Source material: Under the (Red) Hood is one of my all time favorite Batman stories. It deals with the character at his most vulnerable and dares to truly examine if his refusal to kill is really that admirable. This is a remarkably faithful adaptation which makes sense as screenwriter Judd Winick penned the original storyline. He does make a few minor tweaks, albeit ones that he actually later put into canon.
Animation: Rewatching this for the column, I was struck by what an unexpectedly gorgeous film this is. It doesn’t have the style of Justice League: The New Frontier but it’s still a great looking film with a nice use of cool colors which make the title figure pop out even more. It’s a bit more real feeling TAS look. Character movements are all fluid. Yeah, this is a big win here.
Script: Winick adapting his own work makes separating the source very hard since he stays close to it. But that said, it does work as its own film. This is as tight as these come. Since it’s a mystery rather than a collection of fight scenes, it moves very fast without much wasted time. The character work is as potent as it gets in these films. Honestly this is only 75 minutes but feels so much longer in a good way and it’s due to that.
Voice acting: Utterly fantastic. This is one of the strongest casts I’ve encountered for these yet. Bruce Greenwood delivers the best animated Batman aside from Kevin “the definitive Batman in any medium” Conroy. Jensen Ackles nails the role of the Red Hood, capturing a figure whose reasons for revenge are actually about as reasonable as they come. Jason Isaacs plays Ra’s al Ghul as superbly as you’d expect him to. John DiMaggio makes for a very different but strong all the same Joker. Seriously, this is a cast so good Neil Patrick Harris and Gary Cole have to fight for time.
Final Verdict: Given how few faults I pointed out, of course this is a 5/5. It may be the last I ever give in this column but this really is the best Batman animated film yet. I really wish WB had sent this one to theaters in 2010, at least getting a release on par with something like The Pyramid. This is theatrical grade.