"Find hungry samurai" -Gisaku



For those of you anticipating and eager for Friday's release of the new Batman movie, I have a treat for you. Warner Bros. and DC Comics have teamed together for BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT, a collection of animated episodes about the caped crusader. What's so cool about GOTHAM KNIGHT is that the stories come between BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT, so rather than another edition of cartoon Batman (itself a good thing, but in its own universe), we basically are getting Batman 1.5, in the new incarnation.

Here's a preview:

Batman Gotham Knight - Official Trailer

BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT is meant to fill the gaps between the two movies, and storylines are continued, such as the Scarecrow (and his nerve tonic), and the Narrows island, which is now completely the domain of Arkham Asylum. The six episodes run about 12 minutes each, and can be watched separately, although several intermingle. The art and style of each is very distinctive and different, so we get six fully unique interpretations of Batman. (Even more, in one case.)

Again, this is not the cartoon Batman universe, in look or feel. The segments are much more simpatico to the Animatrix, both in the anime-esque drawing style, and the daring and at times avant-garde story lines. (The DVD is rated PG-13, but it's far closer to R. If you let your kids watch Batman the cartoon, you should preview GOTHAM KNIGHT first. Even if you didn't have a problem with the first movie, this is arguably more intense. I'd say high school age and up, but that's me.)

In Have I Got a Story for You, four kids relate a recent experience with Batman. The narration is animated as if the kids' memories or flights of fancy are real, and so Batman is presented variously as a bird, a robot, or even a monster. (It reminded me of story about the seven blind men and the elephant.)

Crossfire introduces two detectives (the guy's voice is noticeably Warrick from CSI), and ponders the concept of vigilantism. There's tons of murder in this one, and a great spooky feel.

In Field Test Lucius Fox comes up with one of his electronic gizmos to repel bullets, but Batman decides the price is too high.

The best title goes to In Darkness Dwells, which sees the return of the escaped madman The Scarecrow, and the effects of his nerve toxin on the homeless population and an urban legendcroc -man that seems straight out of X-Files. Batman himself has to deal with the effects of the nerve gas in this compelling episode.

My favorite segment is Working Through Pain, which starts up where the previous story ends. A wounded Batman recalls a time when he sought out the Fakirs, trying to deal with his pain. The episode is sad and poignant, and reveals a raw emotional storytelling you rarely find. in BATMAN BEGINS we learned that Batman is successful by making his enemies feel Bruce Wayne's fear. Here we glimpse the idea that what drives Batman, and ultimately what may destroy him, is how much he craves the pain. (If THE DARK KNIGHT goes into this with any depth I'm going to come back to the theme and write a whole column on it.)

The last story is Deadshot, and features the best animation of the six episodes. It evokes a mano-a-mano Western flavor, and is a great rousing way to end the set.

If you were a fan of the Animatrix, for its daring and as a bridge between the first two films, I imagine you will be similarly pleased here. Though not quite as ambitious in its scope, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT pulls back the curtain on what the Batman mythos is truly capable of. It whetted my appetite for THE DARK KNIGHT, and makes me crave the day for when someone is brave enough to make Batman the way it ought to be shown: an adult tale of darkness and pain.

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