Warner Bros and DC Comics have built up quite a nice little direct-to-DVD empire with their DC Universe brand. Since it’s launch in 2007 with the release of “Superman: Doomsday,” it has steadily added one more release a year to it’s catalog. This trend obviously shows that the animated films are being well received by the fans and they are financially successful for the studios producing them. Now the DC Universe partners are undertaking their most important and anticipated adaptation from comic book page to the screen – Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One.”
“Batman: Year One” is the 1987 re-telling or re-imagining of the origin of The Batman. The graphic novel was originally published as issues #404 through #407 of the monthly “Batman” title. It has been praised by many critics and described as “one of the most important comics ever written, (and) it’s also among the best.” The story revolves around “a young Bruce Wayne (rumored to be voiced by Kevin Conroy) (who) has spent his adolescence and early adulthood, traveling the world so he could hone his body and mind into the perfect fighting and investigative machine. But now as he returns to Gotham City, he must find a way to focus his passion and bring justice to his city. Retracing Batman’s first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante, we watch as he chooses a guise of a giant bat, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon (voiced by Tom Kane), inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman (rumored to be voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn), and helps to bring down a corrupt political system that infests Gotham.”
The question that is going through the minds of most fans of Batman and the “Year One” graphic novel is just how faithful to the book are the producers and directors of the movie going to be? Legendary Batman and DC animation franchise Artist/Animator/Writer/Producer Bruce Timm says VERY faithful.
“I was adamant about not adding anything to it that wasn’t there in the comic. It’s one of my favorite comics of all time…It’s going to look as much like the comic as we can make it. Totally straight up,” he told website ComicBookMovie.com.
As he continues talking about the adaptation, you can completely feel the passion and personal love Timm has for the source material it’s based on. He continues:
“As much as I love ‘The Dark Knight Returns'(Frank Miller’s other hugely popular and critically acclaimed Batman graphic novel), I think ‘Batman: Year One’ is even better. It’s funny because if you compare the two it’s almost hard to imagine that both of those came out of the same mind. ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ is so big and operatic and ‘Batman: Year One’ is so personal and small scale. It’s almost like if ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ is Led Zeppelin then ‘Batman: Year One’ is like Chet Baker or something. There’s that big of a difference between them.”
Some fans of Batman feel that “Year One” has already been mined or used up for a highly successful adaptation of the story of the Dark Knight’s beginnings. It was called “Batman Begins” and was a monstrous international box office hit. What does Timm have to say about that?
“A lot of people say ‘why are you doing ‘Batman: Year One?’ They just did it in ‘Batman Begins.” Well no. They borrowed a little bit of ‘Year One’ but they kind of had to pump it up to make it a big summer movie. This is not a big summer movie; it’s (more on) a small scale. It’s almost like a 70’s cop movie. It has that kind of vibe to it because it’s actually more about Jim Gordon than it is about Bruce Wayne (or) even Batman himself. He’s got no Batcave. He’s got no Batmobile. His gadgets are all really super low-tech. There’s no flamboyant villains unless you count the weird pimp at Time Square. It’s all very, very, very street level which I think is really cool and different.”
“That’s the thing I love about ‘Batman: Year One.’ I love the fact that – and not that super hero movies need to be that realistic – but it’s a really realistic take on the super hero idea. Even more so than ‘Batman Begins.'” Timm adds.
While Timm is producing “Batman: Year One,” another familiar DC regular by the name of Sam Liu is co-directing the film. You might recognize Liu’s name from other DC Universe movies he’s helmed like “All-Star Superman,” “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” and “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.” He has confirmed what Bruce Timm told interviewers.
” (It) was mandated from the beginning that this was going to be straight to the point and not to waiver from the story. Actually, the graphic novel itself is a little bit short. Normally we’re taking like 12 issues of something and kind of like compress it, and in this case it’s a pretty short graphic novel so we were actually under,” Liu told The Daily Blam website.
Does that mean we’re going to get a shorter DC Universe movie? Most of them run right around 75 minutes as it is. Will “Batman: Year One” have an even shorter running time than that? Liu assures us that this will not be the case.
“What we had to do was add a short on top of it. So, instead of just creating some thing to put into the story; we decided to just end it where it ends and then just add something else,” he stated.
Will the added material at the end of the actual “Batman: Year One” movie be the Catwoman short that Bruce Timm has been talking about? That was supposed to be the last of the DC Showcase type shorts. Is it now going to be incorporated directly into the movie instead of being separate? No answer has been given to that query by either Timm or Sam Liu. The original plot of the Catwoman short doesn’t really seem to fit into the framework of the “Batman: Year One” movie. It revolves around ” Catwoman coming to the rescue of a cat being shot at by thugs, (and finding) a ribbon tied to the cat’s collar (that) becomes a clue (which) leads her into Gotham’s salacious underworld. There Catwoman uncovers an international slavery ring, which she has to bring down to save its victims, including the cat’s owner.” It doesn’t seem likely they would stick to this storyline if they decide to incorporate a Catwoman short into the actual film.
Director Liu seems pretty confident that “Batman: Year One” will be everything fans of the graphic novel and the Dark Knight are wanting and expecting.
“We have initial footage in; it’s not 100 % complete right now. Lauren (Montgomery) and I are co-directing ‘Year One’ and I have since been moved off onto the ‘Green Lantern’ series, so I feel bad because she’s doing most of the heavy lifting right now. I try to do as little what I can… So far, it’s quite good,” he says.
“Batman: Year One” has a release date scheduled for September 27 of this year. It could very easily be a major milestone in the continuing success of the DC Universe animated film series. There’s millions of Batman fans out there hoping that it will be!
Ed Gross, “Bruce Timm Discusses ‘Batman: Year One’ The Animated Movie,” ComicBookMovie.com
Kimberly Houston, “Sam Liu Reveals Details About DC’s Upcoming Animated Film ‘Batman: Year One’,” The Daily Blam!