Admit it: You love to see Batman bleed. It's his vulnerability that makes him so much more interesting than the Man of Steel. But we don't see quite enough blood in the Batman movies or kiddy cartoons. Thanks to Japanese anime, we finally get to watch the masked vigilante bleed profusely from gunshots and stab wounds (about as much as you'd expect from a man with no super powers).
This would've been bloody marvelous had two-thirds of the animated anthology Batman: Gotham Knight not stunk. Made to promote the summer's most hotly anticipated film The Dark Knight, the anime-style anthology isn't so much a segue between Christopher Nolan's first and second Batman films as it is a PG-13 revamp of the old animated series. Gotham Knight consists of six 15-minute short films -- each by a different director, writer, and illustrator. But as intriguing as it sounds to have so many brains devoted to this project, only two of the directors do justice to the Batman legend.
An anime rendition of Batman is a nice treat, but the last thing we want to see is Bruce Wayne looking like the typical anime hunk with long, streaming hair and glassy eyes. This is how director Hiroshi Morioka depicts Bruce in Field Test, at least. The man's supposed to be a tortured, ninja-trained billionaire -- not a Pokémon master, dammit. Then, Lucius Fox engineers a special bullet-deflecting piece of armor for Batman, essentially making him invincible. Where's the fun in that?
The other big letdown is the second short, Crossfire. Commissioner Gordon directs two detectives to escort a prisoner nabbed by Batman to jail. In the car, the two detectives argue over whether Batman is a vigilante. Here's an excerpt from the script:
Detective #1: He's a vigilante.Detective #2: He's not.Detective #1: (More angrily) He's a vigilante, Anna!Detective #2: He's not!
I think we've found the modern Shakespeare.
Not much happens in the fifth short, In Darkness Dwells. Croc and the Scarecrow make appearances, but their roles are so minor they could have been replaced with any other Batman villain and it wouldn't have made a difference.
The first short, Have I Got a Story For You, involves multiple kids recounting their Batman sightings -- each description being wildly different from the other. This makes for entertaining visuals -- a robotic Batman, a demonic Batman, and so on -- but ultimately it adds up to nothing.
The best short by far is Working Through Pain from director Toshiyuki Kubooka. Suffering from a seemingly critical gunshot wound, Batman attempts to crawl out of a sewer alive. As he struggles, we see a series of flashbacks to when Bruce visited an Indian woman named Cassandra, who taught him secret techniques on becoming insusceptible to pain. We've never seen this fascinating tale before on screen, and Kubooka and crew do a stellar job.
Deadshot is the final (and only other good) chapter. The animation in this segment is the most elegant and impressive. The story focuses on Batman's pursuit of the assassin Deadshot, who uses a high-tech, laser-guided sniper rifle to pick off his victims. It's an exciting game of cat and mouse that's worthy of concluding the anthology.
So two out of the six films are good. One can't help but think of Four Rooms, the film by four directors who each made a chapter. The segments by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were hysterically great, but the other two chapters by Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell were horrendously awful. I guess that's what the skip button was made for on the DVD remote.