The year was 1986, Ronald Reagan was in his second term, and comics were about to take a turn for the better. Frank Miller was about to release a four issue limited edition comic. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was the first issue of a universe-changing book. It featured an aged Batman wrestling with 10 years of retirement. A police chief days away from retirement and a city undergoing the resurgence of crime and violence it hadn’t seen in several years.
At 55 years old, Bruce Wayne is an aged crime fighter past his prime and enjoying some of the finer things his wealth can afford him. But he begins to feel not only the weight of his years but the weight of a city that has all but forgotten Batman. Many young people don’t even think Batman was real and the criminals no longer fear his justice.
In a brain-bending timey-wimy loop the book alludes to the death of Jason Todd, an action that would not take place in the main comic for another two years, leaving people to wonder for decades just how long DC had it in for the Boy Wonder of Whine.
Batman returns to defend the city once again as Harvey Dent is returned to the street after undergoing heavy reconstructive surgery. Dent’s doctors, thinking he is cured, release him, only for him to go on another rampage until he is again stopped by the Caped Crusader.
After he mixes it up with Dent, Batman takes a pass at again cleaning the streets of Gotham City. This brings Batman into conflict with the local street gang called the Mutants. But unlike the happy mutants of Marvel these are more goth/punk/nut jobs that always seems to be wearing Geordi La Forge’s visor. Of all the characters in the book, I found the Mutants to be the least understandable.
DCs latest direct to home video is a fairly good attempt at bringing the book to the screen. I personally found the comic’s reliance on fake TV interviews distracting but the same elements in the cartoon fit perfectly. On the other hand I found the image of Batman as an old man in the comic better than in the cartoon.
I am a huge fan of Bruce Timm‘s Batman the Animated Series and the voice work of Kevin Conroy so I was disappointed to see that he was not voicing this movie. Then I heard Peter Weller‘s voice and I was convinced that he was the right choice as this version of the Batman. If it had been Conroy I don’t think I would have been able to separate myself from the Animated Series enough to enjoy this movie. There has been a lot of hate on Mr. Weller’s version but by the 15 minute mark in the movie you won’t care. I was much more dismayed and distracted by Pauley Perrette voicing Lois Lane in Superman vs. The Elite.
And this brings me to the only problem I had with the voice acting in the whole movie. Ariel Winter is not a good choice for Robin. I love her work on Modern Family but I could not get over her as Carrie Kelley. I think it was that I could not separate her from the character she plays on Modern Family. I really wanted to enjoy the character and tried to ignore her other role but I’m afraid it was as distracting a Pauley Perrette as Lois.
My other problem was that the artwork was very close to The Animated Series in style and not enough like the comic book’s style.
Five things you should know before watching this movie.
1. Will I Iike Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1?
If you liked the comics, I think you would. If you liked Batman the Animated Series I think you would. If you think Batman should have wham, pow, and bam then you are in for a shock and should run for the remote.
2. Will my kids like this?
What are you thinking about, man? This isn’t Adam West, or Brave and the Bold, it’s freaking Frank Miller. Unless your child is a teen I’d keep this in the plain brown wrapper under the mattress. Really, unless you would let your child see 300 or V for Vendetta, then they should wait for a few years.
3. You said I shouldn’t let the kids watch it, then what is it rated?
It’s rated PG-13 in the U.S. But it is very close to an R Rating. I was told that its first cut was rated R and had to be re-cut. I don’t have a good source for that but from watching it I would very much think it took some judicial editing to slip in under a R. This is the darkest Dark Knight movie just squeezing out Batman: Under the Red Hood by a hair.
4. When is a good spot for a potty run?
Dude, it’s on video — just hit pause. But if you need to leave for a few minutes and you’re looking for a good place to pause the video, then right after Batman meets Dent and sees his face is the natural end to a chapter and would make a good stopping point.
5. I thought you said 5 things; that’s only four.
Ok, five, and it’s Kind of a spoiler but here it is in inviso text.
The Joker really isn’t in this part of the movie, meaning the best part of the story won’t hit until the next part is released.
(Highlight the above to see text)
That’s it for this part. I can safely say it’s worth the money and time to see it as a movie. I enjoyed it more than the comic. I don’t know if this was because I was older then when I read the comic or because it was animated or it could be because Bruce Timm had some input into this version. Whatever it was I can’t suggest it strongly enough to Bat Fans.
I was lucky enough to see an advance screening, don’t hate me. No money or property exchanged hands for getting to see this film or were any promises made about my review.