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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1 Review

Well, as is tradition, whenever I get my hands on a direct-to-DVD animated film, I sit down and review it on the ol' blog when I'm done watching it.  And even though it's been out for almost a month now, I finally got my hands on the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers....

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Directed by Jay Olivia

Starring the voices of Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael McKean, Gary Anthony Williams, Wade Williams, and Michael Jackson.

Backstory:  I still think it's folly to attempt to adapt The Dark Knight Returns.  Alongside Watchmen, it's regarded as one of the comics that rejuvenated the comic book medium in the late-1980s.  That, and I really wasn't too impressed with their adaptation of another Frank Miller Batman classic, Year One.  And, based on some of the trailers I saw online, it looked like The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 was going to have some of the same problems.  While everyone was geeking out over the casting of Peter "RoboCop" Weller as the aged Batman, in the trailers and clips online, I was seeing the flat, emotionless line reads that I thought were Year One's biggest problem.  But, it's been out for a few weeks, and a lot of the reviews online were very positive, so I figured I'd still give it a chance.

Plot:  In the not-too-distant future as envisioned in the 1980s.  Bruce Wayne is now in his mid-50s, and has been retired from the mantle of Batman for about 10 years.  Commissioner Gordon is nearing retirement.  Gotham City is once again plagued by crime, as a new, terroristic street gang called the Mutants haunts the shadows.  Harvey Dent, proclaimed cured and released from Arkham Asylym, has mysteriously disappeared and Two Face is again terrorizing the city.  In the wake of all this, Bruce Wayne cannot resist his inner demons any longer, and once again dons the cape and cowl and takes to the streets once again as Batman.  The return of Batman inspires a pre-teen runaway to take up the mantle of Robin.  And soon, the fates of all intertwine as they set out to take down the Mutants and their vicious leader once and for all. 

What I Liked:  The good thing about splitting the graphic novel into two parts for film is they can be very faithful.  There's whole scenes that are the comic book panels verbatim, and that did my geek heart good.  The score is very good.  Linking back to its 1980s origins, it's very synthesizer-based and matches the material very nicely.  And it was great to hear so many recognizable voice actors filling out the supporting roles.  But....

What I Didn't Like:  Yeah, kind of what I feared from Year One, a lot of the celebrity voices where kind of flat and emotionless.  And I really did miss Batman's inner monologues from the books...surely they could have worked that in as a narration or something.

Final Assessment:  It was good, but bring on Part II, which is where the real meat of the story is!

3 Nibs

Bonus Material:  Bonus features on the Blu-Ray include a couple of bonus episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, a featurette on Carrie Kelly and how a female Robin shook things up, a featurette on Batman's creator Bob Kane, and a preview of the next DC/Warner Brothers animated film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II.

And speaking of The Dark Knight Returns Part II, at the recent New York Comic Con, DC announced what their three films for 2013 are going to be.

Spring:  The Dark Knight Returns Part II

Summer:  Superman Unbound, based on the Braniac storyarc from a few years ago that gave us a gritty reboot for Brainiac

Fall:  Justice League:  Flashpoint, based on the Flashpoint event that kicked off the whole New 52 reboot.

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