Batman: Gotham Knight

I watched the last of the currently released DC Universe animated movies this week, the 2008 anime Batman: Gotham Knight.

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(Voice work by Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Jason Marsden, Scott Menville, George Newbern, Cory Burton, Gary Dourdan, Jim Meskimen, Ana Ortiz, Rob Paulsen, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Parminder Nagra).

This one’s a little different from the others. It’s split up into 6 segments that are thematically connected, if somewhat loosely, and that narrate events presumably taking place between the events in Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Batman: Gotham Knight is definitely an awesomely directed, manga-inspired, seriously cool anime movie, but it’s my least favorite of the four. The six segments are all done by different writers, directors and artists, making the art incredible and varied but the story disjointed. Each segment is great, but after getting so involved in the stories and characters of Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier and Wonder Woman, this movie just didn’t stay with me in the same way. I know that complaining that a kick-ass anime doesn’t have a linear narrative or famous voices may hurt some of my street cred, but let’s face it—my cup doesn’t exactly overfloweth with street cred anyway.

“Have I Got a Story for You”

(Directed by Shojiro Nishimi; Written by Josh Olson and Jordan Goldberg; Art Direction by Shinji Kimura)

This segment starts out with a bunch of cute little skateboarding punks telling wildly different versions of the same story: Batman’s battle with the Man in Black earlier that day.

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The Man in Black is a high-tech villain with a toolbelt of mischief, who set out to stir up some trubs in our beloved Gotham.

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The kids all describe Batman’s appearance and abilities in different ways. One claims that he’s some sort of living shadow, a smoky whoosh with fangs that melts back into the real shadows after he’s done his dirty work:

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Another kid describes Batman as a kind of RoboBat, mechanically creating chaos to best Gotham’s thugs:

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A third kid saw a man/bat hybrid, as his name would suggest:

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But the last kid, who saw Batman sustain wounds, is the only one to recognize him for what he truly is: just a human in a high-tech suit, trying to fight crime without aid of superpowers:

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The animation in this one is pretty great; the characters are all jagged and cartoony but the settings are realistic and complex.

“Crossfire”

(Directed by Futoshi Higashide; Written by Greg Rucka and Jordan Goldberg ; Art Direction by Shinobu Takashira)

Lt. James Gordon has initiated a Major Crimes Unit that assists Batman. He handpicked Crispus Allen to be in the unit, although Allen feels ambivalent about “running errands for a vigilante.”

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His partner, Anna Ramirez, feels that Batman helps Gotham and she’s happy to assist the good work he does.

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Allen and Ramirez are tasked with taking the recently Batman-nabbed Man in Black to be incarcerated in The Narrows. On the way back, Allen tells Ramirez he’s planning on leaving the MCU, and Ramirez pulls over into a vacant lot to confront him about it. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong lot, because they get caught in the middle of a gunfight between two warring mob groups: Sal Maroni’s and The Russian’s. Shooting and rocket launching ensue and Allen and Ramirez are caught in the fray. Maroni hides behind the patrol car, and The Russian blows it up. Maroni and Ramirez escape in time, and Batman shows up just in the nick to whoosh Allen outta there. Don’t mind running errands for him now, do you?

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Maroni then attempts to kill Ramirez, who isn’t really acting as tough as I’d like her to in this situation.

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Again, Batman shows up just in time and efficiently resolves the nasty fracas.

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He tells Ramirez and Allen that Gordon is a good judge of character; whether he’s referring to them or himself is unclear. The art is gorgeous in this segment; every scene is intricate and immersed in color.

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Plus creepy.

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“Field Test”

(Directed by Hiroshi Morioka; Written by Jordan Goldberg; Art Direction by Toshiharu Muruta)

“Field Test” is probably the weakest story, although it does involve my favorite character from this universe, Lucius Fox!

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Mr. Fox invents this electromagnetic satellite gyro-thingy that’s supposed to deflect gunfire, and he gives it to Bruce Wayne. Bruce then attends this rich fellas golf tournament, since he’s rich (you may have heard?),

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where he meets sketchy real estate developer Ronald Marshall, whom Bruce suspects of killing Teresa Williams, a woman who opposed Marshall’s big plans.

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Wayne sneakily absconds with Marshall’s PDA and then later, as Batman, steals one of Sal Maroni’s boats and somehow uses the gyro-deal to attack Maroni and The Russian’s gangs? Or something? It’s fuzzy. The crux is that Batman’s trying to negotiate a truce between the two warring gangs, and one of Maroni’s guys fires at him. Thanks to Lucius’ nifty device, the bullet deflects and hits one of The Russian’s men instead. Batman’s troubled by this turn of events, and he takes the guy to the hospital and later gives the deflecting thingy back to Lucius, saying that he’s okay with risking his own life to save others, but he doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s death. Or something.

The art was fine in this, nothing too flashy.

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“In Darkness Dwells”

(Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki and Yichiro Hayashi; Written by Davis S. Goyer and Jordan Goldberg; Art Direction by Kaoru Inoda)

Things pick up quite a bit with this segment. During a riot at a cathedral, Cardinal O’Fallon is abducted by a big lizard-guy and taken to the crypts below.

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Gordon investigates with Allen, Ramirez, and Batman. They deduce that the Scarecrow and his fear toxin (from Batman Begins) are behind the riot. Batman gives Gordon an earpiece and then he swooshes below to the crypts to investigate further. He meets a mole man who tells him that the lizard monster is King Croc, once Waylon Jones, who was abandoned by his mother and then mutated through the toxic sewage. The mole man asks, “Hey Bat, when you flying, what’s the city look like from up on high?” Batman grunts, “It looks dirty.”

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So Batman finds King Croc, who bites him, transferring the Scarecrow’s fear toxin into Batman’s system. Batman starts wigging, but in a dignified manner. When Gordon asks him on the earpiece if he’s in pain, he seethes (a tad self-righteously), “I work through pain!” Yeah yeah, good for you, tough guy.

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He comes up on a bunch of escaped inmates from Arkham Asylum that the Scarecrow has been assembling. They’re freaky.

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The Scarecrow is holding a mock trial for Cardinal O’Fallon’s sins: namely, helping the homeless and insane people that the Scarecrow wants to turn to his dark purposes. Batman rushes in to do a little scaring of his own.

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He uses the methane gas present in the sewers to spark an explosion so he can escape with the Cardinal to the roof of the cathedral, where Gordon meets them in a helicopter. After helping the Cardinal onto the helicopter, Gordon tries to assist the injured and drugged Batman, who’s stubbornly all, “Nah, man, it’s cool, I got this.”

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Beautiful, beautiful animation here–gothic and intense and breathtaking.

“Working Through Pain”

(Directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka; Written by Brian Azzarello and Jordan Goldberg; Art Direction by Naoyuki Onda)

“Working Through Pain” is one of my favorite segments, since I love guru training montages! While silly stubborn Batman is still in the sewers, a fear-toxined mole man shoots him in the stomach. I kind of expected Batman to duck or deflect or something, but nope, he just gets shot by some random crazy. He cauterizes the wound and then starts reflecting on how he learned to work through the titular pain.

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In…India? a younger Bruce Wayne, looking like one goofy ass tourist (nice shirt, Screech),

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tries to join this religious sect that will teach him to be a ninja warrior. He’s rejected because the gurus can tell he isn’t truly looking for enlightenment—he’s looking for revenge. So he turns to Cassandra, a hard-assed young lady who once disguised herself as a boy to join this religious sect, learning everything she needed to know before they humiliated her and kicked her ass to the curb.

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Bruce is a bit of a pretty boy at this point,

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but he’s persistent, and he tells her that he’s looking for a way to deal with his pain, the grief and rage he’s constantly suffered since the brutal murder of his parents when he was a child. So she starts to train him, and it’s awesome.

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She teaches him to walk on hot coals, become cut or bruised or broken without reacting. He’s always covered in bandages and wraps and it’s a pretty fun montage to watch.

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Eventually some thugs come to Cassandra’s house and start harassing her; she’s really unpopular in the village since fooling the religious sect. Cassandra takes their blows without comment or emotion, but Big Macho Bruce has to come “save the day” for the poor victimized damsel who totally taught his dumb ass how to fight in the first place.

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After doing a very handy and thorough job of disposing of the thugs, Bruce turns to Cassandra to find her handing him his backpack and sending him on his merry macho way. Bruce dimly thanks her, and she sadly tells him that he has nothing to thank her for. “I have failed you, Bruce. You asked me to help you deal with your pain, but your pain is beyond my abilities. I think your pain is leading you down a path that…you desire.”

Back in the present day sewer, Alfred arrives (yay!) to assist Batman, who has his arms filled with a cache of guns he discovered in the crypts. When Alfred instructs Batman to give him his hand, Batman stammers meaningfully, “I…I can’t.”

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“Deadshot”

(Directed by Jong-Sik Nam; Written by Alan Burnett and Jordan Golderg; Art Direction not credited for some reason.)

“Deadshot” is the final and coolest segment in the bunch. Bruce is back in his penthouse with Alfred (yay!), flashing back to his parents’ murder and examining the weapons he stole from the crypts. He tells Alfred he’s never been tempted to use a gun, but he can “appreciate the attraction. The heft. The sleekness. The cool steel. The precision. And the power. The power to change lives, history. The power of God.”

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This random little rant thematically transitions us into the scope of a sniper rifle pointed at the mayor of some other city. The sniper is riding a Ferris wheel at a carnival when he shoots perfectly over hundreds of yards into the fancy party where the mayor is standing. It’s a pretty sweet shot.

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So the guy, Deadshot, flies to this tropical location to meet up with an associate who hires him to carry out a hit in Gotham. Deadshot shows off by skewering a hornet with a toothpick. Very impressive, fancy pants.

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So Batman learns that The Russian has ostensibly put out a hit on Lt. Gordon and hired the famed assassin Deadshot to do the dirty work. Bruce gives Officer Crispus Allen Ronald Marshall’s PDA (from “Field Test”), which holds some e-mails that prove that Marshall has hired Deadshot to do some hits in the past. Gotham’s finest try to keep Lt. Gordon safe, but Deadshot gets a good scope on him and fires. Batman has been following Gordon’s motorcade with his new Wayne Enterprises satellite technology and assistance from Alfred (Batman: “Alfred, how’s the satellite picture?” Alfred: “Splendid. I can almost see your pointy ears, sir.”). He swoops in to deflect the bullet before it hits Gordon.

Deadshot then smugly squeals that Batman was his target all the time, and he knew threatening Gordon was the best way to draw him out. They start to fight on the top of a train, which enters a tunnel—a tunnel of the awesomest animation and fighting ever, that is!

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Deadshot gets the drop on Batman and shoots him. Batman falls in between train cars and Deadshot spends 15 minutes gloating before ascertaining that Batman is actually injured. Dumbass.

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Batman of course sneaks up behind Deadshot and gets the upper hand. Of Awesomeness.

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Deadshot and Ronald Marshall are arrested, and Bruce later confides to Alfred that he keeps seeing his parents murdered, over and over, and he doesn’t know if living this life of vengeance is working out for him. Of course, the movie ends with the Bat Signal transmitted across the sky and Batman rushing to save the day, as Alfred muses that he thinks Bruce owns this higher purpose.

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So anyway, Batman: Gotham Knight was pretty cool and great fun, but there was no real resonance. It was just another “oh, Batman’s so tortured” two-dimensional dark-and-twisty sob fest, without any new insights into this intriguing and complex character. It was slower, darker, more serious and adult than the other DC Universe movies. It’s just an old-school anime, for sure, and that’s always cool—it had some moments of reminding me of Vampire Hunter D, which is obviously a compliment. The direction was very original and interesting, but the disjointed segments and lack of heart means that I won’t still be thinking about this movie tomorrow.

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5 Responses to “Batman: Gotham Knight”

  1. […] Read the original:  Batman: Gotham Knight « Danny Isn’t Here, Mrs. Torrance […]

  2. But… Batman IS tortured!!! Don’t you GET it? God. Phshaw. And so on.

    In seriousness though, I agree with you completely. Well, minus your love of guru montages, that is. That was my least favourite part. Thing is, I haven’t seen any of the other animated movies that you mention. I must get to it.

  3. john, what is WRONG with you? training montages are, like, even better than shopping montages!!!! mostly cos they make me believe that if i just had the right ninja instructor, i could learn how to kick ass (and develop some sweet guns) in less than three minutes.

    oh man that would be awesome.

  4. I agree, Marla, this is definitely the weakest of the DC movies. And I was really excited about it. Individually, the segments are all pretty cool but the story does seem really disjointed. I’m glad you said Vampire Hunter D because I was trying to think about what the animation reminded me of when I was watching it. Overall I think it’s worth a watch, especially for the animation but anything following Wonder Woman is destined to look pale in comparison.

  5. Howdy my family participant! I have to say that this article is awesome, terrific authored obtainable along with most very important infos. I wish to fellow more threads in this way .

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