Film Review : The Dark Knight Returns
● By Justin Buettner
The Dark Knight Returns is an adaptation of a 1987 comic book. The story follows an older Bruce Wayne, forced into retirement from crime fighting ten years earlier by the government. Since then Gotham City has been over-run by a vicious gang called the mutants and other crime. When Harvey Dent disappears after his release from Arkham Asylum Bruce Wayne pounces on the opportunity to suit back up as the Batman. No longer a young man, can this aging Batman beat the young violent thugs that now run Gotham’s streets?
The Dark Knight Returns is hands down the best Batman story ever written and is commonly known as the main inspiration used in the making of the highly popular Batman feature film trilogy that just concluded this summer. This animated version of the classic story remains very faithful to the book. It omits a few story subplots and also omits the wonderful inner dialog of the aging Bruce Wayne the comic book includes, but by in large most fans of the graphic novel will be pleased. In fact one of the biggest problems I have with this adaption is that it stays too close to the source material and does not go far enough altering some of the story elements for live action film. The most glaring example is the weird and mostly bad gang member dialogue. The slang just sounds, for lack of a better word, stupid.
The other glaring weakness with the animated version of this tale is the pacing. As is the case with most animated versions of action styled comic books, there is a loss of cinematic pacing. Some of the action sequences felt rushed where they could have increased tension and mood by slowing down and staged the action better. There are however several sequences that were handled quite well, especially the ending where the fight sequence was better staged and had more impact than anything in the Dark Knight Rises.
Peter Weller was perfectly cast as the older Batman. His vocal talents in this role may be the best Batman has ever sounded. It never feels forced like Christian Bale’s live action version and Weller’s voice has a weathered but forceful feel that serves the character well. Ariel Winter also shines as Carrie Kelly, the female Robin.
I appreciate DC and Warner Brother’s patient approach to this classic story by releasing it in two parts instead of editing and cramming this epic story in one movie. It gave the film maker’s time to be faithful to the book and cover the material adequately. The two part film is not a gimmick to squeeze more money like so many of the split chapter films hitting movie theaters these days. The break in the story is very well placed as the first part does tell an entire story. The only trouble is I have to wait a year to see the final play out.
DC Comics feature animation unit has been producing fantastic adaptations to its best comic book stories and sparing no expense in quality. These films also don’t play to a kid only audience as several of them, The Dark Knight Returns included, have PG-13 ratings and the ratings are clearly earned. Batman in the Dark Knight Returns is a much darker more violent character than what is featured in the live action films and that change of pace alone makes this direct to video animated feature worth checking out. Mostly what the Dark Knight Returns proves is that this great story desperately needs to be made into a huge budget major motion picture in the future, and hopefully they get the right creative people in place to make the most of this terrific story. Until then this animated feature will have to do, and despite some flaws, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is one of the best Batman movies to date.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.