DOUBLE MOVIE REVIEW: “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” parts one and two is voiced by Peter Weller (Robocop , Star Trek Into Darkness), Ariel Winter (Modern Family [TV series], Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), David Selby (Dark Shadows [TV series], The Social Network), Wade Williams (Gangster Squad, Prison Break [TV series]), Michael Emerson (Lost [TV series], Person of Interest [TV series]), Mark Valley (Boston Legal [TV series], Human Target [TV series]), Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad! [TV series], Star Wars: The Clone Wars [TV series]), Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds [TV series], Dan Vs. [TV series]), Maria Canals-Barrera (Wizards of Waverly Place [TV series], Camp Rock), Michael Jackson (Moby Dick , Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), Carlos Alazraqui (Happy Feet, Toy Story 3), and Robin Atkin Downes (How to Train Your Dragon, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters). It is directed by Jay Oliva (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman vs. Robin). Based on the graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns,” this two-part film surrounds a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne (Weller) who comes out of retirement to don the cowl one last time to face an array of villains, both new and old. It will test his strength and patience as he is a has-been in an evolving, yet still crime-filled, Gotham.
The reason why this is a double review is because this film is really a compilation of two parts. Each boast the name “The Dark Knight Returns,” but they both have different tales on the same storyline. They are both combined to make a movie that is almost three hours long, making it a challenge to sit through, but I did. It tries to transition the first part to the next, and they did a good job, but I could still notice, and because of this I will split this review into two parts, examining each’s pros and cons on story and stating the great things they share as well as both scores into one at the end. So, here it is:
PART ONE– The first part is rather vague in details because of how long his film is so bear with me (I know enough to review the two parts!). In this, we get a grip around what circumstances Bruce Wayne is facing. He’s way past his prime to do what he does and he is forced to show his bat persona to the public when Harvey Dent (Williams) returns and a gang called the Mutants, people who commit crimes out of reason, is rising. Donning the cowl again is a fantastic plot device in this movie and I enjoyed this version of Batman. He has a chin bigger than both of his hands put together, but I love his whole character design and suit. The beginning is a great start. You get a feel for the crisis Gotham is in and with Commissioner Gordon (Selby) resigning in the near future, threat is imminent. For an animated movie it is very adult-oriented in terms of themes and that’s what I think attributes to it best. To see Bruce Wayne and Gordon having drinks at a restaurant and talking about his resignation while discussing threats is a good relief to know that they handle this storyline without goofiness. There are some moments where it can have dark humor, but I have no quarrel with it because it relieves tension while establishing a dark sense of the world that this story takes place in. One portion of this plot I thoroughly enjoy is the Arkham hospital where they try to rehabilitate the clinically insane. This is where Harvey Dent comes in. The doctors that run this joint believe they can be saved and that causes great fear, especially to the viewer. I wanted to punch the main doctor for hating on Batman because of how ignorant he is of the situation at hand is. Harvey Dent was a supple villain in this, but I was disappointed because he had such a minuscule role. He showed up and only had ten minutes of screen time. It can be a con, but to be honest, he makes a point to Batman at the end of his appearance that I really enjoyed. The main bad guy of this story is the Mutants. They are something new to my knowledge and in general, they are rather stupid. All of them are henchmen to a ruler that is more brawn than brain so it is really pointless. I saw no true threat to Batman with them. The idea of what they stand for is interesting and how they can be persuaded to do anything, but they were more of stand-ins for Batman to beat the crap out of. They do however set up an endgame in the second part so they aren’t totally useless. Another thing I will touch up on is the voice acting of the Mutants. All of them seem to have the same guy voicing them which I found funny. Besides that, when it comes to the flow of this story, that is the troubling part. The beginning was a terrific start, like I stated above, but once Harvey Dent came and went, it began to lose traction. The Mutants couldn’t hold up the story, so I had to wait until it cut to Bruce Wayne dealing with his inner guilt or news broadcasts displaying the burning argument of whether Batman should be considered a good or bad guy. Once it got towards the ending and Batman creates a great plan with Gordon, that’s when it starts to get good again. Don’t get me wrong, some scenes with the Mutants were good (like when Batman crashed their junkyard party), but overall they didn’t do well. In the end, this was a well-perceived start that provided a ingenious theme that did justice to the lousy foes. It has a great story overall and I enjoyed it! PART SCORE: 83%= Juicy Popcorn
PART TWO– Now we are at the good stuff. Meet the villains we all waited for: the Joker (Emerson) and Superman (Valley). I know, calm down. This is what part one is initially setting us up for and it is the best part out of the two. In this one, the Joker runs rampant after being in a form of limbo at the Arkham hospital, hoping to meet his reason for living, Batman. All the while Superman is being pressured into stopping Batman because of his ill-conceived attempts of securing justice in the eyes of the public. Bruce Wayne knows this and will prepare for both rivals in a climatic finale that is sure to do its own justice to the comic it is based off of. What I love the most about this plot is how we got past all of the origins and “how they got here” portion and can just look at the consequences of living in a changed world where Batman is not welcome. The Joker alone is a major step up from the Mutants and Harvey Dent combined. He’s a madman who you can somehow understand his purpose. For some reason, Joker is still a compelling villain and he most certainly shows no mercy in this storyline. I want to mention that this part steps up in the adult content from the last movie. What I mean by adult content is violence and questionable character designs. In the beginning of this part, Batman fights this woman who is topless with the only thing to cover up being two tattoos of swastikas on her breasts. It’s very weird to look at. The violence portion is definitely cynical, mainly surrounding the joker. He shows no remorse and at one point shot any civilian in site. It creates a dark aura which is actually what I want. I’m not being evil, it’s just a matter of Gotham being a gritty place. No villain will show mercy, especially if they are senile, which in most cases they are. I enjoyed this story more because it prompts Bruce Wayne to face his final acts as Batman. The story is more gripping and entertaining than its predecessor. Not only is there a theme within Batman, but everyone around him. Gotham’s citizens end up realizing a point. With cons in this certain part, I have three. The first would be Superman. I enjoyed his presence, but that’s just that: he doesn’t appear much. He only comes in the beginning, has one scene in the middle, and the shows up for the final battle at the end. It is a plus since it focuses more on Joker, but I would’ve enjoyed if I got to see more of a character development in Superman. My second con has to do with another character: Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow. He came in towards the end and had no real purpose. He was a cool character, but he was only needed in one part and that was it. He just felt thrown in. The last con would be it can get slow in some spots. In summarization, this is a fantastic part that blows the first out of the water. It displays how cynical Gotham is and how Batman tries his hardest to keep order. The Joker was a saving grace and the fight between Batman and Superman is a great send off to a really good movie. PART SCORE: 91%= Juicy Popcorn
FINAL RESULTS: These two both share common pros and cons that I will discuss. The first pro I’ll state is the animation. It’s very good and offers a great depth to the characters. The 3D animating can be rather off putting, but it held up altogether nonetheless. The final pro would be all the characters (except one) and voice acting. Almost everyone offered something to the table and each provide an underlying theme to look back on. This brings me to my one, and only, con (besides how it can drag) that all parts share: Robin (Winter). Now, this is the part that makes little sense to me. Let me begin by stating that I am not sexist. This new Robin is a girl and I don’t mind to fact of that. What I do mind is how one-sided and annoying she can be. Everything about her is a complete mystery. She’s this girl that saw Batman in action and decided to become her own Robin. For some reason to which I don’t understand, when she makes a suit she is able to fight and use acrobatic moves like all the Robins could. They never explained how she acquired these skills, she just has them. Another thing that makes no sense is how easily Batman trusts her and tells her all his secrets and makes her the new Robin. It felt extremely forced and their friendship felt fake. Every time she appeared onscreen I wanted it to just cut back to Batman. The only reason why she is used is to save Batman when he gets pummeled and for some reason that happens quite a bit. I just would’ve like it better if Batman was the lone wolf or had Gordon to help him. Overall this is a well-put-together film that gave an interesting story that is sure to entertain any Batman or comic book fan. I recommend anyone to watch it! FINAL SCORE: 87%= Juicy Popcorn
Here are the trailers: