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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One

Article by FisterRoboto of

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.

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9 Comments on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One

  1. Victor De Leon // September 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm // Reply

    Man, I was geeking hard while watching this. I almost grabbed my copy of the graphic novel to follow along with. I didn’t mind Weller too much but I see your point. I can’t wait for Part 2 when we get to see The Joker do his thing. Great post! Thanks.

    • Thanks, Victor! I’m ready to see/hear Emerson bring The Joker back to life. (Pun intended) It’s funny how everyone wants to go back and read the originals after watching these animated versions.

      • Victor De Leon // September 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm //

        Yeah, I can’t wait for Emerson’s voice work. I re-read Batman Year One right after I saw the animated movie lol. It took me back. I felt pretty nostalgic during the read. 😀

      • Miller was on fire with Batman in the 80’s.

      • Victor De Leon // September 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm //

        oh yeah! let’s not forget Daredevil too. I’m a sucker for Mazzuchelli’s art.

      • 100%. They need to make a top-notch animated Daredevil with Elektra, Kingpin, and wave after wave of The Hand.

      • Victor De Leon // September 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm //

        ha! brilliant! we see eye to eye on that, man. I would LOVE to see an animated DD flick. I love all of the story-lines including The Hand. The new issues are pretty cool too except they can’t seem to make up their minds with a consistent artist.

      • Agreed. DD has always had so much potential. I do enjoy his run with The Avengers, but he’s always had SO much going for him. Fingers crossed for his horned future. Loved his recent interaction with Luke Cage!

      • Victor De Leon // September 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm //

        as did I. good stuff. I remember a ways back they had a pilot scheduled for an animated DD show but Marvel for some reason wanted to inundate the show with other heroes in order to do a team up of the week kinda thing. after that the writers backed off claiming that DD would fare better without all of the “guest appearances” I agree.

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