Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1" Captures Frank Miller's Original

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012) – straight-to-video
Running minutes: 74 minutes (1 hour, 14 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action
WRITER: Bob Goodman (based on the characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)
EDITOR: Christopher D. Lozinski
COMPOSER: Christopher Drake
ANIMATION STUDIO: Moi Animation Studios


Starring: (voices) Peter Weller, Ariel Winer, David Selby, Wade Williams, Carlos Alazraqui, Dee Bradley Baker, Paget Brewster, Michael Jackson, Grey DeLisle, Michael McKean, Frank Welker, Gary Sturgis, and Greg Eagles

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is a 2012 direct-to-video, superhero animated film from Warner Bros. Animation. Starring one of DC Comics’ most famous superheroes, Batman, this is also the 15th feature in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line. Once again, Bruce W. Timm is an executive producer on the film,.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is an adaptation of the four-volume, comic book miniseries, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which was written and drawn by Frank Miller, with inks by Klaus Janson and colors by Lynn Varley. First published in early 1986, the series tells the story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to once again fight crime as Batman.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 opens in a dystopian, near-future version of Gotham City, where Batman has not been seen for ten years. Meanwhile, a savage new breed of criminal, exemplified by a group called the Mutant Gang, terrorizes the Gotham. Gotham City police Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon (David Selby) looks forward to retirement, but his good friend, 55-year-old Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller), chafes at being retired as Batman.

Wayne is haunted both by visions of his past, in particular the deaths of his parents, and by what could have been if he’d remained Batman. The disappearance of Harvey Dent/Two-Face and the escalating violence of the Mutant Gang lead Wayne to return as Batman. Not everyone is happy to have the Batman back, even Bruce’s butler’s Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Jackson), is disapproving. Meanwhile, a young woman named Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter) is inspired to fight crime by Batman’s return.

I was excited to hear that Warner Bros. Animation was adapting the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns comic book as one of their direct-to-DVD animated films. I also felt trepidation about the project. Would the filmmakers mess this up, one of my all-time favorite comic books, by delivering an inferior product? I didn’t need to worry. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is actually quite good.

There are moments in this film, when the animation and/or production design manage to duplicate the graphic design and visual style of particular scenes or panels from Frank Miller’s comic book. This is a well-executed film, and there are very few dry or slow moments. The movie does seem a little odd, as if it weren’t quite a Batman story, although Frank Miller’s seminal comic book has always seemed like a real Batman thing to me.

I have to say that I find the voice acting to be mostly bad, but I’m so happy that the filmmakers captured Frank Miller’s first Dark Knight comic book so well that I can overlook that. I am anxious to see Part 2.

7 of 10

Saturday, January 26, 2013

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