Under the Red Hood, on the other hand, plays into my prejudices by heavily featuring Bruce’s relationship with both Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. This is really what I’d like to see more of, just throw in some Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake and we’ll be all set.