Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 02.01.2013
Batman and The Joker square off in their final confrontation and The Dark Knight is forced to make his last stand against The Man of Steel. It's here, the final part of Frank Miller's celebrated epic with The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. Jeffrey Harris checks in with his review of the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release of the movie.
America and the Soviet Union are at the brink of a nuclear war. The Joker (Michael Emerson) is back and madder than ever. Superman (Mark Valley) has become a puppet for the government. The only man it seems standing between the world and total destruction is Batman (Peter Weller) who makes his final stand in The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. The new animated movie from Warner Bros. is the continuation of last year’s animated picture which adapts one of the most seminal, celebrated stories ever by Frank Miller and ends the story of Batman with a bang.
In part 1 of this two part animated movie series adapting the classic story, an older Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement as Batman to strike back at a decadent Gotham City which has become overrun by gang warfare. Batman has taken out the leader of the Mutant gang, and the Mutant gang members have declared their allegiance to Batman. Commission Ellen Yindel (Maria Canals Barrera) has succeeded Jim Gordon (David Selby) as the commissioner of Gotham City and put out a warrant for his arrest. The Joker with Batman’s reappearance has come out of his catatonic state and is planning his next massacre. Batman gets wind of Joker’s plan but is unsuccessful and seeks to put a stop to the Joker menace for good. The federal government and a US president (Jim Meskimen) who looks a lot like Ronald Reagan are getting nervous about Batman’s reemergence making them look bad, so Superman is sent to keep Batman in line. With tensions brewing between the US and Russia over Corto Maltese, the world is a powder keg that is about to inevitably explode.
Part is the much more fun part of The Dark Knight Returns epic since it gets to all the fun stuff in the story. Superman is brought into the fold as well as The Joker. Part 2 in terms of the animation dials up the political satire up to 11 between the “aw shucks” president Reagan lookalike and the oddly weird and staged scene between Superman and Bruce out of costume. Superman looks like he jumped off the cover of some sort of Harlequin romance novel and a bald eagle lands on his arm as Batman tends to his horses and dog. Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow gets his role from the original story adapted here as well. The Dark Knight Returns almost seems to be evoking and depicting a world of DC Comics and superheroes who have been attacked and struck down by political correctness. Humiliated, embarrassed, chained, and in Superman’s case basically emasculated by regulation and politicians, the heroes are gone and this dystopic, decadent future of the story is the end result.
The Joker enters the fray quickly and is the main threat for the first half of the story. Unfortunately Joker comes in and leaves far too quickly for his own good. We get the classic moment from the comics in the final showdown of Joker and Batman. The action scenes are quite spectacular and extended far beyond their depictions in the comics. This is fine for the most part but it at times makes the action a little too separate from the story and in one specific case it robs us of a very important dramatic moment. There was one crucial, significant scene involving Alfred that does not get shown here it is a tad disappointing. Ultimately though you can see some of the crucial parallels that Miller created in his story that were later borrowed and adapted for the Chris Nolan movies, so now you get the chance to them here as well in a slightly more faithful depiction as Batman’s fight to regain order to Gotham rages on.
The Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
As with many recent DC animated productions, the animation is tight, crisp, and extremely high quality. This is a much sharper, cleaner, and brither interpretation of Frank Miller’s artwork. Some of his specific design aesthetics are adapted pretty well here, though again it looks a little straighter and sharper. The animation and action sequences are all really dynamic. The final fight sequence also gets a big upgrade and is quite spectacular to watch a knockdown drag out battle between two of the greatest superheroes ever.
The Rating: 10.0 out of 10.0
A nice high quality, clean sound mix. I’ve really enjoyed the music for this two part story from Christopher Drake. This movie really gets all the good stuff in terms of quality characters who were mostly left out of the first part. We get a perfectly cast Mark Valley as Superman. Michael Emerson has one of my more favorite interpretations of The Joker besides Mark Hamill. Oliver Queen also shows up in the third voiced by Robin Atkin Downes. It almost sort of gets me excited to maybe someday see an animated version of The Dark Knight Strikes Again because even despite its flaws I think it would be entertaining to see animated onscreen. Conan O’Brien also gets a nice little cameo as the voice of the talk show host David Endochrine.
The Rating: 10.0 out of 10.0
The Packaging & Extras
This is the Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo back release. It is packaged in a standard clamshell Blu-ray case with a nice metallic, colored slip cover. The Blu-ray and the DVD/digital copy discs are packaged in the same case. The Blu-ray version features the following extras:
Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide
The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death
From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Oliva
Preview of Superman: Unbound
3 Bonus Cartoons
Digital Comic Excerpt
Not a ton of extras, special features wise, but there some solid documentary featurettes included on the Blu-ray disc. Superman vs. Batman is a nine minute featurette that dissects the relationship and conflict between Batman and Superman in The Dark Knight Returns, and how Superman has become a tool for the government.
The Joker is a 15 minute featurette on the genesis and evolution of The Joker throughout comic history. I liked that for this feature, Michael Emerson as a voice actor for the character gave his thoughts on The Joker, so that was a nice added bonus to this feature. A nice dissection of The Joker’s history.
From Sketch to Screen is the type of feature I would like to see more of for the DC Animated Universe releases. Director Jay Oliva narrates analyzes panels from the original Frank Miller story and translating that to their screen version and showcasing how they drew and mapped out fight scenes and storyboarded sequences. Oliva goes over most of the movie and the feature is interspersed with live interview footage with Oliva, animatic sequences, and some select clips from the movie. This is the direction I’d like to see the special features for the DC Animated releases go in and less of the irrelevant “philosophy of superheroes” which do not really tie into the movie or story the movie is telling specifically.
We also get a ten minute Sneak Peak at the next DC Animated Universe movie Superman: Unbound due later this year just in time Man of Steel. This movie was based on a more recent comic story Geoff Johns wrote in 2008 in which Superman faces of with Braniac. This new movie features Matt Bomer as Superman, John Noble as Braniac, and Stana Katic as Lois Lane.
There are two select episodes included from Batman: The Animated Series and one from Batman: The Brave and Bold. A Digital Comic Excerpt from The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel and some Warner Bros. trailers round out the extras.
The Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0
The 411: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is the more fun and entertaining half of the story and is a nice adaptation of Frank Miller's epic story. The action has been majorly souped up, but a couple important moments are noticeably absent. This release is a must own for any Batman fanatic.