Batman: Under the Red Hood (Blu-ray Review)

Not all that long ago, I came across DC’s latest animated title to hit the streets.  Titled Batman: Under the Red Hood, Amazon included a brief clip from the film that contained some action, though offered little in the way of substance.  It was questionable that DC released yet another Batman title in their animated lineup when there are so many characters yet to be tapped for the transition to a cartoon film. Green Arrow apparently has a cartoon movie waiting in the wings, but what about introducing the Flash, Firestorm, or Hawkman on Blu-ray?  Surely there is an audience for these guys.  Then again, when Batman is your most bankable character, I guess smart marketing says go back to milking the cash cow.


It was in the early to mid 1980’s when original Robin, Dick Grayson, left Batman’s side to become his own man, taking on the name Nightwing.  With a gap to fill, Bruce Wayne took on new apprentice Jason Todd who trained by Wayne’s side to become the next Robin.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the addition of Jason Todd did not sit well with fans and a call-in poll eventually resulted in a very close but favoring opinion to kill off the new Robin.  Known in the comics as the “A Death in the Family” storyline, this plot is brought to life in the Blu-ray release of Batman: Under the Red Hood.  If you are not familiar with either, you may want to stop reading the Film section of this review here because some basic spoilers are about to be mentioned.

With Todd’s death becoming known as Batman’s greatest failure, it was only a matter of time before DC brought back his character (because after all, no one truly dies in comic book land) with a little bit of mental distortion.  Donning a scarlet mask, the newly disturbed Jason Todd became known as the Red Hood.  Already a master of acrobatics, the Red Hood added an array of firearms to his unpredictable fighting style.  In Batman: Under the Red Hood, viewers will get to see how this all comes together in the creatively gripping delivery that the film produces. The movie is put together so incredibly well that the distressing opening has a vibe that is carried throughout its runtime, introducing an array of characters without clouding the story.

When new actors take the helm to replace that whom we’ve become familiar with, it is usually a difficult transition.  Without Kevin Conroy as Batman and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) taking his place, this was a big red flag in Red Hood.  However, Greenwood pulls off a convincing performance as the stoic and determined Dark Knight.  Nightwing is entertainingly voiced by Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) who, while having limited screen time, does a memorable job with the lines he was given.  Vincent Martella (Phineas & Ferb) breathes life into Jason Todd/Robin while his later alter ego of the Red Hood is effectively voiced by Jensen Ackles (My Bloody Valentine).  All the aforementioned actors slid into their roles with ease.  However, it was the voice of Joker that took some getting used to; mainly because Mark Hamill left such a lasting impression in the early 90’s with his rendition of the lunatic clown.  For this film, Hamill has passed the torch to John DiMaggio (Ben 10), who provides his own personality for the character.  DiMaggio is much less hyper in the role than Hamill while coming across more dominating.  The end result is another disturbingly loose cannon that is pulled off effectively in a different manner than we’re used to on the animated Batman front.

This team of actors, which just goes a little bit beyond scratching the surface considering all the other talent involved, comes together with an obvious cohesiveness that is quite apparent during the 75-minute story.  The film does not let up and is probably the most emotionally-charged animated comic book film of any that I have seen.  I don’t want to go to the extent of saying it was deep, but Under the Red Hood certainly heads in that direction.  The story was executed in brilliant fashion, making it accessible to those that knew nothing of this plot from comic books past as well as keeping those familiar in the game.  The action was intense, the dialogue was on target with occasions of humor and urgency while the animation and art was fluid throughout.  This was by far and away the best of any comic book-turned-animated film I have seen yet; DC, Marvel or otherwise. Batman: Under the Red Hood was wickedly gripping from start to finish.  It will take a lot to knock this film from its pedestal.


This category is always a bittersweet one to write when it comes to animated films in high definition.  The reason why is there is never much to say.  It’s ink.  It’s high def.  I think you’d actually have to work harder to screw it up than you would to look as impressive as it does.  There is no pixilation.  The colors are solid and that fluid animation I mentioned looks all the more smooth, from the ink-animated slugfests to the computer assisted vehicle chase scenes.  Cartoons on Blu-ray are flawless…at least, every single one I’ve seen so far is.  For the layman, this movie looks great on Blu-ray.  For the stat-hungry tech, the eye candy of Under the Red Hood is enjoyed in a VC-1 encode with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1.


As the repeated thumping of helicopter blades circulate in rapid fashion, the footsteps of costumed heroes run along the building’s ledge and it’s all captured here.  Explosions rock the subwoofer adding depth to the viewing atmosphere.  Dialogue is crystal clear being brought forth from the front with minor sounds such as droplets and falling debris being cast from the rear speakers.  For the most part, the audio experience is beautiful thing, but the team at the studio fell short in getting a greater use out of those rear speakers.  The subwoofer is an impressive star here in the hardware spotlight and the front-center and front-side speakers do well to make Batman happy.  In the end though, a 90% to 95% fulfillment of what could have been is what keeps this track from achieving a perfect score.


My excitement grew as I watched the first extra on the agenda and enjoyed it in all its high def splendor.  Then I watched the second, third, and fourth extras only to have my happy mood dashed on the jagged rocks below.  Everything after the Jonah Hex short was in standard 480 resolution.  I don’t know what DC’s issue is here but they always seem to do this.  The visuals of the main feature look great, but when it comes to the additional goodies, they always put forth a menial effort on the quality of appearance.  On the bright side of things, there is a fair amount of content to be had consisting of previews and behind-the-scenes discussions with some of the folks at Detective Comics.

DC Showcase: Jonah Hex – Though it suffers from some stiff animation (it’s not a motion comic either), the short tale is entertaining and provides a glimpse into a typical death-defying day in the old west for Jonah Hex (11:53).
Behind the Story
o Robin: The Story of Dick Grayson – A look at how Robin was introduced in the Batman storyline and the history of its first name bearer, Dick Grayson (24:13).
o Robin’s Requiem: The Tale of Jason Todd – This featurette discusses the addition of ‘Robin part II’ Jason Todd, his rise to stardom and his fall from grace (20:58).
A First Look at Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – Due out this fall on Blu-ray, the story features the two most prominent names in DC Comics going up against old Superman nemesis, Darkseid.  The plot focuses around Superman’s blood cousin, Kara Zor-El, better known to the masses as Supergirl.  This title reunites Tim Daly as the voice of Superman and nearly 20-year Batman vet Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight (12:12).
Bonus Episodes – Here you will find four Batman episodes picked by producer Bruce Timm which are derived from Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The New Adventures (1:28:07)
o Robin’s Reckoning (Part I)
o Robin’s Reckoning (Part II)
o Mad Love
o The Laughing Fish
Trailers – An array of trailers can be found here with the fourth and fifth on the list being more promotional ‘makings of’ than regular 60-second sneak-peaks.
o Jonah Hex Motion Comic (1:12)
o Lord of the Rings Animated (1:20)
o Legend of the Guardians (2:22)
o Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (11:12)
o Batman: Gotham Knight (10:09)
o Superman: Doomsday (2:20)

Final Thoughts

Batman: Under the Red Hood is my high watermark in the realm of animated comic book films.  It blows the doors off of anything that has come before it and will serve as a timeless production in its rapidly growing genre.  It was a solid, fast-paced ride that brought a 20+ year old story to life in magnificent fashion that tied together flashbacks to the story at hand for audiences familiar and unfamiliar with the Jason Todd conflict.  Normally, I would only recommend these comic book films to those who appreciate comic books.  When it comes to Batman: Under the Red Hood, I suggest a viewing to anyone who can appreciate a good film.


Bring home Batman: Under The Red Hood today!




8 Responses to “Batman: Under the Red Hood (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    As a massive Batman fan, in most forms, particularly including Batman: The Animated Series, I was at first highly skeptical about not having the key voice actors involved in this; however, I really did enjoy this film. Certainly playing it quite dark for an animated feature, the action is both well designed and brutal at times. Combined with some solid story telling, this was a good addition to DC’s animated film stock.

    Also, the Jonah Hex short was better than anything in its 88 minute movie counterpart.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Good review and I’m not surprised the movie is really entertaining. The series by Judd Winick that this is based on was also good so I can’t wait to see this movie! I would like to see Green Arrow and Flash movies too but Batman is my favorite so I’m glad they are still making these.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    As a huge Batman fan, in most forms, particularly including Batman: The Animated Series, I was at first highly skeptical about not having the key voice actors involved in this; however, I really did enjoy this film. Certainly playing it quite dark for an animated feature, the action is both well designed and brutal at times. Combined with some solid story telling, this was a good addition to DC’s animated film stock.

    Also, the Jonah Hex short was better than anything in its 88 minute movie counterpart.

  4. Gerard Iribe

    Yeah, I’m still trying to get this on the cheap.

    BTW, for Batman: The Animated Series fans, there was a Batman episode that featured Jonah Hex toward the end of the run. I forget what season it was.

  5. Gregg

    Aaron, I totally agree about the Jonah Hex animated versus the live action! That film was crap. As for Batman: The Animated Series, I thoroughly enjoyed seasons 1-3…some of my favorite cartoons of all time. When season 4 came along, they sold the animation to a Japanese company and for me, the whole series went down the toilet from that point on.

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    Greg – yes, I agree that the final season is not up to snuff. The animation is a huge element, and a majority of the changes really stripped away what was great about the first three seasons. (Although a couple of my favorites are in this season)

    Gerard – That episode was Showdown, from Season 3. A good one with Ra’s Al Ghul.

    Batman: Year One is also going to be made into a DC animated feature, so I’m looking forward to that as well.

  7. Sean Ferguson

    Batman – The Animated Series is my favorite animated show followed closely by Justice League which was also really cool. I never got into Justice League – Unlimited as I only really care about the core characters. All I need is the original JL team so go ahead and start throwing rocks at me!

  8. Gregg

    Wonder Twin powers…activate
    Form of…water
    Shape of…a bucket

    Why didn’t one ever do form of a Smith & Wesson and the other do shape of a hollow point??