Directed by Jay Oliva
Written by Bob Goodman (screenplay) Based on the graphic novel from Frank Miller
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Wade Williams, David Selby, and Michael Emerson
Batman has not been seen for ten years. A new breed of criminal ravages Gotham City, forcing 55-year-old Bruce Wayne back into the cape and cowl. But, does he still have what it takes to fight crime in a new era?
Set in the dystopian future of Gotham, it’s been a decade since The Batman (Peter Weller) was last seen. 55 year-old Bruce Wayne still seeks thrills in other avenues and seems content to imbibe bourbon in his retirement. The older, wiser Commissioner Gordon (Selby) is on the verge of retiring and wants to ensure Bruce doesn’t don the cowl once again. Gotham is under the grip of fear once more as a brutal gang of mutants, ruled by a savage leader, rules the streets of Gotham. Not content to rob or pillage, the mutants kill out of pure sadistic joy. Harvey Dent has been physically restored and begs Gotham for a second chance as he’s released from Arkham. Waiting in the wing is The Joker (Michael Emerson), now awakened from a catatonic state upon hearing the news that The Dark Knight is now taking the streets back. Joining our dark hero is a new Robin, the young Carrie Kelly (Ariel Winter), a 13-year-old street smart kid who dons a dime store costume and rushes to Batman’s rescue after he receives a near-deadly beating at the hands of the mutant leader. As Bruce recovers he agrees to let Carrie become his new sidekick. This newest animated film from DC runs just under 90 minutes and leaves us hanging until part two releases in 2013.
Let’s face it, nothing’s ever going to do the Frank Miller story arc justice, but this is a darkly engaging hit in my opinion. The Batman follows Miller’s visual re-imagination, looking like a square refrigerator crammed into his suit. While I don’t think the film allows enough time to focus on Bruce’s nightmarish visions and internal torment on his path to becoming The Dark Knight again, I think the merits of the film speaks for itself. The action is thrilling and holds nothing back in the realm of physical damage. The older, darker Batman is fine with his near-fatal violence and that kept me cheering the entire time. His final fight with the mutant leader is absolutely barbaric – something the franchise hasn’t seen since the animated Red Hood.
My only complaint is the voice acting of Weller. RoboCop doesn’t do the character or the emotions justice. I think this could’ve been a solid A rating if not for Weller. Poor casting takes away from The Dark Knight Returns. Brimming with dialogue and subtext down to the final minutes, this adaptation of the second best Batman story ever told (second only to Batman: Year One) delivers in its unrelenting dark brutality and adherence to the source material. There are several shots taken directly from the comic’s panels. Any fan of Batman or animated films is sure to find this entertaining. Geeks are a picky lot, myself included, but if this doesn’t perk up your Sunday morning, maybe you should stick to your packed long boxes exclusively. All things considered – another excellent animated film from DC.
The Dark Knight Returns, Part One is available on DVD/Blu Ray Combo pack Tuesday, September 25th.