Gotham Knight

The past two weeks have been all about the sequel:  Hellboy II trumped Hellboy and, if all the arly reviews are any indication, so will The Dark Knight, apparently the Godfather II of comic book movies, which would automatically place it in the running for the greatest action movie of all time.  To get ready for The Dark Knight, I have been re-watching Batman Begins, a truly great film as well.  I also checked out the newly-released collection of animated short films called Batman:  Gotham Knight.

The series of short films supposedly bridge the gap between Batman Begins and the upcoming sequel.  Yet one does not have to see Christopher Nolan’s resurrection of the series to appreciate the shorts.  Indeed, these short films could depict any time in Batman’s legendary career.  Gotham Knight draws from some of the greatest animators in the business, all of whom contribute unique interpretations of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gotham City.  The film also include some of the great baddies like Deadshot and Scarecrow.

These films are not just flashy animation, they are great stories too, especially the opening short, “Have I Got a Story For You.”  Academy Award winning screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) taps into the mythology and legend of Batman and explodes memory and storytelling in the process.  A group of teenagers at a skate park recount encounters with Batman with each tale growing taller than the next.  One kid becomes increasingly dejected as he is the only one who does not have a story to tell.  That is until a criminal comes crashing into the skate park followed by Batman in hot pursuit.  All the kids flee except the one with no story.  In the clouds of a smoke bomb that the criminal detonated, the kid saves Batman’s life by overtaking the criminal from behind as he tried to sneak up and stab the caped crusader.

While this first story is as much about our need for superhero stories as it is about Batman’s daring do, most of the following shorts focus on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s interior struggles and quest for revenge, justice, peace.  In Brian Azzarello‘s “Working Through Pain,” the storyteller pays close attention to Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s quest to overcome pain, both physically and, by extension, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The special edition of the DVD also includes a host of very special special features.  These include a featurette that compares Batman to the villains he fights.  Another discusses the life and work of Batman creator Bob Kane.  Finally, Bruce Timm selects bonus episodes from Batman the Animated Series, the wildly popular, critically-acclaimed 90s afternoon delight.

For those of you who can’t wait until Friday…or Thursday night at midnight like me…check out the latest Batman film(s) to feed the appetite.

Batman:  Gotham Knight (75 mins.) is rated PG-13 for animated violence.