Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) (Two-Disc Special Edition)

batmangkSo it’s finally here, the long awaited mid-quel to “Batman Begins” that leads right in to “The Dark Knight.” While Warner is taking a fantastic approach to this mid-quel by enlisting a host of top notch cutting edge animators and keeping true to the dark adult nature of the movies, even casting the one and only Kevin Conroy to voice Batman yet again (and he doesn’t miss a beat), “Gotham Knight” feels more like a template of which Christopher Nolan could expand upon should he decide to continue the series after “The Dark Knight.” There are only so many rogues who can be justified on screen with realism, but “Gotham Knight” provides us with some famous villains who could excel with a big screen treatment under the right people.

Sticking true to Nolan’s methodology, this animated movie is an anthology of short stories featuring the Batman battles with assorted villains all of whom (Like the Joker, and Two-Face) are more based around realism than fantastic powers. There’s no Mr. Freeze or Bane here, only rogues you could actually see existing in the real world. And I can imagine someone eventually taking from this and making it in to another sequel for this new series. Like “Animatrix” which sadly was better than any of the sequels, “Gotham Knight” is a series of short stories, and it’s a film that rarely ever lets up. The group of writers handles the Batman universe with clear slick precision featuring exploits from Bruce during his training, Bruce discovering new technology, to the whole question of why Gotham even needs a Batman (“Crossfire”).

It’s an anthology of masterfully told stories with some old chestnuts like Shoujirou Nishimi’s “Have I Got a Story For You” which envisions Batman as a supernatural creature thanks to colorful imaginations of four skater kids. Stories like (My favorite) “Deadshot” and “In Darkness Dwells” re-imagines three famous Batman rogues via anime with excellent twisted renditions of villains likely to appear in the movies. The Scarecrow returns after his sudden disappearance in the first film to use to his old patient Man Croc as a foot soldier in kidnapping religious symbols for his misdeeds. Almost a follow-up to “Batman Begins” this is the Dark Knight learning to work through the Scarecrow’s hallucinogenic gas, overcoming fears. As with Deadshot, he’s built as yet another gaudy anime villain who manages to get under Bruce’s bad side after his insistence on pegging Lt. Gordon as his next target. The writers never quite peg Batman down to one premise of masked avenger versus villain.

Instead they give Bruce and Gotham brand new shades with his methods of battle, to his meeting with shamans who taught him how to work through pain and avoid violence whenever possible, right down to a brand new horrific perspective on the Arkham Asylum. Bruce is a man who may never be saved from his grief (“Working Through Pain”) and though he stops the evil from engulfing Gotham, he is a man who likely also seeks it. “Gotham Knight” is the perfect go-between for fan boys anxiously awaiting “The Dark Knight,” as it unfolds the Caped Crusader in dimensions not even Bruce Timm was able to. It simply doesn’t disappoint. Batman fan or not, if you loved the new movies, if you’re gearing up for “The Dark Knight,” Warner and DC’s anthology takes a page from “The Animatrix” and comes through feeling like a fresh, original, and utterly exciting look at Batman from all artistic perspectives.