Alternate Takes 10.13.12: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 10.13.2012
The latest entry in the DC Animated Universe delves into the dark future of Gotham City with The Dark Knight Returns Part 1! 411's Shawn S. Lealos takes a look at the good and bad of it in this week's Alternate Takes!
Welcome to Week 224 of Alternate Takes, my name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
With that said, surprisingly I did not have time to review The Avengers Blu-ray or Dredd, but I did get to finally sit down with Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Let's get into that.
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, PART 1 Directed by: Jay Oliva Written by: Bob Goodman
Peter Weller ... Batman/Bruce Wayne (voice)
Ariel Winter ... Robin/Carrie Kelley (voice)
David Selby ... Commissioner Gordon (voice)
Wade Williams ... Harvey Dent (voice)
Carlos Alazraqui ... Hernando/TV Host (voice)
Dee Bradley Baker ... Don/Fat Mutant/Additional Voices (voice)
Paget Brewster ... Lana Lang (voice)
Richard Doyle ... The Mayor (voice)
Michael Emerson ... Joker (voice)
Michael Jackson ... Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Michael McKean ... Dr. Bartholomew Wolper (voice)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns came out in 1986 and immediately became one of the most beloved comic book stories of all-time. Originally released as a four-issue limited series by Frank Miller, it remains best known as a graphic novel and completely created a new and wholly original Batman story for fans.
In the story, Miller brings a 55-year-old retired Batman to a Gotham City that has been overrun by crime. Bruce Wayne retired partially due to the death of Robin. With this coming out two years before "Death in the Family," that was a shocking situation, but it worked very well in the comic. It had Batman return to fight a new gang called Mutants that had overrun the city, Harvey Dent, The Joker and eventually Superman.
It also was filled with a lot of social commentary, as no one trusted Batman or any other superhero not named Superman. Even more shocking was the fact that Superman was now a pawn of the government, and a joke in the eyes of the real superheroes forced into retirement. In 1986, this was a shocking storyline.
Jay Oliva directs the animated adaptation of "The Dark Knight Returns," which was split into a Part 1 and 2. Part 2 comes out in 2013. What is great about the point the two stories split, is that this is still a completely sustained story, telling the adventures of Batman as he returns to fight the Mutants and Harvey Dent, as well as introduce the new female Robin to the world. It then ends with the point where The Joker comes back, which is a nice cliffhanger but never takes away from the fact that "Dark Knight Returns Part 1" is a great tale, from the start to the finish.
It is honestly hard to dive into the story at first because there is a lot of the social commentary thrown throughout the movie. As a lover of Batman, and superheroes in general, the fact that this movie is so dark when it comes to the acceptance of heroes makes it hard to sympathize with the world he lives in. It also makes Batman even more of a hero, because he is saving people who don't seem to want saved.
The world of Gotham City in the movie is full of criminals who kill, rape and steal without recourse. The people of Gotham have resigned themselves to this fact. They are scared to walk the streets, yet when Batman comes back to help them, they turn on him and say he is infringing on the rights of the criminals. What? Yet, this is the most important part of this movie and the comic it is based on. Batman wants nothing more than to help the city but they have all turned their backs on him.
Peter Weller ("Robocop") voices Batman and does a good job of giving him an old, tired and angry feel that fits the theme of the story perfectly. The other voice actors are fine, but no one else really stands out as a unique character voice-wise.
The animation is also well done, with a lot of fancy camerawork thrown in that makes the movie stand out above a lot of other animated straight-to-DVD features. The scene with Batman and Harvey Dent fighting was especially well done, the lighting and look of the scene masterful. The final shots of the two of them facing off was the perfect conclusion to the Harvey Dent portion of this storyline.
While this is a story, with a beginning, middle and end, it is also the first part to the story. Unlike many Part 1's, this one ends on a positive note, with Batman regaining his control on the city. However, while that is a happy ending for the Batman character, if you know where this is heading, you will see that it is only a temporary glimpse of comfort.
If you like the comic, this movie pays great tribute to the original story and is well worth your time.
The first two special features is a sneak peak for "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Part 2." This time around, the villain is The Joker and Superman comes to stop Batman on behalf of the U.S. Government. I enjoyed the Michael Emerson talk as he described his take on The Joker. There was also a sneak peak for "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies." I watched these two back-to-back and it was shocking how much the quality suffered with the SD version of the second.
Next up is a 12-minute feature "Her Name is Carrie Ö Her Role is Robin." This feature talks about the reasoning for making Robin a female in this comic and also talks about the evolution of the role of female characters in comics.
The best feature, by far, on this Blu-ray is "Batman and Me: A Devotion to Destiny, The Bob Kane Story." The documentary includes a ton of great people talking about Kane, from Stan Lee and Mark Hamill to Jerry Robinson and Elizabeth Kane. We learn where he came from, how he met his wife Elizabeth and the over-the-top exuberant life he lived. What was shown most was his intense love for Batman and his pride in creating such an iconic character. A highlight included Stan Lee talking about how they always heckled each other when it came to their creations. The documentary clocks in at 38 minutes.
Next up is two episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" - "Two-Face, Parts 1 & 2." Finally, there is also a "Dark Knight Returns" digital comic that only includes four pages.
Overall, this is a great Blu-ray that tells the first part of one of the best groundbreaking graphic novels in comic book history. I highly recommend picking it up.
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