Anime-inspired direct-to-DVD anthology film. Comprised of six short stories, from diverse creators, including Academy Award-nominated Josh Olsen (A History of Violence), Batman Begins writer David S. Goyer, and comics scribe Brian Azzarello. It's planned for a release window of two to four weeks prior to the release of The Dark Knight, and would bridge the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
As a big fan of Batman and an obvious fan of anime, Gotham Knight was definitely something I had been looking forward to. While fun to watch though, this series of shorts kind of left more to be desired... then again, considering it's to lead into The Dark Knight, that may be a good thing.
STORY - It's kind of hard to review six standalone works all at once while simultaneously trying to be succinct, but I don't think I have the attention span right now to detail each one individually (and I'm long-winded enough as it is). The shorts collected within Gotham Knight are supposed
to take place in between the events of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight; to that end then, they work okay, avoiding major villains and touching on various lesser themes within the Batman franchise. Each short sort of reminded me of a summarized version of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, especially the first one, Have I Got a Story For You, which I swear was the exact premise for a TAS episode. Each story is self-contained, but vague, and even though it was possible to draw connecting threads between some of them (always nice), such as In Darkness Dwells and Working Through Pain, I wasn't really wowed by any of them. At best, they were just decent episodes, not good enough for real praise, but not bad enough to trash.
The final short, Deadshot was probably my favorite, if only because it had all the elements of a classic Batman -- action, mild suspense, and a demonstration of Batman's awesome skill (though he is never without weakness). Working Through Pain and Field Test are runners up because they contribute at least a little bit to Batman's very complex personality and psyche, and as morality and the mind in general are very prevalent themes in Batman, those two shorts felt rather necessary in helping to further develop and prepare the character for The Dark Knight. Bruce's line at the end of Field Test is especially memorable: "I'm willing to put my life on the line, but it has to be my life."
CHARACTER - There seem to be two central goals in Gotham Knight: one, describing Bruce/Batman's progression as a character in between the two live action movies, and two, detailing the public's perception of the Batman as he rises in both fame and infamy. Each of the six shorts meet at least one of these two goals, though I'd venture to say that none of them do it particularly well. The complexity of Batman's character is one of the main reasons I've always been a fan. Sure, his backstory is one tragedy in a world of many, but the determination he has to both make up for his weakness as a child and to grow up past the sadness is admirable. It's incredibly interesting to see him in conflict with everything that stands in his way -- criminals, the police, Gotham's society, and of course, himself and his own mind. Batman has always been a great character, but the real question is whether Gotham Knight do him justice. The nature of the shorts -- basically, the fact that they are indeed short -- limits the depth of exploration; they do okay with what they're given, but they had so much more potential that it just ends up being a little disappointing in the end.
The other characters that make appearances, Gordon, Fox, Ramirez, and Cassandra, get even less time for development than Batman, so it makes sense that they don't really get any depth. Still, the shorts establish or re-emphasize their relationships to Batman, and for Gordon and Fox, this is valuable as material leading into The Dark Knight since they only just made allies out of the Batman in Batman Begins. It's passable.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - Each of the six shorts employed their own animation style, but I wasn't really impressed with any of them. Have I Got a Story to Tell had some gorgeous urban backgrounds, but the characters were depicted in that rounded, lazy-looking style that really contrasted with the detail of everything else. It isn't bad, per se, but I'm personally not a fan. For Field Test, it was actually kind of disturbing to see Bruce Wayne as a generic bishounen. It's perfectly understandable, seeing as he's supposed to be a playboy and all, but that didn't stop it from being disturbing. Especially with Lucius Fox winking at him every other scene. D8 Other than that, the only real thing to note artwise is the variety in costume design. Batman's suit does from having actual heavy armor to looking pretty true to its movie design; once again, none of them really struck me as particularly impressive, but none were flat out hideous either.
MUSIC - The usual Batman theme stuff for the most part. Awesome, but nothing really to note.
VOICE ACTING - I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was psyched to see that Kevin Conroy was going to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman for Gotham Knight. His is easily the most definitive and recognizable voice for the character, and it just wouldn't have been the same without him. For those who don't know, Conroy started as the voice for the role in The Animated Series, and then went on to play almost every animated appearance of Batman, including roles in the Batman Beyond, the Justice League, subsequent movies, and guest appearances in Superman:TAS and Static Shock. In any case, Conroy does a great job once again; he sounds exactly as he had ten years ago, and that familiarity is really great.
The rest of the cast, while not from TAS, seem to mimic their predecessors very well. For me, since TAS played such a big part in my Batman fandom history, I've come to view most of the voices done in the series as "canon," and so when the cast in Gotham Knight seem able to pick up their parts so well, I was happy.
OVERALL - Gotham Knight was good as filler material between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and it's always great seeing these grand collaborations between American and Japanese companies. But as a standalone work, I would consider it a little disappointing. The technical aspects were all on the high ends of things, but its very specific timeframe gave it little wiggle room as far as story goes, which is really too bad. So yeah, in the end, I guess it just depends on how you look at it. In either case, it's worth a watch.
Gotham Knight is the best North American and Japanese collaboration in the production of an animation. It is neither an anime nor a cartoon, but a perfect blend of the two. After watching this it created even more anticipation for The Dark Knight live action film that will soon continue the story. The DVD has Japanese directors, American writers, Japanese and American Artists (who are also writers and directors, but also do animation and character design), and American Producers. One cool note that I found was that Emma Thomas one of the producers is Christopher Nolan's wife, and she produces most of the films that
he directs. It is surprising that he did not direct at least one of the short stories. I guess he was too busy with The Dark Knight. My skin feels alive just thinking about the upcoming film, since Nolan happens to be my favorite director. Maybe animation is not his style, since he is so good at directing live action.
The story is not really a bunch of short stories, but instead they are actually just different chapters for the entire story that covers the span of chronological events between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But each story has it own style of direction, since each story was done by a different Japanese director and worked on by different American writers. Here is a break down of the short stories or "chapters" or episodes:
Have I Got a Story for You
Four youths describe their perspective of what they see as Batman. Each set of eyes see a different side to the being behind the mask. They each tell of their encounters with Batman, and argue over their observations, and each encounter happens to be contiguous with the next story told so it provided an interesting dynamic for the direction of the short story.
The perspective of two detectives under the command of James Gordon which is directed in third person. Local gang wars put some of Gotham's finest in danger, which is something the Bat does not like. One of the detectives was recruited from another city by Gordon, and he has his doubts about whether he can trust Batman, while the other detective grew up in Gotham, so she has a polar perspective to that of her partner. It situates excellent conflict between the opinion of the partners, and even with the superior officer.
An excellent depiction of the good or "light" side of Batman. Normally his dark side is the one portrayed, but this story shows the truth of the man behind the masks and his kind heart. It also has some insane progressive technology!
In Darkness Dwells
The story features Croc and Scarcrow. Not as much depth as the other stories, but it has excellent action sequences.
Working Through Pain
The best of all six short stories. It is a flash back of Batman's past where he travels the world and seeks out some Hindu philosophy or Psychology to learn how to bend his pain to his own will. It is an excellent illustration and articulation of the inner conflict within Batman.
Another super villain, Deadshot, is assassinating the commissioners in Gotham. In the episode, Batman protects his social and judicial defender, and link to society, Commissioner Gordon. There is an amazing transition from the previous short story into this one, where Batman comes to a realization about his life as a superhero and the deeper meaning behind his surface motives for defending Gotham city.
A really cool comment on the show is that Kevin Conroy came on to do the voice of Batman. For those who do not know him, he was the voice actor for the original Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. He is a legend among North American voice actors, and his voice is the perfect match to the archetype that is Batman.
Overall the DVD or OVA or "whatever" is one of the finest animations I have watched. The very first scene blew me away with its phenomenal animation and artwork. It starts with a pan across a fog sodden bridge somewhere in Gotham to the top of a building where Batman awaits. Some of the best creators in the world came together for an avant garde production. Avant garde literally means the group of soldiers who would lead an army into battle. It is normally lead by the army's finest battalion. The figurative connotation of my use of the word, means to push boundaries. The perfection that is Gotham Knight is the result of some of the best production in the world. The task to bring all these brilliant minds together is arduous and costly, but with the perfect hierarchy that is their entire production team, they have been able to produce a taste of perfection in this Anime, Cartoon, Animation, whatever. The whole time as I watched I had inner conflict turmoil inside of me as to whether or not I consider this show to be an anime. But after watching the show, I came to the conclusion that is is neither an anime nor a cartoon and instead is a neoanimation. Whether or not that is actually a word, I could care less. I simply used a modifier on a noun and the semantics work to describe my meaning. All I really know is that this show deserves a place here on MyAnimeList along side of some of the greatest animation of our time.
So, the much-anticipated series of animated batman shorts are finally upon us, and if you think it's just merely an excuse of the animators to flex their muscles while riding on the upcoming film's popularity, don't -- Batman: Gotham Knight is a great synthesis between visual artistry and storytelling, making it spectacle not to be missed.
The story of the six shorts follow the life of Bruce Wayne after he takes up the task of Gotham city's shadowy protector. Some of the them are closely connected chronologically, while others are temporally isolated from the events of the other shorts. While our hero still has to stop
street gangs, old foes, and new enemies alike, the main conflict throughout Gotham Knight is the struggle within Bruce Wayne's mind between the anguish he suffers both physically and mentally, as well as his faltering belief in what he does under guise of the black mask. These inner struggles paint a image of a hero that is ultimately a vulnerable human being, despite the smoke and mirrors of his strength and heroics. This allows viewers to get a different view of Batman in his lowest moments, reminding us of his humanity. While Gotham Knight could have easily taken the easy route and presented only a shallow action-oriented spectacle, fortunately it delivers a great overarching story that bring to life the inner character of one of the world's most iconic action heroes. However, it should be noted that not all of the shorts contribute to the overall emotional depth, namely Deadshot and Crossfire, but they are still very entertaining to watch -- after all, batman is still a superhero, and having a couple of shorts dedicated solely to the accomplishments of his fists cannot be avoided. However, for a series of shorts only around 12 minutes in length each, Gotham Knight still pulls off an amazing job.
Batman: Gotham Knight is not slouch in the visual and audio department, either -- each animator managed to produce slick and stylish imaginations of batman's characters and the city of Gotham. Though some may find the style employed by Studio 4C in the first short not to their tastes, like the rest of the short it is very well-animated, featuring fluid movements in the action. Throughout the six shorts you'll find imaginative takes on the aesthetics of batman, haunting takes on Gotham's streets in the forms of background art, as well as musical pieces that build upon the suspense. Going back to the beginning of the review: yes, the various animation studios certainly do flex their muscles in Gotham Knight, but not at the expense of storytelling.
Be sure to check out Batman: Gotham Knight. The emotions evoked by the powerful yet vulnerable hero and the splendid presentation will leave you entertained and satisfied at the end of the hour long jouney, as well as get you thoroughly pumped up for the upcoming film "The Dark Knight".
If you have ever wanted to see anime-esque Batman, you'll get your wish with Batman: Gotham Knight. Produced as a combination-collaborative project between Japanese and American animation studios, Batman: Gotham Knight is collection of six short animated segments/stories each with their own unique art style and interpretation on the caped crusader. The film is extremely similar in comparison and format to The Animatrix (2003).
Might I also add that this film once again features Kevin Conroy as Batman. He is known as the man who has been coined the character's most iconic and long-lasting voice. He has been playing the caped crusader
since 1992 and continues to this day in multiple media forms. (Check out Batman: The Animated Series if you haven't ever seen it. It is, in my personal opinion, the greatest American cartoon series out there.)
Have I Got A Story for You (Studio 4°C):
A group of street kids meet up in a ghetto skatepark and discuss the Batman and their encounters with him from earlier in the day. Each has their own variation on who Batman is and how he operates, creating a mythos of fear and mystery surrounding him. The art in this segment is very "messy" and that can ultimately be a strength or weakness due to viewer subjectivity. (6/10)
Crossfire (Production I.G):
Two partners under Lt. Gordon's Major Crimes Unit are assigned to transport "The Man in Black" (the high-tech criminal from the previous OVA) to prison after Batman turns him over to the authorities. One of the partners is skeptical of Batman and believes he is a dangerous vigilante. After an argument with his partner, the duo finds themselves in the middle of an all-out turf war between large rival gangs. This short has some solid art and some great action shots. It also introduces and establishes us to the characters of Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez (two characters that are throughout the remaining segments). (8/10)
Field Test (Bee Train):
Lucius Fox, head of Wayne Enterprises' prototype weapons technology, gives Bruce Wayne the technology to deflect almost all gunfire he will encounter as Batman. He takes the tech on a night trial. Ultimately, this has to have the strongest anime Batman out of all the segments. The way Bruce Wayne appears (looking Light Yagami of Death Note to me) and the batsuit looking like an armored falcon-bat from some angles. It is definitely the most bold interpretation of all the productions in the art department when it comes to defining Batman. (6/10)
In Darkness Dwells (Studio Madhouse):
After learning that a priest has been taken into the catacomb sewers beneath his church by a lizard-like monster, Batman takes pursuit and finds that Jonathan Crane (aka. The Scarecrow) is somehow involved. The plot of this segment is very basic and just gives an excuse for some great action sequences. The art is reminiscent of Afro Samurai, another anime that thrives on energetic fight-animation above all else. (7/10)
Working Through Pain (Studio 4°C):
After being shot in the stomach by a thug hallucinating from Scarecrow's fear toxin, Batman stumbles to find a way out of the sewers and back to safety. While he fights the pain of his wound, his memories echo to his travels before Batman where he sought the secrets to deal with strife and pain of the body. Definitely the most story-depth in this portion compared to the rest. (8/10)
Deadshot (Studio Madhouse):
After a Gotham gang hires the marksman-assassin Deadshot to kill Lt. Gordon, Batman must find the shooter before he finds his target. Definitely one of the most memorable action pieces from the entirety of the shorts. The art is solid in this one. (8/10)
In the end, this series of mini-films was ultimately intended to be set in Christopher Nolan's Batman universe between the first (2005's Batman Begins) and second film (2008's The Dark Knight). Though loosely weaving some elements in (such as Scarecrow still being at large since Batman Begins) and connecting some segments together through minor plot points (1-2, 4-6), Batman: Gotham Knight doesn't really have to connect to anything and can fit into any basic Batman continuity or anthology if one decides to view it as such. If looked at as an artistic piece with foreign studios trying their hand at one of the most famed superheroes of all-time, then by gosh, it's a very simple great time in my opinion. Mindless fun with an artistic flare (and a few thoughtful moments). Definitely worth checking it out if you are a fan of Batman.