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Batman made an impressive return in The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 – but will his return be as triumphant in part 2?
Frank Miller is a genius. He is the mastermind behind many incredible comics and graphic novels such as Sin City, 300 and Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Without Frank the comic book industry would be dead today. That being said, parts one and two of The Dark Knight Returns is exactly what an adaptation should be – true to the main source, highly entertaining and dangerously addictive. But of course even great movies have flaws.
Part one of The Dark Knight Returns gave us a glimpse of Batman’s return from a long retirement – it showed us that a 55-year old Bruce Wayne still had enough willpower to put on the cape and cowl to rid Gotham City of its most dangerous gang leader. Part two is even more impressive.
The Dark Knight Returns, Part Two stars: Peter Weller (Robocop) as Batman and Bruce Wayne, Michael Emerson (‘LOST’) as Joker, Ariel Winter (‘Modern Family’) as Robin and Mark Valley (‘Human Target’) as Superman. To everyone who thought that Mark Hamill was irreplaceable as Joker – you better watch this movie. When Mark finally does hang up the white makeup and unnervingly awesome grin, please give Michael a call. His gentle and unpredictable approach to this character was one of the better moments in this animated adaptation. The Joker was a true madman – and this was one of the first moments in animated history where they were finally able to show his madness and unpredictability. Genius, pure genius.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a quick refresher course. Batman has just returned from retirement and Joker convinces Arkham Asylum to allow him to appear on a syndicated television show (very similar to The Tonight Show) to tell his side of the story. Of course we all know that there is an alternate agenda going on underneath all that white makeup – and after gassing the whole studio audience and slashing his doctor’s throat – our assumptions are soon turned into reality as he escapes. And the chaos begins as Joker unleashes madness upon Gotham City.
Meanwhile, while the police department is on an active manhunt to take down the vigilante known as Batman – the President orders Superman to “take care of” Batman once and for all.
The story is truly epic and awe-inspiring – especially the fight between Joker and Batman when Batman is forced to take down the Joker at a local fair while Joker is gunning down innocent bystanders left and right.
But this animated feature isn’t without flaws. My main concern is that the source material may be a little dated or a little cheesy for my standards today – some of the character attributes just didn’t add up - and unrealistic moments brought this movie down. Yes, I understand that it comes from a graphic novel, but I honestly feel there should be some sort of realism when it comes to the world of Batman.
It had a lot of scenes that were a bit cheesy: Joker’s flying/exploding toy robots he used to escape, Batman being able to magically avoid any stray bullet even though the gun is less than a few feet away from his face, the Joker being stabbed in the eye while still maneuvering as normal, Joker doing the impossible with the last few seconds he has (yes, I’m being vague because I don’t want to spoil the scene), and the fact that Superman is working for the government just seemed a bit odd and out of place. But I have to remind myself that this was written in 1986, it was a completely different mentality back then when it comes to comic books, graphic novels, and movies based upon comic books.
And despite my negative remarks, this is still one of the better animated features that DC has released. It’s filled with plenty of action for you action junkies out there and a great story that transferred extremely well from the source material.
The Bottom Line: A pretty great movie with some drawbacks, but in the end it has amazing action sequences and a great story that any Batman lover will respect and remember forever.