Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 and 2 [FQ13 #62 & #94]

Batman-vs-Superman-in-Batman-The-Dark-Knight-Returns-Part-2

Why I Saw It: The comic book source material for this is one of the all-time great Batman stories, and the fact that they split it up into two feature-length films says something about the attention to detail and work that went into it, so I was very excited to see both installments. Given that Zack Snyder indicated that this film’s Superman/Batman relationship provides a bit of the tone for the upcoming sequel to Man Of Steel, how can you NOT want to see it?

What Was It About?  “Batman has not been seen for ten years. A new breed of criminal ravages Gotham City, forcing 55-year-old Bruce Wayne back into the cape and cowl. But, does he still have what it takes to fight crime in a new era?.” And for the second half…

The Batman has returned after a 10-year absence. The Gotham authorities want to arrest him. An old foe wants a reunion. The Feds want the Man of Tomorrow to put a stop to him.

Rating: 8.3 out of 10 (each)

Potential Nominations for Film Quest ’13:  

  • Best Art and Animation

Favorite Parts: The animation, first and foremost, is phenomenal. At times, I preferred the work in Batman The Animated Series from the early 90’s to what I’m seeing here, but that’s primarily due to the way they use shadows and imagery. Other than that, like I mentioned above, it’s phenomenal. When Superman shows up in Part 2, the way they display him is incredible – from the red-and-blue-blur movements, to the glowing red eyes, the behind-the-back perspective we get when he talks to the President, I can’t get enough. Whoever is responsible for this artwork, I’ll definitely be on the watch for more work from them. Among about a dozen other scenes, the point when The Joker does his first killing was portrayed very artistically.

I was a little afraid when I saw that Ariel Winter was doing the voice-over work for “Robin” Carrie Kelly, not because of her work on Modern Family, but because of the voice-over work she has done in Disney Junior shows I watch with my son. She does a great job with the mermaid on Jake & The Neverland Pirates and as Sofia The First, but they’re not what I expect out of the elder Batman’s side-kick. She did a passable job from a role which didn’t have too many memorable lines.

The psychology involved in the portrayal of the Harvey Dent character was great and really fits in well in the Batman canon.

The fight between Batman and Superman was awesome, especially how they build up to it throughout the movie by giving you a decent history of the strife between them in the dialogue earlier in the film. They included Oliver Queen in the film, referenced an unfortunate event and showed that he only had one arm, so I’m really hoping they do another film to tell that story, because in the comics, it was a great one. I hope they’ll do a Green Lantern / Green Arrow team-up first, but either way, I want to see

The Regrettable Aspects: I really don’t like the voice-over work from Bruce Wayne/Batman or The Joker. They just really don’t fit, and it’s not just because I’m a huge fan of the work of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. I’ve heard Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Adam West, Ben McKenzie and Christian Bale read lines as the Dark Knight, and aside from probably McKenzie, I don’t prefer Peter Weller (Dark Knight Returns) to any of them.

Michael Emerson just doesn’t sound like The Joker to me. He does a terrible job as the nearly catatonic version prior to his re-awakening. His performance improves a bit when he transforms, but he just never gets there for me. I’m not sure why they didn’t do whatever they could to cast Mark Hamill. I’d have to guess it was a matter of budgetary restrictions, but they certainly didn’t pick Emerson because they thought he’d do a better job. I didn’t see anything that would suggest he was capable of that. With other characters having significantly aged, The Joker could’ve been voiced by someone older, in which case I would think a better talent could’ve been had for the same price as what Emerson brought, and likely been a better option. I’m probably getting to the point now where I should just devote a separate article to who I would cast in voice-over roles.

Joker_The_Dark_Knight_Returns

Just like with Year One, the way certain characters are portrayed just really bothers me in this one. In the aforementioned film, it was Batman I disliked, but here it’s primarily Superman:

  • He destroys military jets and then breaks an aircraft carrier in two.
  • Saving a guy who fell onto the subway tracks, Superman decides it’s probably better to show off his super strength by stopping the speeding train, leaving two hand-sized dents in the front of it, rendering it disabled, rather than to just pick up the guy, place him onto the platform with ease, and then fly off.
  • Leaving a building during his first encounter with Batman in the film, Superman flies straight up through the building, creating a series of holes straight up through to the roof which artistically looks great, but causes considerably unnecessary damage.

And this, coming from a guy who had no issue with the damage Superman allowed to occur in Man Of Steel. At least in that film, he was preoccupied with trying to save the planet from his Kryptonian opponents. Here, he was just looking to exit the building without using a door.

Batman does his fair share of unnecessary damage and acts out of character. In the tunnels at the carnival, just after his confrontation with The Joker, he takes unnecessary measures to escape the police, and it doesn’t even work. Sure, the story holds that he has been out of the game for a while, but that shouldn’t affect his ability to be calculating and a master of theatrics.

Batman supposedly loves Gotham City, and yet the new Batmobile tank he creates to drive through the allies is so wide that it destroys entire sides of buildings? Not cool, Batman.

Would I watch it again? I’m sure I will, but it won’t be this year, and probably not 2014. At some point, they’ll put out more animated features, and if the storylines tie in, I’ll watch them all together. When my son’s old enough to watch them, I’ll definitely watch them with him, but that won’t be for about 7 years or thereabouts.

To Whom Would I Recommend It?  To anyone who likes a gritty Batman story, especially if they’re looking forward to the upcoming sequel to Man Of Steel, because apparently this film is going to help set the tone.

Other Recommendations:

– Batman: Under The Red Hood – This movie is actually a great film to watch right before you watch the Dark Knight Return films, as it actually helps to build part of the plotline.

– Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm – This gives a great example of the type of animation and artistic sensibilities that I mentioned above in relation to Batman The Animated Series. It doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the plot involved in the Dark Knight Returns films, so it wouldn’t matter if you saw this before or after the two I mentioned, though I liked these films considerably more than Mask Of The Phantasm, so take that for what it’s worth.

– MAN OF STEEL – If the amount of damage done in this film doesn’t bother you, or only bothers you a little bit, you’ll probably love MAN OF STEEL – a movie whose detractors point to the considerable amount of damage suffered by the city of Metropolis as one of the reasons they didn’t like the portrayal of Superman.

If you’ve got recommendations for alternatives to The Dark Knight Returns, or for other similar films, let me know!

Next up… SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD!

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