Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR) was originally written back in 1986, and still to this day remains one of my favorite comics ever made. It put Frank Miller on the map for me as an amazing story-teller. Honestly I was never a huge fan of Frank Miller’s art style, but his writing is phenomenal.
I haven’t read TDKR in probably close to 10 years now. I’ve been afraid that it just won’t hold up. The comic is a total product of the 80’s. President Regan winds up being an important character in the story which illustrates the moment in time the story encapsulates. Despite being written back then it was so impactful that many Batman stories still being written to this day are still influenced by it.
In TDKR, Batman had retired 10 years earlier with the death of Jason Todd (Robin at the time) and was now an older man at the age of 55. Gotham and the entire world have changed since he stopped being Batman. Gotham has a massive gang problem that bothers Bruce Wayne so much he decides he has to return to do something about it. The overall story features many classic Batman characters including Two Face, The Joker, and Catwoman. The most important part of the story for many people wound up being the climax where Reagan asks Superman to bring Batman to justice. It’s one of the most memorable fights in comic book history.
Warner and DC put together a 2 part animated film to finally give fans what they’ve wanted. In this PG-13 adaptation, they followed the story pretty well from what I can remember. Part 1 follows the story though Batman’s taking down Two Face, and taking out the Mutant Gang’s leader.
Peter Weller voiced Batman, which brings things around full circle since the first movie projects Frank Miller worked on were Robocop 2 & 3. Ariel Winter voiced Robin, and together they made a great team. Some might even call them a dynamic duo . . . anyway, the rest of the voice cast works great. While they are different voices than we are used to in Batman media, it makes sense since they are all so much older.
The animation style works great in telling this story. They took some of what I didn’t like about Miller’s art style and made it look good. The biggest criticism I’ve always had, and still have with it, is the Batman being a bit too big. He looks like he would give Arnold Schwarzenegger a run for his money back when he was Mr. Olympia. The size factor does make Batman an even scarier figure then he’s usually portrayed.
While Batman is one of my favorite comic characters I’ve always felt like he was really the one that belonged in the insane asylum. This movie makes it even more clear how crazy he really is. Thankfully for the city of Gotham he decides to put his insanity to good use. Batman is portrayed as a bit of an adrenaline junky with a tiny bit of blood lust, like he enjoys hurting people. There is a character named Dr. Wolper who believes Batman has some responsibility in bringing out the deranged villains he winds up fighting against. In some respects I think he’s right. Batman himself is a symbol that fights against evil, but in being that symbol he makes a target that others want to fight against. For people who have never read TDKR I don’t want to spoil what happens, but you will only get a small piece of the problem his return causes in Part 1.
Part 1 releases September 25th on DVD and Blu-ray with an MSRP of $24.98. I can’t wait to see part 2, scheduled for release sometime in 2013. I hope they stick with source material as closely as possible. Part 1 was dark and brutal, and didn’t get to the horrible stuff Joker should do in Part 2. You should pick this up even if you aren’t a Batman fan, but it helps.