Batman: Under the Red Hood was the first DC animated film I saw years ago, and it remains the gold standard for this impressive series. An outstanding mix of tense drama, effective acting, quality writing and direction, and excellent animation, it's a great introduction to the serious side of the film series (as contrasted with the more comical and 'fun' films like [[ASIN:B01LBHSBUG Batman & Harley Quinn (Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo)]]). A narratively-rich film, it explores some of the darkest and most mature aspects of the Batman mythos with the gravity and moral complexity they deserve. For those familiar with the original comics, the story is significantly altered for cinematic purposes, yet effectively visualized and brought to life; for those who are new to the story, coming in with the least possible foreknowledge and expectations, as I did, leads to the greatest rewards.
While the DC animated universe has always treated its subject matter with respect and sophistication (even when having fun with it), Batman: Under the Red Hood adopts a particularly cinematic approach. It stands confidently with DC's live-action efforts as a film to be taken seriously, and benefits immeasurably for it. Viewers unaccustomed to animation delving into dark, adult-centric material may be surprised; this is just one of the many enjoyable discoveries in this film. The action and drama are well-balanced, each complementing the other and elevating the film into one with broad appeal that extends beyond the comic book crowd.
This was the first DC film to be animated by Japan-based The Answer Studio, and their outstanding effort on the film shows in its moody visuals, exciting action scenes, and nuanced moments of physical acting. Unlike in lesser animated films, each of the principal characters has his own way of moving, whether while running, fighting, or simple posture. Close attention to detail has been paid in each standout sequence; any time a shortcut could be employed, the animation instead goes for something hard and visually-dazzling to take its place. The hand-to-hand and physical combat remain among the best in any DC or Marvel animated film, and the action scenes are as thrilling and intricately designed as in a live-action blockbuster. The quality animation, delivered by such noteworthy animators as Kazuyoshi Takeuchi (animator on such anime classics as [[ASIN:B00ENNA62W Akira: Movie (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)]] and Your Name), immeasurably adds to the film's effectiveness. Such is the excellence of the animation that one wishes all the DC animated films could be produced by The Answer Studio; the quality is so much better than most of the other studios that it really stands out. As it is, the films that are animated by them all stand out as among the best.
Finally, the top-notch voice acting from Jensen Ackles as the Red Hood, Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, and John DiMaggio as the Joker, along with the rest of the cast, expertly handle and elevate the difficult material. Ackles' Red Hood in particular is so good that it's a shame he and the character have not appeared in subsequent films.
As a group, the DC animated films deserve a wide audience beyond comic readers; anyone interested in quality storytelling and thrilling action (animated or otherwise) has much to enjoy and discover here. And there's no better place to begin than with Batman: Under the Red Hood. If this outstanding film doesn't make you excited to check out the rest of the DC animated universe, nothing will.