The 80’s was an interesting time in the Batman universe. Dick Grayson, the original Robin, had grown up and began leading the Teen Titans, eventually changing costumes and becoming Nightwing. Eventually, Batman would find himself a new sidekick, Jason Todd. However, while Dick Grayson was loved by just about everyone, a lot of people didn’t think too fondly of him. In fact, DC gave their fans the opportunity to decide on if he lived or died and though it was close, the fans voted for him to be killed off. This death would have a rather profound effect on Batman for years to come, almost as big an impact as the death of his parents. However, there is one constant when it comes to death in the comics; and that is that Uncle Ben is the only person that can stay dead. Thus, Jason Todd would eventually come back to life in the comics in 2004 and 6 years later, an animated movie was made based off of that story line. I first saw this movie on Netflix several years ago and I immediately decided to grab a copy on DVD so I could enjoy watching Batman: Under The Red Hood whenever I wanted.
The plot: In his hideout, Ra’s al Ghul says he regrets hiring the Joker to distract Batman when he learns that Joker has kidnapped Robin (Jason Todd) and Batman won’t reach him in time. In Sarajevo, Joker has Robin tied up and beats him mercilessly with a crowbar before leaving him to die in an explosion. Batman races through the streets of Sarajevo towards Robin’s location but is too late as he gets there just as the building explodes. 5 years later, 8 crime bosses are gathered for a meeting and as they argue over who set it up, they are confronted by a man wearing a red hooded helmet. The Red Hood, tells them that they will start kicking up 40% of their profits to him in exchange for protection from both Black Mask (the reigning main crime boss in Gotham) and Batman but warns them not to deal any drugs around schoolyards or to kids. When they ask why they should do that, he drops down a duffel bag containing the heads of their lieutenants, claiming to have done that in two hours, then leaves. Elsewhere, Batman is stopping some men from stealing some cargo but as he restrains them, the cargo activates, revealing itself to be Amazo, the super powered android that can copy the powers of other meta-humans. As Batman faces off against him, he is joined by Nightwing and together they are able to destroy Amazo. Afterwards, they go to question the crooks who say they work for the Red Hood but before they can say anything else, they are killed by the Red Hood. Batman chases after him, eventually tracking him to a factory where he confronted a previous criminal called the Red Hood and he had fallen into a vat of chemicals, transforming him into the Joker. As Batman stares at the chemicals, the Red Hood comments about this being the site of his greatest failure but it wasn’t his last, then he shoots at his crashed car, which ignites the chemicals and causes an explosion, covering his escape. Back at the Batcave, Nightwing was able to get a picture of the Red Hood and they comment about the previous criminals who used that name, then Batman decides to head to Arkham Asylum to question Joker. When they get there, Joker taunts both of them and says Nightwing is no more fun since he grew up and stopped being Robin, then taunts Batman some more over Jason’s death. Batman loses his temper and grabs Joker by the throat and he asks if he is really going to kill him this time or just put him in a body cast again and Batman drops him and they eventually leave. Meanwhile, Black Mask is yelling at his men for allowing Amazo to be stolen by the Red Hood and then destroyed by Batman. He then discusses their next arms shipment, unaware that Batman and Nightwing are listening in, as well as Red Hood. That night, Red Hood attempts to steal the helicopter with the next shipment of weapons when Batman and Nightwing show up to stop him. When they disable the helicopter, Red Hood maneuvers it to crash over the city, forcing Batman and Nightwing to stop it from hurting the people below, then they chase after him. Red Hood manages to elude them, even severing Batman’s grapple when he tries to ensnare him, and as they follow him to the train station, he uses a bomb to slow them down, injuring Nightwing in the process. As Batman and Nightwing recover from the blast, the Red Hood makes a comment to Batman but it is drowned out by sound of an oncoming train. Returning to the Batcave, Alfred tends to Nightwing’s injuries while Batman replays video he recorded of their encounter with the Red Hood. After sending Nightwing home to recover, Batman replays the audio and after removing the noise from the train, hears Red Hood call him Bruce, revealing he knows his identity. Shocked, Batman thinks back to Jason’s training as Robin and how he became more violent when he got older and he realizes that the Red Hood might be Jason somehow. Meanwhile, Black Mask is angered over another arms shipment destroyed and he orders his men to shake down the crime bosses working for Red Hood in order to force him out of hiding so he can have him killed. His men succeed and when Red Hood confronts Black Mask’s men, he is attacked by 4 cybernetic ninjas. He fends them off for a while until Batman shows up and helps him defeat them. When Red Hood kills one of the ninjas, Batman argues with him about his methods but Red Hood says he is doing a better job cleaning up the city than he ever did before leaving. Batman takes the sword one of the ninjas had cut Red Hood with and takes it back to the Batcave to analyze the blood, which confirms that Red Hood is Jason and as he stares at the screen, he hears a noise and turns to find a shocked Alfred had dropped the tray he was carrying when he saw the results on the screen. Meanwhile, after hearing of the latest failure to kill Red Hood, Black Mask is forced to break Joker out of Arkham and works out a deal with him to deal with Red Hood. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce digs up Jason’s grave and discovers the body in his coffin is a fake. Chastising himself for being careless and not checking the body when he brought it back, Batman head out to confront Ra’s al Ghul, knowing he was involved in Jason’s return. When he gets to Ra’s’s home, he confronts him and Ra’s admits that when he hired the Joker to distract Batman while he tried to topple Europe’s financial markets, he underestimated Joker’s madness and never intended for Robin to be killed. He figured Bruce would be too grief stricken to perform an autopsy and was able to replace the body with a fake. He intended to use the Lazarus Pit to restore Jason to life and send him back to Bruce but something went wrong and Jason returned deranged and had escaped his lair. Batman leaves Ra’s’s lair and as he is flying back to Gotham, Alfred alerts him to a situation on the bridge. Joker has the crime bosses that work for Red Hood, as well as Black Mask and his assistant, tied up in a truck and is pouring gasoline on them. As he goes to set them on fire, Red Hood shows up and reveals that he had antagonized Black Mask in the hopes he would break Joker out of Arkham, as he wanted to confront him face to face. Annoyed that the joke was on him, Joker goes ahead and lights the gasoline but Batman appears and douses the flames, then goes to capture the Joker but Red Hood grabs him and severs the cable, sending them both into the water below. As Batman searches for them, he receives a message from the Red Hood saying to meet him in Crime Alley. Red Hood takes Joker to am abandoned building and begins to pummel him with a crowbar, much like Joker did to him before he killed him. When Batman arrives in Crime Alley, he thinks back to his first encounter with Jason, where a young Jason had stolen the tires off of the Batmobile. Red Hood appears and the two begin fighting, with Jason eventually taking off the hood and revealing he is wearing Robin’s mask underneath. The two continue to fight until the reach the house, where Jason says that he forgives Bruce for not saving him but wants to know why he didn’t kill Joker afterwards. Joker, realizing who the Red Hood is, starts laughing and tells Batman that Robin has a point and as Jason and Batman argue over the matter until Jason throws a gun at Batman, telling him that the only way to stop him from killing Joker is to kill him. Batman drops the gun and walks away, and Jason fires at him but Batman dodges the bullet, then throws a Batarang at Jason’s gun, blocking the barrel and causing a misfire when he tries shooting again. Wounded, Jason activates some explosives he planted and Batman goes to disarm them but Joker stops him, wanting them all to blow up together. Batman knocks Joker out, the grabs Jason to try and save them as the bombs go off. When the dust settles, Batman finds Joker trapped underneath some rubble but there is no sign of Jason anywhere. As the news reports talk about the aftermath of the events, Alfred asks if he should remove Jason’s costume from where it is kept but Bruce says no, that the current situation doesn’t change anything. As he leaves to go on patrol, a flashback is shown of Batman and Alfred watching as Jason dons the Robin costume for the first time and how excited he was wearing it.
This was a great movie to watch and probably one of my favorite Batman movies out there. The voice acting was really good, with Bruce Greenwood doing a good job as Batman while Jensen Ackles was great as Red Hood. I also liked John DiMaggio, Jason Isaacs, and Neil Patrick Harris as Joker, Ra’s al Ghul, and Nightwing respectively. The story was good and did a good job of briefly recapping what happened in the past that set up the present events. I liked the brief inclusion of Nightwing in the movie to kind of showcase the differences between Dick and Jason, primarily in their character as they got older. I also liked the way they had the Joker portrayed, as they didn’t make him overly crazed but he simply had that mad unpredictability that made him really interesting. The animation was pretty good and the action scenes were well drawn while not taking away from any of the drama that was written into the scenes. Definitely not for little kids but a very well made movie that is worth watching.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5