Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013) – straight-to-video
Running minutes: 76 minutes (1 hour, 16 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of action violence and some suggestive content
DIRECTOR: Jay Oliva
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

ANIMATION/SUPERHERO/ACTION

Starring: (voices) Peter Weller, Ariel Winer, Michael Emerson, David Selby, Mark Valley, Maria Canals-Barrera, Michael Jackson, Robin Atkins Downes, Carlos Alazraqui, Dee Bradley Baker, Paget Brewster, Grey DeLisle, Michael McKean, Frank Welker, Greg Eagles, Gary Anthony Williams, Jim Meskimen, and Conan O’Brien

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is a 2013 direct-to-video, superhero animated film from Warner Bros. Animation. It is the follow-up to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Starring Batman, one of DC Comics’ most famous superheroes, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 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.

This two-part movie 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 2 pits Batman against his greatest nemesis, the Joker, and his greatest rival/friend, Superman.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 opens in Arkham Asylum, where the Joker (Michael Emerson) has taken notice of the return of Batman (Peter Weller). After years in a catatonic state, the Joker begins to plot his next crime wave, but feigns regret for his crimes to his attending physician, Dr. Bartholomew Wolper (Michael McKean). Wolper helps the Joker get a guest appearance on “The Dave Endochrine Show” for some banter with host, Dave Endochrine (Conan O’Brien).

Meanwhile, the President of the United States (Jim Meskimen) asks Superman (Mark Valley) to put an end to Batman’s vigilantism, one way or another. Framing this request, the United States and the Soviet Union escalate hostilities over each nation’s claim to the small South American island of Corto Maltese.

As I wrote in my review of The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, 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. However, I also felt trepidation about the project, wondering would the filmmakers mess this up, one of my all-time favorite comic books, by delivering an inferior product? The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 turned out to be quite good, and The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is actually even better.

In the first film, the filmmakers seemed to focus on making the animation and production design duplicate the graphic design and visual style of particular scenes or panels from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comic book, the source material for this two-part movie.

In this second film, the emphasis is on the plot, which the filmmakers execute through fast-moving, often violent action scenes: fights, chases, military clashes, aerial battles, gun battles, riots, street-fighting, etc. In that regard, the animation, especially the character animation, serves this film well. Most of the fisticuffs and duels are a ballet of non-stop, nearly seamless motion that drags the viewer into the fray. Mostly, this is dude versus dude, and the animation does not fail the fights.

I found the voice acting to be surprisingly good, especially because I thought the voice performances in Part 1 to be mostly bad. Michael Emerson does some kind of weird, alternating soft voice/gruff voice thing that makes the Joker just a little more menacing. Peter Weller’s Batman, this time around, is much better, and Mark Valley gives Superman the depth he did not have in Frank Miller’s comic book. Also, Jim Meskimen does a great Ronald Reagan riff as the President.

There is an undercurrent of humor throughout this film, which makes me look at Frank Miller’s comic book a bit differently. The sly satire and effusive humor makes this film more than just an adaptation of a famous comic book. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is a great Batman movie – better than The Dark Knight Rises.

8 of 10
A

Sunday, March 31, 2013


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