This is an adaptation of Frank Miller's ground breaking Year One storyline. This really was Miller at his best, and ranks as one of the best Batman stories of all time, and a huge inspiration for Nolan's films and Morrison's extended run. Here we get an introduction to Bruce before he is Batman, and how he first dons the cowl, and his first interactions with a young idealistic cop named James Gordon. The parallels that Miller, drew between the two are mirrored here as well as we see both men juggle with idealism and corruption as well as women who tempt them from perhaps the wrong side.
The animation is gorgeous with just a subtle inspiration from anime with some amazingly clean lines and sharp colors. There are gorgeous night shots as we see our two heroes begin to own the night. This is not tamed down animation, the violence shown is extreme and Gordon....oh my god...just wait until you see what Gordon can do. With that let's talk about the voice cast.
Bryan Cranston owns this film. His James Gordon is almost as good as Oldman. He puts so much feeling into his voice, that you feel the pain and heartache he has as he attempts to make this unsavable city a better place. He brings the perfect amount of confidence and sophistication, and most of all HONOR. When he starts to expose the dirty cops in his unit and when he decides to fight back, he does it with such controlled severity that you can't help but be in awe of him. He is a force and you fully believe that this is the man that will end up being the commissioner we all know. His sense of duty and justice is second only to Bruce himself.
Ben Mackenzie is Bruce Wayne. Now he had a tough job. Cause you know what, Kevin Conroy is the best Batman ever. No one does Batman better than Conroy, not Bale, not Keaton not West, Conroy is Batman. Mackenzie holds his own, and never once sounds like the tough boy from Chino. He even does a subtle variation on Bale's Batman voice. Mackenzie pales in comparison to the energy Cranston brings, but he more than holds his own. This movie would not have worked without him and he definitely delivers.
For those of you that haven't read, the movie chronicles the early days of Batman, which lead to some amazing scenes. The first time Bruce goes out on duty without the suit is great. Its always nice to see our hero bite off more than he can chew. The final scene with Bruce in the daylight trying to save Gordon's life is such a great precursor for their future relationship. Also, being a Batman fan, I love when they show just how awesome Batarangs can be.
This is really just Batman done perfectly in animation. Its a quick story that you wish didn't end. Those expecting crazy villains are going to be disappointed. This is Batman at his genesis, when he was out to clean up the streets, this is Bats against Falcone and crooked cops. But hey don't take my word for it. Go out and buy it. You wont be disappointed.
One last thought -Dushku is here as Catwoman/Selena Kyle. For me it's the weakest part of the movie, but I did love Selena and Bruce fighting out of costume.