Friday, May 2, 2014
Print vs. Film - Under the Red Hood
This is my first crack at reviewing stories that were captured both in print and on film, be it live action or animated. The 'Red Hood' storyline took place in 2005 and 2006 in print, while the animated movie came out in 2010. The story revolves around Jason Todd, who had been working as Robin until he was killed by the Joker, mysteriously returning to Gotham under a new guise to wreak havoc on the criminals in the city and to haunt Bruce Wayne/Batman, still recovering from losing Todd some time ago. Todd shows up as the Red Hood and begins to deal with Gotham's criminals in ways that Batman refused to stoop to and in doing so pisses off the Black Mask, the main crime boss in Gotham at the time. Mask sends a parade of goons to get the Hood, while Bruce tries to stop him in a more humane fashion. The story, in both versions, culminates in an intense three way showdown between Todd, Batman, and the Joker as Todd tries to enact his final revenge against the man who killed him.
How close are the two versions?
On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is an identical retelling and 1 is a a lifting of the title and main characters with no other similarities, I'd give this a 4. You have the same main characters (Batman/Bruce, Red Hood/Todd) and major supporting characters (Joker, Black Mask, Dick Grayson/Nightwing) and the same story. You also have the same scenes and set pieces throughout both. In areas where things are handled differently, the ultimate end result in regards to the overall story are the same. The biggest change from print to is in how Jason's resurrection is chronicled. In the comic, Jason was brought back to life when Superboy Prime punched the universe (Ugh....yes, that's what really happened. Example A of how the original source material is not always better.), and then fully rejuvenated after taking a swim in one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. In the movie, the Superboy part is totally removed; Ra's steals Jason's body and puts him in the pit himself. In the film Ra's hired the Joker to slow down Batman and Robin, and in the process Joker killed Robin. Ra's, out of guilt and the respect he has for Bruce revives Jason as it was not his intent to kill him. In the comic, Joker kidnapped Jason's Mom to lure Jason into a trap, then blew up Jason and his Mom killing them both.
What's better in print?
The circumstances that lead to the final showdown work better in the comic book version. In the movie, Black Mask hires Joker as a means of last resort to get Red Hood; Joker promptly double crosses him and kills his henchmen before getting snatched by the Red Hood. In the comic, Hood tricks Mask into killing the henchmen himself while we don't see how he was able to abduct the Joker. The print version does a better job of showing just how smart Todd is and that he's not just an angry vigilante. The print version also has a series of panels where Batman consults with some of the other heroes from the DC universe who have been killed and resurrected or have dealt with the kid of dark forces that need to be tapped into to pull that kind of thing off, in an effort to determine whether the clues that Jason is back from the dead are adding up to what he thinks they are. This is left out of the movie entirely, and it's a loss because we got to see Batman in a different light, searching for answers about something he just can't understand.
What's better on film?
As I mentioned earlier, the resurrection of Jason Todd. It hurt me to type 'Superboy Prime punched the universe' as much as I'm sure it hurt you read it. That abomination was used as a god awful deux et machina to undo a bunch of things that had transpired in the DC universe, and it did not go over well. They could have found some reason for Ra's to retrieve Jason's body and put him in the Lazarus Pit to revive him. This is exactly what my guys at Movie Trailer Reviews are talking about here.
So which version is better?
I'd call this a push. Both versions do their job well. The story focuses on Jason's anger and Bruce's regret, and in both versions those sentiments are conveyed well. The intensity of the final showdown is there n both versions. The big reveal to Jason's real beef with Bruce is communicated just as well in both. It turns out Jason's true beef is not that Bruce failed to save him, but that Bruce didn't avenge him by killing the Joker. In his eyes Joker's evil warrants an exception to Bruce's no killing rule, and Bruce's failure to see that is the real way that he let Jason down. As you both read and watch that, you may find yourself agreeing with Jason. You can't go wrong with either version of the story; I recommend trying both.