“Batman: Under the Red Hood” is intense from the first scene, where Jason Todd, in his days as Robin, is being beaten to a bloody pulp by the Joker with a crowbar.
Right away, the film does a nice job of establishing the toughness of Jason, as he never pleads for mercy from the Joker, and even goes to the lengths of spitting in the Joker’s face and smiling back at him. The scene also helps to establish the pure evil and maniacal nature of the Joker, as he ruthlessly and happily beats on kid. Batman is first seen trying to rescue Jason, but he is too late, as the Joker planted a bomb blowing up the facility Jason was in.
The film is transported to present day Gotham City where a mysterious new vigilante named the Red Hood has scheduled a meeting with all the major drug dealers of Gotham. The Red Hood tells the dealers that they will now work under him instead of current crime lord Black Mask. He offers them a better cut of the revenue generated by the drugs, but says that they must stay away from kids. He also offers them protection from their former boss Black Mask, and from Batman.
This part of the movie is very strong and shows that the Red Hood is interested in cleaning up the city, by limiting the area in which the dealers are allowed to sell their drugs, but he also is profiting off of the drug trade, and is morally gray.
Up to this point Batman has no idea who the Red Hood is and is unaware of his presence in Gotham until he takes down a truck, carrying the android Amazo. Following an extensive fight with the android, in which Dick Grayson, now fighting crime as Nightwing, helps take down the Android with great skill and teamwork that demonstrates the second nature chemistry between Batman and the first Robin. Batman attempts to question the drivers, but does not learn anything as both men are shot by the Red Hood.
This leads to a chase throughout Gotham City. the chase scene is very exciting as the athleticism and gracefulness of the characters are revealed. The chase leads to the chemical plant where the Joker, then also calling himself the Red Hood, was chased down by Batman, and fell into a vat of toxic chemicals deforming him into the psychopath he is today. The Red Hood escapes, but not before reminding Batman that the chemical plant is the site of Batman’s first big failure, which is the creation of the Joker.
The encounter with the new Red Hood troubles Batman, and he travels to Arkham Asylum to talk to Joker about the man who has taken his old alias. The Joker, creepy as ever, denies involvement. The tone of the movie goes from a great but grounded story to one of terror and ominousness. The Red Hood is more than qualified to take on Batman, and the fact that he knows where the Joker was deformed gives away the fact that the Red Hood knows about Batman’s life.
Meanwhile, the crime lord Black Mask is growing angry with the Red Hood taking away a big piece of his drug business, and hijacking his weapons, and puts out a bounty on the Red Hood.
Unfazed by the price on his head, the Red Hood intercepts, and attempts to steal one of Black Mask’s weapons shipments.
However, Batman and Nightwing interrupt the hijacking, and another thrilling action sequence takes place as the two chase the Red Hood across Gotham City’s rooftops. The physical skill the Red Hood possesses is too much for Batman and Nightwing to handle, and his uncanny anticipation helps him escape the two while injuring Nightwing in the process. Before escaping on a motorcycle the Red Hood left on the subway, he taunts Batman, and calls him Bruce. This second encounter leaves Batman haunted, and after reviewing film of the Red Hood during the chase, Batman’s greatest fears are realized.
He meets again with the Red Hood, fighting together against a group of four villains. In an extremely well choreographed fight scene, Batman and the Red Hood are victorious, but not before the Red Hood kills one of the villains. Batman scolds him, but the Red Hood says that Batman does not do the necessary things to clean up the streets. After the Red Hood leaves, Batman notices his blood on the ground, he takes it back to the Batcave, and finds out the Red Hood is Jason Todd, thought to have been killed by the Joker. In a truly haunting scene, Batman digs up Jason’s coffin to see if his body is still in it, but there is only a dummy inside. The movie at this point is growing with suspense, not only have the thrilling action sequences been riveting, but underlying story is gaining strength, and beginning to take charge.
Batman visits ecological terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul, who the Joker was working for during Jason’s supposed murder. Ra’s reveals that Jason did in fact die, but he stole the body from Batman before it could be shipped back to Batman’s home. Feeling remorseful about the murder, Ra’s ressurcts Jason in his Lazarus Pit, which is a mystical pond that can de-age living beings, and bring the dead back to life.
The procedure is successful, but Jason, hysterical after the experience, escapes. Meanwhile, Black Mask helps the Joker escape from Arkham in agreement that he will kill the Red Hood. The great quality of the film continues as the suspense builds even further, as the Joker is now loose on the streets of Gotham.
The Joker lures out the Red Hood by kidnapping Black Mask and his gang in an overturned truck on a popular bridge in Gotham. The Red Hood, happy that the Joker is finally exposed, captures him, and takes him to an abandoned apartment where he beats the Joker savagely with a crowbar, just as the Joker had done to him. At this point, the tension in the movie is boiling over, as even though the Joker is getting what he has coming, it is presented in such a savage way that one is lead to question the conscience of Jason. Batman arrives at the apartment, and Jason tells him that he is disgusted that he never killed the Joker for all the bad he has done, and because he killed Jason himself. Batman responds that it would be too easy to go about killing, and that he would never return to normal after committing murder.
This argument is combated with good points from both sides on the ethics of murder, and the movie does not take a side, leaving the viewer to decide for themselves who is right. The movie’s lack of stance on the issue is one of its strengths, as instead of preaching it presents both sides of the argument. Jason tosses Batman a gun and gives him an ultimatum, which is that Batman can kill him, or Jason will kill the Joker. Batman refuses to participate, and Jason shoots at him out of rage, Batman dodges the bullet and throws a batarang in Jason’s gun rendering it useless. However, it turns out that Jason has activated a bomb. Batman tries get out with Jason, but the Joker tries to stop them in hopes that they will all die together.
The bomb goes off. Batman survives, and finds the still living Joker who he takes back to Arkham. Jason has disappeared. The last scene is flashback of Jason as a happy kid before he goes out on his first night as Robin.
This was a great film, it provides a story relevant to the Batman continuity, but also provides a great story which anybody can enjoy even if they are not a Batman fan.
The film also provides food for thought on how criminals should be treated, and refuses to take a stand despite Jason’s extreme actions. This a story about loss, both the loss of friends and the loss of innocence. To go along with the compelling subject matter, the animation is of the highest quality, and the action sequences are as good as one could make them. I highly recommend this movie to anybody because of the themes and issues it tackles.