(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: Back in 1988, DC Comics decided to hold a poll for their readers: dial in and decide the fate of Jason Todd, the new Robin who had stepped into Dick Grayson’s shoes, after he had been kidnapped and held hostage by the Joker. It was a stunt that would result in one of the most brutal character deaths in the Batman comics to date, with Jason Todd viciously beaten by the Joker and left to die in explosion — all because of the character’s extreme unpopularity (a few readers famously gamed the system to ensure Jason’s death). Jason’s left a nasty mark on Batman’s legacy, but it would unexpectedly set the stage for one of the DC Universe’s greatest resurrections, when Jason Todd was brought back as a merciless anti-hero in “Under the Hood.”
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Jason Todd’s death was long seen as an ugly stunt by DC Comics, but who would’ve thought that it would lay the foundation for one of the most compelling resurrection stories and tests of Batman’s character? And now with DC fans about to be given the chance to kill Jason Todd again — this time with an interactive animated movie — I thought there was no better time to revisit Batman: Under the Red Hood, the DC Animated Universe direct-to-video adaptation of the “Under The Hood” arc.
Released in 2010, Batman: Under the Red Hood was one of the earliest films in the DC Universe Original Movies series, and they still haven’t quite been able to top it. Based on the “Under the Red Hood:” comic storyline by Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke, Batman: Under the Red Hood brings the Caped Crusader face-to-face with his greatest failure: the death of Jason Todd. The movie dives into the complicated relationship between Batman and his second protegé Jason Todd, the troubled street delinquent kid who grows up in the shadow of Batman’s first Robin, Dick Grayson. Hotheaded and prone to violence, Jason’s impulsiveness to gets him caught by the Joker, who cruelly beats him and leaves him to die in an explosion. But unexpectedly, Jason survives: revived by one of Batman’s rogues, Ra’s al Ghul, and operating under a new alias, the gun-toting vigilante the Red Hood.
Structured like a crime drama, Batman: Under the Red Hood wisely doesn’t reveal the Red Hood’s true identity until about halfway through the film, instead letting Batman to unravel the mystery of Red Hood’s schemes, while Batman’s regrets over Jason Todd’s fate start to bubble to the surface. It all comes to a head in a series of clean, hard-hitting fight sequences that are a showcase for some of the best action in a superhero movie to date, animated or not.
Under the Red Hood allows Batman to figuratively, and literally, wrestle with the ghosts of his failures in a tragic, emotionally fraught film that ponders the hypocrisy of Batman’s principles to not take the lives of his enemies, which partly led to Jason’s brutal death. It’s simply plotted and more starkly animated in comparison to some of the flashier DC animated films to recently hit VOD, but that’s what makes Under the Red Hood so effective.
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