I’ve been looking forward to this new slice of animated Batman for a while now. That’s for any number of reasons, including a long standing enthusiasm for anime, along with a hopeful enthusiasm over the idea of extending a film franchise through the use of secondary media, such as films and games.
The Matrix tried this trick first, throwing every variety of geek media at their Intellectual Property, including a canonical massively multiplayer game that managed to employee Laurence Fishburne just long enough to kill Morepheus for realz.
Still, I was hoping Batman: Gotham Knight could be something more. After all, comic books are the foundry from which modern continuity worship was forged. So why not expand the world of the Batman film by getting some of the modern masters of Japanese animation to work with some top comic writers and make the magic happen? And hey, what if we through in the voice acting of Kevin Conroy, the man who has provided the premiere animated voice of the Batman for almost two decades? What could possibly go wrong?
The fact that the whole project falls flat on its face doesn’t seem to be anyone’s fault in particular. The synergy of all this talent that completely fails to occur, and it ends up dooming the whole thing to being a mediocre exercise at best. The dialog seems wooden, and miss-matched with the gorgeously trippy animation. The stories meander, clearly unable to take advantage of their connection to the film, leaving them to feel disconnected and tentative, if not downright silly. While you can see how this would work on the comic page, some of the vignettes end up being silly. And adding insult to injury, Kevin Conroy’s iconic interpretation of the Dark Knight seems poorly matched to the radical interpretations of the character designs.
It all feels a bit goofy, which, ironically, is exactly the emotion that Batman Begins managed to banish from its earnest interpretation.
As an appetizer Gotham Knights manages to be a little sweet and salty, but doesn’t do anything to whet your appetite for the cinematic main course that’s arriving in theaters next week.