Tuesday, July 29, 2008


So, despite my initial less-than-ecstatic reaction to Gotham Knight, further exacerbated by my full-on amazement with The Dark Knight (see review in Archive), I decided to give the anime anthology film tie-in a second look, and here’s what I discovered.
It really doesn’t get any better the second time around.

Gotham Knight is a straight-to-DVD tie-in to The Dark Knight, which takes a page from The Animatrix and assembles six animated vignettes that have some connective tissue between each other, as well as with The Dark Knight.
Naturally, Batman appears, but we also get glimpses of supporting characters like Alfred, Lt. Gordon, and Lucius Fox, as well as appearances from MCU copper Anna Ramirez and gangster Salvatore Maroni (played by Monique Curnen and Eric Roberts in The Dark Knight).
Given the ostensible continuity amongst the vignettes (running approximately 12 minutes each), all six stories are by Christopher Nolan collaborator Jordan Goldberg, their screenplays written by a handful of comic book scribes and Hollywood screenwriters. (Goldberg wrote the screenplay for one vignette, “Field Test.”)

Sadly, it’s perhaps because all half dozen stories were conceptualized by one individual, that Gotham Knight doesn’t have the same level of blazing imagination so evident in The Animatrix.
While that DVD tie-in put the Matrix sequels to shame with its unbridled and multi-faceted exploration of the Wachowskis’ construct, Gotham Knight comes nowhere near the complex, brooding majesty of The Dark Knight.
It’s also a curious thing that Gotham Knight doesn’t sport the voice talents of The Dark Knight cast. Instead, we have the long-time voice of the animated Batman, Kevin Conroy, and NCIS’ David McCallum as Alfred, among others.
And though Conroy’s vocal interpretation of the Batman arguably displays a much more pleasing aesthetic than Christian Bale’s guttural growl, I’d have still preferred to hear the film’s cast in this particular case.
It is a tie-in, isn’t it?

Thankfully, I can at least say I was impressed by the fifth and sixth vignettes, Toshiyuki Kubooka’s “Working Through Pain” (which gives us a poignant glimpse of the pain that is at the core of Bruce Wayne) and Madhouse’s “Deadshot” (which pits the Bat against crack assassin, Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot).
Aside from this pair of exceptional entries though, the rest of Gotham Knight is a disappointing mish-mash. Admittedly, there is some good animation in there, and the varied character interpretations are interesting, but the majority of Gotham Knight just doesn’t fully engage.
Particularly aggravating is Yasuhiro Aoki’s “In Darkness Dwells,” which is, visually, one of the strongest pieces, though it’s hampered by a negligible story involving the Scarecrow and Killer Croc.

Now, as much as I found 66% of Gotham Knight a frustrating disappointment, you could opt to pick up the 2-disc edition, which includes, amidst a load of extras, four episodes from Batman: The Animated Series.
With a longer total running time than Gotham Knight, these episodes include the excellent “Legends of the Dark Knight,” which uses a similar structure to Gotham Knight’s “Have I Got a Story for You,” to much better and more entertaining effect.
(Wonder Woman fans will also want to check out the 10-minute plus peek at the upcoming animated Wonder Woman, where Keri Russell, Virginia Madsen, and Rosario Dawson all get to do the Amazon thing, with Nathan Fillion and Alfred Molina along for the ride.)

Parting shot: The Gotham Knight vignettes are as follows:

“Have I Got a Story for You”: directed by Shojiro Nishimi, story by Jordan Goldberg, screenplay by Josh Olson

“Crossfire”: directed by Futoshi Higashide, story by Jordan Goldberg, screenplay by Greg Rucka

“Field Test”: directed by Hiroshi Morioka Tsubasa, story and screenplay by Jordan Goldberg

“In Darkness Dwells”: directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, story by Jordan Goldberg, screenplay by David Goyer

“Working Through Pain”: directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, story by Jordan Goldberg, screenplay by Brian Azzarello

“Deadshot”: animation produced by Madhouse, story by Jordan Goldberg, screenplay by Alan Burnett

(Gotham Knight 2-disc edition DVD cover art courtesy of aintitcool.com; images courtesy of aintitcool.com, twitchfilm.net, and batmangothamknight.com.)

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