“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Suitable for 12 years and over / DVD released 2011-10-21 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
This is a very bare-bones DVD pack, containing a single disc with the short film and animated extras, but no booklet or photocards. The cover image - a minimalist picture of Batman's cape behind the title on a red background - does really stand out, and also harks back to the early days of Batman which gives you an idea of the film's contents. The Special Features are minimal: a few previews and an extra Catwoman short from DC Showcase.
The film itself, Batman Year One, is an hour-long adaptation of Frank Miller's Year One comic, which retells the origin of Batman and his first year of crime-fighting in Gotham. For anyone familiar with Miller's work it will not be a shock that this features extremely adult themes, including adultery and prostitution, and should probably have been 15-rated not a 12. With Batman taking on organised crime rather than theme villains, Jim Gordon tackling police corruption, and a lack of other costumed characters (aside from Catwoman) this really isn't one children will enjoy.
Batman: Year One is a standalone film, not part of the well-known animated Batman series, and the look and voice acting is completely different. The artwork is drawn in an anime, cel-shaded style, designed to look realistic, but now beginning to date. Gotham is far more brightly lit than people familiar with the films may expect. The voice acting is solid but generally unexceptional (Bruce Wayne's/Batman's performance in particular is a little flat), although special mention should go to Eliza Dushku voicing Catwoman, who really brought her role to life.
Overall it is good, but not great. The real problem is that to fit the story of an entire year into 60 minutes, Miller's sprawling Year One epic has been reduced to its barest elements. It is trying to fit too much story into too short a running time, and it really needed two hours to cover the elements fully. As a result character development suffers, and several of the storylines hardly intersect. While this allows it to cover the main aspects of the story, it also leaves certain plot elements feeling unfinished - in some ways this feels more like a pilot for an unmade series than a standalone film, and while as a pilot it would have worked, as a film it feels incomplete. This is why it gets four stars, not five.
What it does offer is a very good version of Frank Miller's Year One comic on screen, in some places almost panel for shot, and fans of his work should pick this up. (I should mention, in terms of animated origins for Batman I actually prefer the Mask of the Phantasm.)
It is worth watching if you are a completist, curious about it, or want to see a reimagining of Batman, but again this isn't one for younger fans. It is available easily on the highstreet or online. I picked up my copy for less then £5 in HMV, but I wouldn't suggest paying more for it (certainly not the label price of £15.99!).