Here I am, in L.A., watching dvds with guest blogger Richard Oldstate, and since the big old Dark Knight movie is coming out and all -- the movie Grant Morrison says is to superhero movies what Watchmen was to superhero comics -- we decided to pop in a fresh copy of Gotham Night.
(By the way, Richard is particularly excited about the news that Earl Somerlath may have been rumored to perhaps possibly appear at the Convention of Comic Books in San Diego. If you can help verify this fact, he would appreciate it. He's willing to pay, as he says, "up to $3,000" for an autographed copy of The Ombudsman.)
Here's the overall rating on Gotham Night: It's not good.
A few of the segments are worth your time, but most are not. If you do watch it, don't feel compelled to view the whole thing from beginning to end -- it's not necessary, and you lose nothing by skipping to the better bits. Believe it or not, there's a novelization of this thing -- a NOVELIZATION -- which seems completely ridiculous, since the point of the video is to show Batman in various anime styles. (Is each chapter of the book written in a different style? That would be interesting. I suspect they are not.)
Quick responses to each segment, from me and Richard Oldstate (I'm in normal font, he speaks in italics):
"Have I Got a Story for You"
In which three street urchins recall different versions of Batman's appearance and actions.
I've seen this done better in Batman: The Animated Series. At least that version featured Dick Sprang daffiness and Frank Miller bombast. This version featured nothing even close to as interesting.
The number of false remembrances by adolescents featured was patently absurd; two, at most, would have been sufficient.
In which Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez get caught in a literal crossfire between rival gangs before Batman swoops in.
While considerably better than the first segment, this one had little to recommend it. Batman is a cipher who does very little except act as the deus ex machina. "The Russian," as one of the gangsters is called, is clearly a modern update of "The Cossack" from the Adam West series, but even that isn't enough to make this segment worth watching.
At least they delivered upon the promised crossfire.
In which Batman tests out a fancy gadget that repels bullets, until he realizes that the device "works too well."
Although an interesting premise, the Bruce Wayne character looks 14 years old and by this point in the video, we'd seen very little of Batman being Batman, so frustration started setting in. For a video about the character, we were getting small, uninteresting glipses, but very little of what makes the character interesting (i.e. the quest for vengeance, the detective skills, kicking).
Like Batman's new device, this story proved too good at repelling my interest.
"In Darkness Dwells"
Batman vs. Killer Croc.
This one is the best of the collection, with blocky, high-contrast animation (that looks something like Tony Harris's early work), and an actual Batman story. It's a traditional one, yes, but Batman detects, he kicks, he faces a crazed, monstrous foe. It's good.
I generally find crocodile-based beings much less threatening than those based on alligators. Or turtles. Had Batman faced a villain called Snapper Turt, I would have been enthralled.
"Working Through Pain"
Batman gets shot, and works through the pain, recalling his past experiences in Asia, where he learned some mystical skillz.
Although this one is probably the best pure story, it's too much flashback and too little forward movement in the main plot. Batman works through the pain. Yup, that's about it. But at least it tries to be symbolic, which is something.
Would there be a mystical way to deal with boredom?
A new assassin turns up in Gotham. He's called "Dead Shot," he dresses like a pimp, and he is awesome in more ways than one.
This is nearly as good as the Killer Croc story, but I don't like the animation quite as much. I think this version of Deadshot is a fun combination of the various incarnations of the character, and it's another one definitely worth watching. A strong way to end the disc.
I thoroughly enjoyed the climactic battle sequence, though I feel it would have been vastly improved had it taken place on a steam-powered train.