I wanted to like Batman: Gotham Knight; really, I did. When the similarly-constructed The Animatrix was released years ago, I put off watching it only to finally realize how spectacular the collection of shorts really was. Given that success, this time around, I picked up Gotham Knight immediately, eager to see what Studio 4C, MADHOUSE and the other companies came up with. Unfortunately, unlike with The Animatrix, I left the film with a definite sense of "meh."
Don’t get me wrong – the premise is solid. Taking place between the Hollywood blockbusters Batman Begins and Batman: The Dark Knight, Gotham Knight features six short stories about Bruce Wayne as he takes down bad guys and works his way towards enlightenment. There are numerous villains to foil, a lot of ass-kicking to be done, and a few cameos from old 'friends' such as the Scarecrow.
Sounds great, right? I'm not sure why, but it just doesn’t work.
Maybe it's how disjointed and unconnected the stories are, even though they're shown back to back as if they are a movie; maybe it’s the lack of a good old-fashioned epic battle; or maybe it's the lack of charm and mystery that made Batman Begins such a classic. Whatever the case, while interesting, few of the tales will grab your attention and hold on tight; I doubt that many people - fanboys aside - will find them memorable. Of the sextuplet, I found Bruce's tale of mental conditioning in "Working Through Pain" to be the most compelling, and the whimsical "Have I Got a Story for You" to be the most charming and fun to watch.
Overall Gotham Knight is an interesting and fun hour and a half diversion; just don’t expect the collection of adventures to wow you.
MADHOUSE, Studio 4C, Bee Train and even Production I.G. had a hand in Gotham Knight’s animation, and it shows. It's easy to pick out Studio 4C's contributions: "Have I Got a Story for You" could be a carbon copy of the recent Tekkon Kinkreet (horrifically-ugly character designs and all), and my favorite, "Working Through Pain," shows off the studio's strong points - fluid battles, and occasionally gorgeous character designs. MADHOUSE’s creations are equally as easy to spot, with Highlander-esque, comic book-style designs in the otherwise-boring "Deadshot," and unattractively-gritty backgrounds and characters in "In Darkness Dwells." "Crossfire" is straight up Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and Bee Train dazzles with special effects such as a very realistic golf ball in "Field Test."
Easily the most interesting aspect of the animation is the different depictions of Batman, who ranges from a robot in "Have I Got a Story for You" to a bona fide badass you’d never want to mess with in "Deadshot." You’ll choose a few favorites and wish a few hadn’t reached the light of day – which for me was the curvy, beak-like mask that came straight out of an old Tezuka film.
Other faults aside, Gotham Knight does have an outstanding soundtrack filled with dark orchestral melodies and decent voice acting. While the stories might disappoint you, what you hear will not.
With such a uniquely-varied individual as Batman at the helm, I expected ample character development throughout the shorts. It’s true that "Working Through Pain" is a moving and near-epic look at Bruce Wayne and the depths to which he’ll go to reach enlightenment, but the other shorts fare far more poorly. We're shown glimpses of Batman’s psyche, but little else is shown to us of other characters. I would have loved to see the secondary folks be developed more, and Batman to receive more depth throughout the rest of the episodes.
It's one thing to watch a movie that's based on a timeless series of works, but another to find when that basis roots itself in collaboration efforts to interpret and give new routes and ideals to that story. The Animatrix did so a number of years ago with its lucid, segmented set of stories based around the environment of The Matrix.
Batman: Gotham Knight is a just over an hour of a series of stories built around the defender of Gotham City, interpreted by different Japanese animation studios such as BONES, GONZO, and Production I.G. Each of the segments bring to the table different adventures and perspectives in a brilliant display of animation emphasized storytelling. The reason I say it's animation emphasized because the animated sequences often help bring the mood of the story to light in certain cases.
Take one of the segments entitled "Have I Got a Story for You": the animation might be a complete put off to some people because the character designs are crude, base-level, and haphazard to watch on the screen...until you realize how well it couples with the mood of the story, as it focuses around a group of kids who tell their own unique encounters with Batman.
The movie does tend to bank on style versus extended story, so if you're looking for a movie with a cohesive plotline throughout, it doesn't show itself in this film, but one could argue that's not the beauty of, or the aim of, what this film chooses to explore.
However, each of the short stories are as engaging as they are well noted for their expansions of Batman/Bruce Wayne, some stories choosing to develop his character more intricately ("Working Through Pain" is a strong example of this) while others are interesting cases in which Batman finds himself saving the lives of Gotham City's occupants ("Deadshot" and "Field Test" are two examples that I particularly enjoyed).
The stories themselves never lose momentum and don't feel rushed despite the given format and content. I felt instep with each story for the most part, though I can only think of a couple where the ending point felt a little too sudden to give a conclusive note to the overall segment.
While not a cohesive set of stories, I would certainly recommend Gotham Knight to action anime fans and those who love the Batman franchise alike, as the stories are coupled with brilliant animation and nice character focus to engage throughout.
Very nice use of animation from a visual and mechanistic perspective. The cel backgrounds for each individual story are very well done, and create the enriching environments down to a tee. I also loved how fluid the action and motion sequences were throughout, despite the difference in the production quality and studios/animators working on each story. Granted, there were many interpretations coming into this film, and some may strike favor for some audiences while others may make the viewer grimace at the sight of the characters.
Good example of this was when I watched "Have I Got a Story for You" initially. The crude character designs and rough textures coming into the sequence were among the lowest quality wise I had seen in all the stories offered in the film. However, you come to realize that the animation is quite intentional, as it depicts the perspectives of the inner-city kids and their respective interpretations of Batman. I think that's where the animation worked well in a mechanical way, and I couldn't take too much from that note.
Yet, this may strike some in different ways: either you love and see the animation as it relates to the story, or feel a bit uneasy because Batman/Bruce Wayne is interpreted so differently in each of the stories. In some he is chiseled, rough around the edges and takes no prisoners ("Deadshot") while others show a softer, and more domestic take on his day-to-day capades ("Field Test"), which lend into why the character designs, at times, stray away from the American interpretation of the comic.
I thought this aspect, however, worked very well in its translation and visual interpretations.
I watched this film in the English adaptation when it first debuted on Itunes, so it may be limited if there is a Japanese track included on the DVD set. I thought the English cast was brilliantly assigned, as Kevin Conroy makes a fine Batman/Bruce Wayne, and other veteran voice actors in the Batman franchise make guest appearances (some may also recognize Will Friedle and Jason Marsden, who had VA roles in the English adaptation of Batman Beyond). Even with the variant environments and interpretations presented, each character stays true to their respective actions and emotions given the situation.
Add to that the stellar instrumental pieces throughout the movie, key in respective scenes as well as pacing the overall mood of the movie.
There are indubitably a number of characters presented in this movie, despite the focus leveling on Batman/Bruce Wayne given the individual stories, but the movie does a decent job of bringing you into each character's momentary perspective. Granted, the only character development to be had is truly within the caped hero, as each individual story provides engaging pieces around him, featuring both external and internal perspectives over the character.
The limitations of the movie format prevent more extended connections with the characters, but it certainly provides a pleasant setting to watch them interact and engage each other.
as a nerd i love Batman as a otaku i love anime when you bring these two things together you get Batman Gotham Knight now as i watched this i was saying to myself what if this is like Dragon Ball Evolution well it was not Dragon Ball Evolution (note: every time you hear THAT MOVIE a DBZ Fan Die) but any way to Batman it became a Scott Pilgirm anime how? you would ask well let me tell you the beginning i hated the beginning the animation look like shit just like Paranoia Agent now i hate it and also HATE the animation to it hell i hate everything about but i am ranting back to batman so the first 15 minutes really sucked but then when the 15 minutes are up the awesome of batman begins i will not spoil the rest of it but the only cool thing is this they got the voice from the 1999 Batman voice actor to do this batman witch is awesome but they also got robin from teen titans voice actor to do a regular boy for the first 15 minute a small role but still good
Batman, more than a name, more than a man, it's idea itself.
As I'm an average fan of Batman and I recently played Arkham City I looked forward to see what japanization of DC titles did to him. After solid one and half hour watch I must say that I'm not so happy about it. What once worked for Animatrix does not quite work here. I don't mind changes of styles, on the contrary I found Tekkon Kinkreet animation for 'Have I Got a Story for You' pretty interesting. After the first shock went off, I admit.
As I was saying, if you want to do bunch of shorts that have in common just universe and theme, it is just fine. Here was Batman changed as often as underwear at a diarrhoea conference and it didn't do a great service for film as whole. I don't mean it only by exterior, but even interior as we can't pretty much find out anything deeper about Bruce, not to mention other characters.
I'm not sure that Gotham Night can appreciate others than bat fan, but in the same time, those people will perhaps condemn it, because of unique styles of animation.
FINAL OVERVIEW: I just can't give many points to the story as each piece have it's own and as a film it feels fragmented and little confuse. But I must highlight 'Working through Pain' and 'Dead-Shot' as the best parts. Characters, as stated above, just couldn't be as deep as they deserve and as they should be in Batman's stories.
Music and sound were very good, dark, instrumental.. almost want to say batman-like. They did a great job here and I also appreciated that Batman spoke by the voice of Kevin Conroy. Animation is great and from aesthetical point of view I really enjoyed different styles as well as depiction variety of batsuits, although I don't know why Batman "changed" to crow in 'Field Test'.