Batman: Gotham Knight (WB, 2008) D: Shoujirou Nishimi, Futoshi Higashide, Hiroshi Morioka, Yasuhiro Aoki, Toshiyuki Kubooka, w/ Kevin Conroy. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNNN
Don’t get too sweaty over the back-of-the-pack promise of “chronicling Batman’s transition from novice crimefighter to The Dark Knight.” The disc-one commentators say explicitly that the six loosely linked stories here do not connect directly to either Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, though they happen in the same universe.
The best thing about that universe is Gotham City, a creepy marvel that invites repeated hits on the pause button to savour the image. This is highly imaginative, top-quality animation done in a different style for each story.
The stories themselves aren’t bad, in particular Crossfire, whose dialogue and imagery quietly emphasize the fascism inherent in hero worship, a trait that plagues former Batman writer/editor Dennis O’Neil and DC comics exec Gregory Novek on their commentary track. They strain mightily to show what an ever-changing and metaphor-rich character Batman is, even though he remains the same monomaniacal moper he’s always been. Honestly, Godzilla carries more metaphorical weight, and James Bond has more character; at least he takes an interest in life.
Even if you’re no fan of the bat, the set is worth renting for the villains doc alone: 35 minutes of detailed insight into the creative thinking that drives the fashioning of a worthwhile bad guy. They’re talking Batman’s foes, but the lessons apply to every pop culture heavy from Professor Moriarty to Hannibal Lecter.
EXTRAS Disc one: writer/editor O’Neil, voice actor Kevin Conroy and comics exec Novek commentary, Wonder Woman doc. Widescreen. English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai audio and subtitles. Disc two: Batman creator Bob Kane and villains docs, four episodes of Batman, the animated series. Widescreen. Japanese, Thai subtitles.