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Batman: Under the Red Hood (Blu-ray Review)

20 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 7/27/10
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 two-DVD set, $29.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violent content and some drug references.
Voices of Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris, John DiMaggio, Jason Isaacs.

The character of Jason Todd hasn’t received much exposure outside of DC Comics. But in Batman lore, he is the second kid to become Robin, a wayward street rat taken in by Bruce Wayne after Dick Grayson went to college in the early 1980s.

Alas, fans weren’t thrilled with Jason’s aggressive attitude, and thus voted to kill him off in 1988 at the hands of the Joker. But characters rarely stay dead forever in comic books, and 2005 saw Jason return to torment Batman as Red Hood, an antihero who attempts to control crime in Gotham City by taking over the city’s gangs and killing anyone who didn’t fall in line.

Longtime comic book fans will remember that Red Hood was an alias used by the Joker before he fell into a vat of chemicals to become the clown prince of crime.

From a screenplay by Judd Winick, who authored the comic book story that resurrected Jason Todd, Batman: Under the Red Hood covers the broad strokes of the storyline to present what may be the most violent of the DC Universe line of direct-to-video animated movies. Red Hood’s gang war includes not only several shootings, but also a man set on fire.

As one might surmise by the complex backstory noted above, the movie has a built-in obstacle it has difficulty overcoming, and that’s how intricately the original storyline was intertwined with DC Comics continuity. This results in a 75-minute movie that is densely plotted but often bogged down by exposition, mostly surrounding the history of Jason Todd and the circumstances of his return (leading to an appearance by Ra’s al Ghul, the villain played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins). Viewers not already familiar with the comic storyline might have trouble keeping up. While this isn’t one of the better DC movies, it will certainly give fans their money’s worth.

Highlighting the Blu-ray extras are two excellent half-hour documentaries about the Robin character. The title of “Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson” (which is also included with the special-edition DVD) is self-explanatory, while exclusive to the Blu-ray is the more interesting “Robin’s Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd,” which is as much about the process of creating comic books as it is the character.

Also included are some Robin-themed “Batman: The Animated Series” episodes and previews of other DC Universe movies, including the upcoming Superman/Batman Apocalypse. Rounding out the Blu-ray and DVD special editions is an anime-inspired Jonah Hex animated short, which at 11 minutes is probably a more interesting showcase for the character than the recent live-action film that bombed at the box office.

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