In 1983, D.C. Comics created a new Robin for the Caped Crusader after the previous Robin, Dick Grayson, became Nightwing. Jason was a radically different character from Dick, making him unpopular with Batman fans. A poll was eventually conducted by D.C. Comics on whether Jason would be killed off in the next issue, with the results coming back supporting his death. After Jason was killed off, he was resurrected as the Red Hood, a vigilante with the skills of Batman who kills criminals. The storyline was so iconic that it was adapted into an animated film in 2010.
The crime syndicates of Gotham are terrorized by a new mysterious figure. After Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) and Nightwing (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) defeat Amazo, an android capable of absorbing superpowers, they discover that the Red Hood (voiced by Jensen Ackles) is in charge of controlling the crime syndicates. A brief chase ensues, with the Red Hood getting away and Nightwing sustaining an injury. Batman analyzes the Red Hood’s fighting style back at the Batcave and discovers that the Hood’s fighting style is reminiscent of Jason Todd’s. Discovering that the Red Hood is indeed Jason Todd forces Batman to confront his biggest failure.
For decades, fans have debated the validity of Batman’s biggest rule: no killing. While some fans and even comic book authors cited that killing would make him no different than the criminals he fights, others are quick to claim that if Batman killed certain criminals, such as the Joker, then less atrocities would occur. Jason Todd forces Batman to confront his one rule, citing that he felt Bruce didn’t care for not only him, but everyone else by not killing the Joker. As the Red Hood, Jason essentially is the antithesis of Batman: he fights crime by controlling it, and kills anyone who gets in his way.
This is the first time Red Hood has been adapted to the big screen, and I have to hand it to Jensen Ackles for delivering a stellar performance as Jason Todd. While acting in of itself is a difficult task, voice acting is even harder, as you can’t use your body to convey emotion, just your voice. Ackles perfectly captures the bitter and angry tone of Jason, yet the deep sorrow when he confronts Bruce over why he let the Joker live. One of my favorite moments was when he greeted Bruce in Crime Alley. His voice was shaky, almost as if he were nervous, but then quickly changed his tone to a bitter one.
Speaking of the Joker, I originally didn’t like John DiMaggio’s performance, as I found it a bit too rigid and lacking that Joker-esque character. However, upon further analysis, I think that DiMaggio’s interpretation works better as a darker form of the Clown Prince of Crime, coming more off as a grizzled crime boss rather than Mark Hamill’s Joker from the animated series. Additionally, this was my first Bruce Greenwood movie I’ve seen, and I gotta say, he does a decent job as Batman. While I liked his performance in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight more, he delivers one of the best monologues I’ve heard near the end, and further elevates the character and depth of the Caped Crusader.
Besides the great performances, the art style is easy on the eyes. I was surprised that this movie came out in 2010, considering that it looks better than a lot of animated Batman films that came out in the late 2010s! To complement its art style, the animation is very fluid. One of my favorite animated scenes is the chase between Batman, Nightwing and Red Hood. All three characters have a very distinct style of movement. For example, when the characters roll onto another building roof, Nightwing does an overhead roll, like a gymnast, Red Hood does an over the shoulder roll like a parkour expert, and Batman doesn’t even roll.
Batman: Under the Red Hood is a much different film compared with many Batman films out there, be it live action or animated. Too many Batman films simply establish his one rule as unbreakable, but don’t go in depth with why the Caped Crusader doesn’t kill. Batman: Under the Red Hood forces Batman to address his reasons for abiding by his one rule and makes him confront his biggest failure in the form of Jason Todd. With a stellar performance from Jensen Ackles and solid fight choreography and animation, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a must-see for any fans of the Dark Knight!