By: Sawcy Potts
Frank Miller’s legendary 1986 Batman story has been adapted for the two-part animated movie, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.”
The 15th entry in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series is finally complete.
This is an odd article to write since part one was released on September 25, 2012, and part two just recently on January 29.
So, this will be a review of the two together instead of separately.
“The Dark Knight Returns” begins ten years after the death of Jason Todd.
In this grim future, Batman retired after his second protégé’s death, and this is a Gotham that views the Batman as little more than a myth now.
A new gang (but don’t call them that to their ugly faces) called the Mutants terrorize the entire city, Harvey Dent is seemingly cured, Joker’s been in a catatonic state for the past ten years, vigilantes are outlawed, and Commissioner Jim Gordon is weeks away from retirement.
Aside from the Mutants constantly threatening Gordon’s life, things are going well for the Commish.
He even tells his good buddy—aging billionaire and impressively mustached—Bruce Wayne how he can’t wait to join him in retirement.
But, Wayne, who seems to be looking for a grand death of sorts, is increasingly restless.
He sleepwalks, he hallucinates, and some voice seems to be calling him weak.
One night, after one of his sleepwalking incidents, Alfred finds him in the Bat-Cave freshly un-mustachioed.
Thus, begins the return of Gotham’s hero.
For a while, I claimed “Batman: Under the Red Hood” as my favorite in the DC Universe Animated Original line, but that claim may very well be in dispute now.
Both parts together run a little over 150 minutes, but they seem to fly by.
Anyone familiar with Miller knows that it was a gutsy move to adapt one of his works for an animated movie that children will surely be watching.
The team behind these movies continues to impress me as they pull it off, though.
They leave in some of the profanity, a decent amount of the blood, and Joker’s girlfriend Bruno’s outfit (you’ll see once you watch the movie).
They lengthen some parts and alter others that make sense for this format.
The main thing this adaptation lacks from the original is the narration.
A lot of the power in Miller’s works comes from the inner thoughts of his characters.
Although Gordon does mention the famous line once (“I think of Sarah. The rest is easy.”), it loses the power from the comic where he recites it a few times to remind himself of why he does what he does.
We also lose a lot of the depression and desperation Wayne deals with leading up to and after he re-dons the cape and cowl.
That’s my only complaint with the translation from the original, though.
The art style is very well-adapted, and the animation is legit and shows off during fight scenes.
Like with the rest of the entries in this movie series, the voice-acting is definitely well-casted.
Peter Weller (yes…Robocop) heads the cast as a Batman well past his prime.
This one is a little bit of a mixed bag.
As Bruce Wayne and most instances as Batman, Weller’s voice fits the character like a glove.
At certain points when Batman needs to be especially commanding though, Weller’s voice just doesn’t go with it.
David Selby’s Commissioner Gordon, Wade Williams’s Harvey Dent, Ariel Winter’s Carrie Kelley, Gary Anthony Williams’s Mutant Leader, and Michael Emerson’s Joker are all solid.
The truly perfect voice is Mark Valley as Superman.
It’s just RIGHT.
Also, I don’t know why Michael Jackson (not the pop-god) hasn’t voiced Alfred before.
I love that tired superiority he brings to Batman’s butler.
I have yet to peruse the extras, but together both blu-rays have four mini-documentaries, five DC animated episodes, and some other little goodies.
The DVDs have the bare minimums.
Trailers and sneak-peeks at the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie.
Once again, we have been blessed with not only a great DC or Batman film, but we have also received a great superhero movie.