With Marvel and DC being the two biggest comic publishers, it’s safe to say they’ve developed a rivalry that has crossed over into every other medium. The film industry is no different. While Marvel might have an edge with the MCU, DC have always thrived when it comes to animated films. One of the greatest DC films of all time has to be Batman: Under The Red Hood, which tells the story of Batman’s war with the violent vigilante known as the Red Hood. Lines get crossed and lines get blurred between what it means to be a hero.
The film starts off with Jason Todd, the second Robin, being captured by The Joker and beaten into a bloody pulp by a crowbar. Batman races to save him, only for the building to be blown up before he arrives. Batman carries Robin’s lifeless body out of the rubble in an iconic image taken directly out of the comic arc A Death In The Family.
Years later, a new vigilante calling himself the Red Hood arrives in Gotham. He leaves his mark by strong arming the local crime lords into his operations to dismantle the Black Mask’s criminal empire. A stand out scene involves him dropping a bag full of severed heads onto a table and intimidating the gangs with an AK-47. Red Hood means business from the moment he’s introduced.
It’s not long before Batman takes notice and he and Red Hood have their first confrontation. However, the vigilante is able to outmanoeuvre the Dark Knight and get the better of Black Mask as well. The situation escalates when Black Mask breaks The Joker out of Arkham so he can deal with Red Hood. This backfires and Red Hood captures the Clown Prince of Crime.
Red Hood reveals himself as as resurrected Jason Todd and beats The Joker with a crowbar in retaliation for his death. I’ll admit to being a massive Red Hood fanboy, and this is was my favourite scene of the movie. You have to love poetic justice and Todd extracts some much needed revenge.
This culminates in an emotional final showdown between Todd and Batman. Todd demands Batman kill the Joker, otherwise he’ll do it for the both of them. This brings up the key theme of the film – What does it mean to be a hero? Is murder justified when it’s meant to protect the world against a greater evil?
Todd and Batman’s relationship is complex, with the two of them being presented as a grieving father and angry son. I found myself empathising with Red Hood’s perspective, while understanding Batman’s determination not to break his one rule.
The film is even better because of the performances given by the actors. Red Hood is voiced by Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles. Ackles’ Red Hood is filled with righteous fury and he makes you feel Todd’s trauma. Now, if you’re a 90s kid like me, you’ll have grown up listening to the voice of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker. They exist on another level, but the actors in the film do a decent job.
In Under The Red Hood, Batman is voiced by Bruce Greenwood and The Joker is voiced by John DiMaggio. Greenwood brings out the stoic determination of Batman and shows how much Todd’s return has affected him. DiMaggio gives his Joker a sinister quality, but he sounds too much like a smoker who’s throat has been permanently damaged. It’s not a Hamill or Ledger level performance, but it’s passable.
Batman: Under The Red Hood came out in 2010, but it’s still holds up today as one of DC’s best offerings. The animation is high-quality and there’s so much to be invested in. It’s about the broken relationship between a father and a son and how it can consume the people around them.
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