In 1988, comic book fans were given an unprecedented choice. DC Comics released a four-part comic book series revolving around Batman and then-Robin Jason Todd titled A Death in the Family. At the end of issue #427, readers found Jason Todd bloodied, beaten up, and left for dead by the Joker. They then had a choice to make: let Jason live or kill him. Two 1-900 numbers were in the back of the comic for readers to call in and cast their vote.
Just over 10,000 votes decided Jason Todd’s fate, with a slim tilt in favor of his death, which occurred in issue #428. Let the conspiracy theories abound as to why he died, but the fact remained that he was killed off.
Fast forward to 2004, when Under the Red Hood started its run, bringing Jason Todd back from the dead. Later in 2010, that pivotal story was made into what is considered by many (myself included) to be one of the all-time favorite DC animated movies, featuring Jensen Ackles of Supernatural fame as the voice of Jason Todd.
Twenty-two years after Jason Todd’s death hit comic book stores, fans are once again in charge of fate in the long overdue Blu-ray realization of Death in the Family. It gives those who voted a do-over and provides those of us whose parents didn’t let us dial 1-900 numbers a chance we wish we’d had. And the choice is solely ours. Robin can live, Robin can die, or Batman can save Robin. As Jason Todd says in one of the scenarios, “Holy Batcrap!”
Nostalgic of the Choose Your Own Adventures books and similar to video games like Until Dawn or those from Telltale Games, your choices change the future of Batman and Robin. Once your first choice is made, the Blu-ray takes you to the consequence of your actions, followed by additional choices or the end of the story. This can make for several watches with different combinations of choices, resulting in some much harder choices and exceptionally disquieting endings.
The animation is stunning throughout the movie, which one expects from a DC animated movie. The writing seamlessly melds old and new storylines. Every ending seemed to follow exactly what would happen if the original comic had gone a different direction. Although the voice acting from all is outstanding, John DiMaggio’s Joker really stands out in this one, more so than any other time he has voiced the character – a difficult accomplishment when the Joker has been voiced by some incredible actors in the past, such as Mark Hamill and Troy Baker. It is a wonderful, familiar return of DiMaggio’s voicing of the character from Under the Red Hood.
At the end of the movie as the bcredits roll, the viewer is presented with their choices. They can scroll through and start over at any of those junctures to make an alternate choice. The ability to make these choices and lead to alternate endings forces one to see each character in various lights. Is Jason Todd good, bad, or a victim of circumstance? How responsible is Batman for Jason’s fate? Does Batman hold himself too accountable for the Joker’s reign of terror? Maybe the Joker is the only character whose morals are not in doubt. There are so many questions that can be answered in many different ways, leading to fantastic discussion amongst fans.
What better way to honor the original death and resurrection of Jason Todd than with this movie. The deference it pays to the traditional stories, as well as keeping viewers on their toes with new endings, is incredible. So, what choices will you make? How will you shape the future of Batman and Jason Todd?
Creative Team: Director, Producer, Writer (movie): Brandon Vietti; Batman/Bruce Wayne Voice: Bruce Greenwood; Jason Todd/Red Hood/Red Robin/Robin Voice: Vincent Martella; Joker/Thomas Wayne: John DiMaggio
Production Companies: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
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