I decided to compare the Batman: Year One (1987) comic by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli which we read in class to the animated film of the same title which was released in 2011. The question regarding the authenticity of animation and movie adaptations came up repeatedly in class. Hopefully, this post can shed a little bit of light on the topic about what animation can do to a comic book.
I recommend the film as the movie stays true to the comic (it’s available on American Netflix). The first two parts are dramatized scene to scene and almost line by line. They hardly stray from the original comic which is an important aspect of movie adaptation. Superhero movies usually get criticized for altering storylines but this movie cannot be criticized for that. It was like watching the comic book come to life on the television which felt amazing. The animation was excellent, multi-dimensional with light effects and it was gritty to mirror the rough city of Gotham. It reflected true inspiration from the comic, as most of the characters were identical, as well showcased the technological advances in animation by being in a little more of a Japanese style Manga than the comic but that was only a very slight altercation that was probably made to update the comic for the current audience. But there were a few details that set it apart from the comic.
The code of standards had come up in lecture, and how comics were generated to be relatively child-friendly. I could not help but think that the comic was more adult than the movie, as some blatant mature subject matter was deleted from the movie. That is a very interesting notion to consider: comics can afford to get away with a lot more because their target audience is not clear-cut while the movie industry has to account for their young viewers. An example is when Gordon handles Flass in the comic, he mentions that, “I don’t crack his skull, I don’t crush his larynx, I don’t break his ribs or punch my hand through his chest. I do just enough- to keep him out of the hospital.” That line was omitted from the movie for its violent imagery. In fact, most of Gordon’s monologues were edited out but that could also be because story progression is clearer in animation so intensive narration is not as necessary. However, that does impact our personal relationship with Gordon and we do not become as familiar with his raw character and inner conflicts. As well, all mention of Cocaine was omitted and they preferred to stick with the general ‘drug’ problem in Gotham. Catwoman’s remark on how she hated men was also taken out. They edited some of the political talk by just streamlining on the corruption of the Police and also limit Harvey Dent’s interaction with the Police force by positioning Gordon to go after Internal Affairs instead to solidify his heroism and trustworthiness. Therefore, again the movie’s plot was made a little simpler and no doubt for the younger audiences.
There are some interesting additions that I enjoyed that differ from the comic. When Gordon and his wife visit Bruce Wayne, Wayne wears a robe and sits spread eagle in front of Barbara and the embarrassment on her face is priceless. Thus, we see adult humour that is very subtle and easily missed by children. As well, there is a portrait of the Joker is Captain Loeb’s office to foreshadow his arrival in the next series. The movie adds a poignant line for when Batman is at his parent’s grave: “This isn’t about healing, I’m not here for closure.” That effectively sums up the early years of Batman and how he is initially driven for vengeance which the comic book does not truly emphasize. I’ve read online that they were supposed to make a live-action version of Year One but it was stopped in favour of “Batman Begins” which incorporates the scene of hundreds of bats coming to the scene where the cops surround Batman as a little nod to the comic that started it all. Thus, animation and movie adaptation can be used as a powerful tool to revisit old plot lines and give them new life which helps to draw in newer, younger crowds and prospective comic book consumers as well as preserve the population’s timeless love for superheroes.
– Sanjita Mitra