16 February 2009

DVD: "Batman: Gotham Knight" - Two-Disc Special Edition

Batman: Gotham Knight
Directed by Various
Written by Various
Starring the Voice Talents of: Kevin Conroy, Gary Dourdan, David McCallum, Parminder Nagra, Ana Ortiz
DVD Release Date: 8 July 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Stylized Violence, Including Some Bloody Images)
List Price: $24.98

The Film
This film is set in the same continuity as Christopher Nolan's live action Batman Begins/The Dark Knight series. There are six separate segments, each written and directed by different creators; each has its own distinct aesthetics, as well. Only the voice cast remains constant. One of the great pleasures of this animated feature is the return of Kevin Conroy to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. It takes some time adjusting to an anime-style incarnation of Batman, but the stories are well-crafted. Even outside the context of the recent live-action films, Gotham Knight is a worthy anthological entry in the Batman filmography.

The DVD
Disc One includes a feature commentary with Conroy, DC Comics Senior Vice President/Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, former Batman editor and writer Dennis O'Neill. The highlight is an anecdote shared by Conroy of volunteering at a 9/11 soup kitchen that is alone worth the time it takes to play the whole thing. Also included is a sneak peak at the forthcoming Wonder Woman animated feature. On Disc Two are a pair of documentaries, one on Batman creator Bob Kane and another about the relationship between Batman and his Rogues Gallery. Rounding out the package are four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series selected by series producer Bruce Timm. These are all outstanding episodes, though they have no actual relationship to the Gotham Knight feature.

The Recommendation
Parents should know up front that despite being an animated Batman feature, Gotham Knight is rated PG-13 for a reason. There are acts of violence and language that few parents would want their young ones seeing and hearing; there is a large sticker on every copy I've seen that says in bold print, "First ever PG-13 animated Batman special" or something to that effect. Otherwise, fans of the Nolan films will find this an enjoyable supplemental link between the two, as well as offering further backstory on Bruce Wayne's training prior to meeting Henri Ducard and Ra's al Guhl. This won't completely re-define your viewing experience for those films, but it is well done. The question is whether to get this edition or save some coin and go with the single-disc edition.

Truthfully, it's a toss-up. Serious Bat-fans will likely already have the four Animated Series episodes in their library and won't be impressed by the villains featurette (though they will find the Kane biography worth viewing). On the other hand, will casual fans be interested enough in owning four otherwise unrelated episodes to justify the extra price? I'm, of course, a big enough Bat-geek that I simply had to own the two-disc edition and I feel that the Kane doc alone justified the cost; you'll need to decide for yourself.

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