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Movie Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

By: Bob Marshall

Back Story:

The Dark Knight Returns is a story that was written by Frank Miller and is arguably considered the greatest Graphic Novel of all-time. Released in 1986 its a story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who comes out of retirement to fight crime, along the way he encounters some old enemies and some old friends who would be foes. This film is only the first half the graphic novel story.

Review

**As always with my reviews I will try to avoid spoilers where possible

This is only part 1 of a complete story but the film plays like a complete story (as any good film series would), yet ends with enough of a cliff hanger at the end to leave you wanting more.

I know sometimes you can get caught up in a moment  (and I will probably get shot for this) but I would say this film is better than the graphic novel itself. Some stuff in the graphic novel is very hard to follow but not here. I always think things seem more clear in motion and this does it to perfection.

Also in the book we can not hear what the characters are thinking and sometimes Batman comes across in a bad way in my opinion, but there isn’t a problem here. Also unlike Batman Year One, this story doesn’t suffer from having to here the inner monologues of the main characters and its better for it.

They did leave some minor stuff out from the graphic novel but it wasn’t anything important.

The tone of this film was fantastic, it’s Batman the darkest I have ever seen him. There are some incredible scenes where Batman is taking people out and he can’t be seen very reminiscent of Batman Begins (although I’m sure they took the inspiration from this story).

This film is simply relentless. It doesn’t stop hitting you with superb action scenes and epic moments. I really don’t want to tell you anything about the movie, if you’ve read the graphic novel you know what to expect but don’t think this film won’t excite you even if you have read it, its pure perfection.

Lastly on the film, make sure watch it at night with the room as dark as possible and crank up the surround sound, it’ll make the film even more effective.

Animation:

The animation was fantastic, it was very much like the comic almost panel for panel. One of the greatest bits of animation was when the Batman did the trademark pose from the comics cover and the lightning struck, just absolute perfection.
The only negative I would say on the animation was the scene at the beginning with the car race. The animators tend to use CGI cars and they never look right. They’re too stiff, but that’s only a minor nitpick.

Voice Work:

Peter Weller was unbelievably good as the Batman/Bruce Wayne, he didn’t sound as good in the previews but watching the film it worked perfectly. I’d add Peter Weller to the list of greatest actors to ever voice Batman firmly next to Kevin Conroy and Bruce Greenwood .

Ariel Winter was exceptional as Carrie Kelly exactly how you’d expect her to sound. David Selby at first sounded off as James Gordon but after the first few scenes involving him it grew on me and he was excellent.

Michael McKean did a fine job as Dr Wolper, as did Wade Williams as Harvey Dent. After bad preview clips, I actually loved Gary Anthony Williams as the Mutant Leader. Other voices were solid aswell. The casting in this movie is probably the best casting they’ve ever done for these animated films.

Score:

The score by Christopher Drake was incredible,  It had a very 80s “Terminator” vibe to it. This is probably the best score of any of the DC animated DTV’s and rivals a lot of comic book live-action movie scores.

Blu Ray:

The picture quality is outstanding and with the excellent score and SFX, the surround sound should be on at its loudest. The high picture quality only adds to the awesome tone of the movie and keeps you in the moment.

Extras:

Preview of DC Comics’ Next Movie: “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2” – This looks incredible, we hear Michael Emerson as the Joker and Mark Valley as Superman (they both sound superb). Bruce Timm also states he feels Superman fans pain for the way he is potrayed in this film (if you’ve read the book you know what he’s talking about). This sneak peak left me even more excited for part 2.
Other extras include two nice segments: Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story featurette Her Name is Carrie…. Her Role is Robin featurette

There is also a sneak peak for previous entry “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.”
Lastly, two bonus cartoons from Batman TAS, “Two Face Parts 1 and 2” – I can see why they chose this however, I would have thought Legends of the Dark Knight would have appeared (in this there’s a segment featuring the fight between Batman & the Mutant Leader) but maybe they’ll put that on Part 2.

Summary:

Without a doubt the best Batman has ever been done in animation and that includes “Batman: The Animated Series.” Heck, this is Batman at his very best. I won’t say it’s the greatest animation of all the DC animated DTV’s, as I think it depends what mood you are in but all in all this has set the bar for the rest. Bring on Part 2…..

Overall Grade: 10/10

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