It’s not easy to make a good superhero movie.  It’s really difficult to get the nuances that will please comic book fans, while still pleasing a general audience.

While the DC Animated movies do still try to appeal to a general audience, the focus is definitely on pleasing that core comic book fanbase.  With films like Crisis on Two Earths, The New Frontier, and Green Lantern, you can still come in with just a passing knowledge of the main cast, but it helps to know the comics upon which the stories are based.

We talked on a recent Funnybooks After Hours about our love for Batman animated movies.  Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker are not only among the best Batman animated movies, but the best Batman films of all time, and maybe even the best comic book movies.  Batman: Under the Red Hood is due out next Tuesday, July 27th, adapting the controversial Judd Winick storyline that brought Jason Todd back to life.   Does this film live up to the standards set up by previous Batman animated cinema?  Review after the jump.

Years ago, the second Robin, Jason Todd, was voted to be killed off by comic readers, tired of the character, who didn’t hit off with fans quite as much as the first Robin, Dick Grayson.  So for years it was said that the only characters who stayed dead in comics were Jason Todd, Barry Allen, and Bucky.  Well, all three are alive now, and Jason Todd came back as a result of Superboy pounding at the barriers between realities during the events of Infinite Crisis.

In the movie Batman: Under the Red Hood, we witness the death of Jason Todd similarly to how it was done in the comic.  Joker is beating him ruthlessly and violently with a crowbar (Todd’s search for his mother has been excised from the movie) before, ultimately, blowing him up just moments before Batman can save him.  Years later, a mysterious Red Hood figure appears in Gotham, taking over the Underworld and dealing with criminals mercilessly.

Obviously, a good number of changes were made to get the film to full stand alone.  While being familiar with the comic storyline will add to the experience, even my wife was able to enjoy the film without knowing anything about the actual story.  The story of Under the Red Hood is extremely strong – I think the strength comes from the film actually being written by Judd Winick, who’s worked in animation before.  The story is solid, and, for once, doesn’t feel rushed for once, like most DC Animated films do.

Under the Red Hood is absolutely great.  From the well done animation to the extremely dark story, everything about the film is right.  Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs – all the voice actors put in solid jobs.  The music takes its cues from both previous Batman animated movies, as well as from the score for The Dark Knight. There’s a definite influence there.

While it won’t go down as being as good as Mask of the Phantasm or Return of the Joker, it definitely has the feel of those films – it’s a grim story, without a happy ending.  Honestly, the main fault in the movie is that, despite being well written, there’s still not a ton of story to it.  There’s a TON of action, and it focuses on the explosions more than the human drama. Because of that, there’s not quite the emotional investment that previous movies had.  However, this is definitely the kind of film that fans of darker animated movies will love – highly recommended.

Paul's Awesomeness Score - 8 out of 10

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