Batman / Under the Red Hood : 4 of 5
I'm really glad that Warner Bros. and producer Bruce Timm have been catering to adult comic book fans by creating these incredible DC Universe DVD releases of classic stories, including some of the most dramatic plots in the Batman saga. Under the Red Hood takes on the fate of Jason Todd, who was the second Robin after Dick Grayson left to become Nightwing, and this animated treatment doesn't pull any punches. This is definitely a Batman tale for mature fans, since it opens with an intense scene of the Joker brutally beating Robin with a crowbar! It's difficult to talk about the plot without revealing the twist of the story (which most fans already know from the comic book), but I can say that this DVD explores the second Robin through flashbacks (often portrayed as ghosts when Batman remembers something in a familiar setting) that establish the emotional foundation necessary for an incredible climactic confrontation that features some of the most insightful dialogue I've heard! The animation is pretty fantastic for a direct to DVD release, including beautifully designed, moody opening titles, fantastic fight choreography with wonderful sweeping camera moves, and even cool cockpit displays for the Batmobile and Batwing (which sees a lot of action, for some reason). A few scenes use a little too much CGI for my taste (it seems like no one bothers to hand-animate vehicles anymore), but I will say that the integration with hand-drawn animation is well done, especially in a nice fly-by of the CG Batwing with an animated Batman visible inside. The Joker is appropriately creepy and well-voiced, and I enjoyed his dialogue, which has a nice balance of camp and violence (although one of his zingers is repeated verbatim in two scenes, which makes me think there was some sloppy re-writing going on). Along with the Joker, the classic Batman villain Ra's al Ghul makes an appearance, along with the crime boss the Black Mask, and of course, the mysterious Red Hood, whose identity is revealed a little too soon, but thankfully the pacing of the story doesn't suffer for it. Under the Red Hood is one of the best DC Universe DVD releases so far, presenting a fascinating Batman story with all the psychological underpinnings that make the Dark Knight such an amazing character.