It seems that no modern adaptation of Batman will be able to escape the shadow of Frank Millers take on the character. The animated series, as well as the films of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, all have taken some level of inspiration from Millers seminal graphic novels. That influence has also yielded much fallout, as the pretentious ‘grim and gritty’ era of superhero storytelling was largely ushered in by Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Still, the visceral appeal of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight cannot be denied. Interestingly, there was never been a literal adaptation of either Dark Knight or Year One. Batman Begins is perhaps the closest that the live action films will ever come. Now, the DCAU will be the first platform outside of comics to bring the Frank Miller’s vision of the caped crusader to glorious life.
The Upcoming Batman: Year One will be the 12th DC Animated Universe Original Movie. It will be a fairly faithful adaptation of the story arc that originally appeared in Batman issues 404-407. They covered Bruce’s first year as The Batman, from his first outing in the cape and cowl to the beginnings of his relationship with Commissioner Gordon. The comic had the ambience of classic film noir. Co-directors Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery aim to make sure those gothic touches survive the translation to the small screen intact. The DVD will be available October 18th, fittingly arriving just in time for the Halloween season.
The trailer is immediately reminiscent of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. That was inevitable, as the 1993 animated film covered much of the same ground. It contained a cliff notes version of Year One, fitting those pieces into a larger story. This new animated film will focus squarely on the first year of Batman’s existence. The eerie music underscoring the images feels equally as menacing as anything in the Nolan films. Major events from the comic are shown in animated form, such as Batman being cornered and ambushed by an S.W.A.T team. Though there isn’t much in the way of surprises, there is nothing to shake devotion of the faithful. The DCAU has, for the most part, maintained the incredibly high standard it originally set for itself.
Despite the so-called damage that Frank Miller has wrought on Batman’s legacy, I still treasure both the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. They reinvigorated a classic character, combining cinematic and pulp sensibilities to create something undeniably visceral. No matter how far they may have strayed from Bob Kane’s original take on the character, they gave it a new lease on life. Inevitably, that influence will fade and someone else will put a unique stamp on Gotham’s favorite son. At least Bruce Timm and company cared enough properly immortalize Millers vision before it truly becomes passé.