Hey gang, Valkor here. When DC and Marvel Entertainment began translating their most popular comic storylines for straight to video movies, I was ecstatic as there were so many tales that would look great in animated form. So far DC has taken quite the lead with such past films as "Batman: Under the Red Hood", "Justice League: Doom", and "Batman: Year One" not only staying true to their comic book roots, but they're also quite entertaining. Now DC looks to continue that trend, giving the animation treatment to another Frank Miller Classic "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns". And I have to say, it's one hell of a ride! Spoilers ahead!
In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, it's been ten years, from the start of the film, since the Bat has been out of action, no longer protecting the streets of Gotham City from criminal scum. But that doesn't mean crime has taken a holiday – actually violent crimes are at an all-time high; things grow exceptionally bad when Harvey Dent, who has recently gone under the knife to reform his face as well as turn over a new leaf, decides to switch gears back into a life of crime holding teh city for ransom. This causes Bruce (voiced by Peter Weller) to step out of retirement to face his old nemesis and once again clean up the streets of Gotham. But a greater threat looms in the form of a gang called "The Mutants", who stand to terrorize the streets of Gotham. Batman confronts the gang on their own turf and while he does some considerable damage, their mutant leader (voiced by Gary Anthony Williams) fights Bats to a standstill, though he would have won had it not been for the interference of Carrie Kelly aka the new Robin (Ariel Winter). Badly beaten, the duo makes their way back to the batcave. And while Alfred (Michael Jackson… not THE Michael Jackson) objects to the christening of Carrie as the new Robin, Batman takes her under his wing with new found vigor in the face of the new mutant threat. The film ends with the defeat of the mutant leader and the return of the Joker finally awaking from his catatonic state that he'd been in for much of the film. The perfect lead-in into part two.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One closely resembles the book of the same name, embracing the comic's visual style as well as the running commentary of news broadcast and public opinion of events as they unfold. Though I miss obvious characterizations of Jay Leno and Dr. Ruth, still I find the film a match compared to its comic book counterpart.
Man these comic book adaptations are getting better and better with DC Animation leading the pack. It seems like Marvel has fallen off, which is surprising because "Planet Hulk" was quite good. However, I love this animated take on the Frank Miller classic because it does a lot to make it its own, yet still stays true to the comic keeping with the look of the backdrops and the characters, capturing that dark, gritty feel of Gotham, really embracing everything Frank Miller put into the book. Overall, the film is a work of art. I was beyond excited when it was announced that Peter Weller of Robocop fame, would be brought in to voice Batman/Bruce Wayne, and while I had ZERO doubt that he would own the part, I was pleased at how well he performed. He plays the part of a grizzled, aging Batman/Bruce Wayne true to form and enough bass was added to really enhance his performance as the Bat. And were there some subtle "Robocop-esque" lines tossed in? I dunno, it really felt that way. The music was another standout; I don't normally touch on the soundtrack as much as I should since they aren't usually memorable, but the tunes in RotDK… very reminiscent of Hans Zimmerman's theme in the Nolan Trilogy with a touch of Elfman (just a touch). In the end a round of applause should be given all around as DC Entertainment is churning out another hit that's a perfect translation of its comic book counterpart. Bravo!
Well it's almost perfect and I think what I'm about to say borders on nitpicking if anything else. For starters, I wasn't too happy with some of the voice work; great job casting Peter Weller and even Ariel Winter was an awesome inclusion, but I can't say the same about David Selby as Commissioner Gordon. Maybe I'm spoiled with Bryan Cranston's take because he simply nailed the part, but I thought Selby didn't have enough bass to back up Gordon's tough exterior. I was also disappointed in how the news bits were handled. In the comic you can see obvious references to Dr. Ruth, Jay Leno, and even fucking Ronald Reagan. And I think a more updated take could have, no should have been given (hell Leno is still relevant). Again it's nitpicking and definitely not a true negative towards the film. I just wanted to get that off my chest. Yea it irked me, just a little.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One will be available on September 25th on a single disc DVD, 2-Disc DVD, and Blu-Ray, with the 2-disc and BD launching with a host of extras that will certainly hold you over until part two gets released. And I can't wait for the day, because part one is quite impressive staying, true to its comic book origins with an exceptional story, loads of action, and overall quite entertaining. Out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 4.5. Am I ready for part two? Bring it on!