Batman Under the Red Hood does something surprising in the DC universe. It embrace the flaws of the caped crusader and works it into a compelling and emotional story, which is a rarity for most animated movies. Not only that but, to be fair, my expectations for it were a little low. Let me put it this way; my love of Batman has burned me before.
I’ve suffered through countless lackluster straight to DVD movies that even featured Batman, no matter how minimal, because I wanted to see what each incarnation brought to the table. There’s no doubt that Batman Under the Red Hood is for comic books fans so if you’re strictly into Batman on a surface level or not a comic fan, I’m warning you now that this movie is for the fanboys (and girls) like myself.
The movie starts off with a bang,literally. It starts off with the death of the ill-fated boy wonder, Jason Todd, which is a fairly dark place to start. Where it goes from there straddles the lines of vigilanteism and righteousness, much like the caped crusader himself. However, what makes the Red Hood such an interesting villain is that it becomes clear that he has a very defined code of ethics, but they work outside of batman’s own code. The most important? The Red Hood breaks the cardinal rule of Batman’s crime-fighting philosophy and declares that killing criminals is fair game.
In many ways, the movie focuses on batman at odds with himself, which is always an interesting take. The problem with that is that the story has been done before. More importantly, it’s hard to imagine that type of material being handled better than Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Still, it provides plenty of conflict to satiate hardcore Batman fans’ appetites for brooding.
But the main focus of the film isn’t with Batman himself or even with the Red Hood. Instead, it focuses on Batman’s relationship with his young wards, namely Dick Grayson (who is in fine form as Nightwing) and the aforementioned Jason Todd. It explores the complicated relationship between Batman’s impossible standards and the inevitable failings of his boy wonders. In many ways, it deals a lot with daddy issues, but never in a melodramatic fashion. It deals with the pressures of living up to a legend, but also, what it means to be able to take care of someone else and growing up too fast.
By the end, it’s fairly clear who the Red Hood is, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment of the first two acts and the emotional resonance of the final one. Batman Under the Red Hood presents a similar Batman to one’s we have seen before, but adds maturity and sincerity to present a more mature and complex figure. This isn’t the same hero that i grew up with, but it’s only fitting that I should view this Batman differently. Batman Under the Red Hood holds up well as a straight-to-DVD movie that deserves credit as an impressive addition to the legendary saga of the dark knight.