I’ve owned a copy of The Dark Knight Returns for nearly 20 years and I must’ve read the thing dozens of times. In the past couple of years, DC has released some amazingly entertaining animated films, and like many fans I was excited to hear that TDKR (returns) was getting the same treatment made me more than happy. I was already disappointed and pissed off the way Dark Knight Rises turned out to be a mediocre Rip-Off of this epic so when the news came out I was more than excited.
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most important books in the history of Batman, and the reason is because in 1986 this gritty, mature “graphic novel” re-introduced characters to the Batman. When I watch something that’s animated I want it to look crisp and clean, with some animated films or cartoons. It almost seems like they’ve cut corners or just rushed through the process to get the product out on time. With this movie however the animation is amazing! It really has the Frank Miller feel to it, if you’ve read any of his comics or graphic novels, you know exactly what I’m talking about and you’ll feel right at home watching this.
The graphic novel was a very story-driven piece. Much of the plot advancement was in the form of narratives given by each character, sometimes many all at once merging together into a jumbled chaos of “voices”. This resulted in it coming off as almost more of a psychological thriller than a superhero action piece. The overall story arc of the book is broken into 4 chapters or volumes – each dealing with a significant milestone of Batman’s return. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the graphic novel, here is a breakdown of the major plot for each volume:
- Volume 1: The aging Bruce Wayne returns to the mantle of the Bat when a supposedly rehabilitated Harvey Dent appears to have reverted back to his criminal ways. After a decade of retirement, Batman begins taking the city back from the increasingly violent criminal element.
- Volume 2: Having come to terms with his role as the Batman, Wayne now concentrates on a plan to wrestle control of Gotham back from the vicious gang of criminals called The Mutants. It also marks the last time he works with Commissioner Gordon in any official capacity. Lastly, thanks to the re-appearance of Batman in the media, a near-catatonic Joker returns to his old self and starts working on both his escape from Arkham and his final battle with Batman.
- Volume 3: Joker proceeds with his plan to finally force Batman to cross the line he swore he never would. While eluding the Gotham Police – who are now pursuing Batman under the leadership of new commissioner Ellen Yindel – Batman and his new sidekick must unravel the Joker’s plan and stop him at all costs.
- Volume 4: Following the events of the previous book, the federal government can no longer overlook the vigilante of Gotham. Their solution is to send their enforcer – none other than Superman – to deal with the situation. While planning for the inevitable showdown, Batman begins taking steps to secure his legacy once and for all… and no spit-curled Kryptonian is going to stop him.
Now, TDKR Part 1 covers primarily the second volume of the four, which leaves the first part with Harvey feeling kind of rushed. From what I’ve read, there will only be two parts to the film, but I really would’ve liked to see at least a trilogy so that each story element could get the attention it deserves.
When it comes to the story in this film, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It kept me entertained and kept my attention and it was just about the perfect length, it wasn’t too long and wasn’t too short. There was just the right mix of action and dialogue as well. All and all this was a great film that I’m glad I picked up and I’ll definitely be watching it again!
The story and voice acting in this film is another place that this film shines. The cast they got to voice some of the characters are phenomenal. Peter Weller does a great job as Bruce Wayne/Batman, for me he’s right up there with Kevin Conroy from The Animated Series which is the Batman I grew up watching. He just does a great job voicing Batman and giving him that gruff and tone that keeps that keeps with the style of Batman but changes it just enough to show the age in Batman. Another great voice actor from the film is Ariel Winter (who is mainly known as Alex Dunphy on Modern Family) she plays Carrie Kelley/Robin. She does a great job in this role; she gives the character of Robin that perfect mixture of young and innocence. I couldn’t see anyone else voicing this role the way she did.
Overall Rating 8/10