Gotham City has become a haven for brutal violence. Crime has gotten completely out of hand to the point where it's no longer safe to walk the streets. Growing frustrated with the criminals who frequent the city, a 10 year retired Bruce Wayne dons the outfit once again as the Batman to save his city from total destruction. -summary
DC comics has been doing a fair enough job in recent years translating some of their more popular storylines into animated movie form, especially after Superman: Doomsday. More recently, I was impressed with the translation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One to animated form, therefore, I was pretty much expecting good things with The Dark Knight Returns. Directed by Jay Oliva, The Dark Knight Returns is the movie adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novelof the same name. This movie is the first part of two, and I believe Oliva does a splendid job recapturing the mood, tension, and messages of the book. The movie covers the beginning on to the final confrontation with the Mutants leader.
Upon coming into this animated movie I was worried about the visuals actually, to be specific, the artwork and backgrounds. Frank Miller used his artwork to convey quite a bit of his thoughts, in which it used a water splash design with a black and white backdrop. This was meant to establish the mindset of the current situation, in that there was no gray area of seeing things. Oliva must have known there was no way to translate this to animation without giving the movie a bland look. In animation you need the vibrant colors to help maintain the audiences attention. He was still able to paint a very dark and sinister world by using the right amount of lighting, in addition to relying on story elements to assist the visuals.
There's a great blend of style and substance to be found, as he uses the visuals to tell some of the story, and lets his narrative do the rest. The animation is probably the best I seen in a DC animated movie to date; the action scenes have very good choreography and move with a fluid finesse, you can see the blending of hook punches leading to back fist, and going into additional moves with no shortcuts in animation. The fight scenes are brutal and the sound effects make them better. It's like watching an extended battle between Batman vs. Jason Todd, in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
The character designs also stood out, with father time clearly catching up with Batman. He's still buff and intimidating, but he's not as lean as he was in his prime, and it definitely shows in costume. This is the kind of detail I like in my animation. And speaking of detail, I think the voice acting was spot on for an aged Batman. I will admit that I think for the first time Kevin Conroy has been outdone. Peter Weller does a far more convincing job portraying an older Batman here than Conroy did in the entire run on Batman Beyond. His voice is more gruff and even menacing. The music also works well into the mood and blends nicely with the action and drama.
The plot is done very well for the most part. Bruce comes out of retirement after finally being pushed by the media's coverage of constant violence across the city. From here he wages full war against the Mutants. Oliva tries to remain loyal to the original source material, and he touches on many of the inner themes consisting of media hype and propaganda, along with social and political awareness. While some of these themes aren't covered as deeply as the book, the point is still made and it feels relevant. I've noticed that many people have voiced their disappointment with the lack of monologue. Personally, I think it's there in the artwork and animation through Bruce's actions and facial expressions. Only because it doesn't take the form of speech bubbles, it doesn't mean it's not being said.
The characterization is pretty strong for the most part, such as clearly seeing Bruce isn't in the same shape anymore. Along with sub plots taking place and being wrapped up while others go into development. Fans of the book will know what's going to happen, while those who never read the story will have some idea. There are small things that needed very little development, but it will feel like serious unjust nitpicking to go in depth.
I will mention that parents need to be mindful when showing this to kids. Some of the violence is left up to the imagination, while there's more than enough brutality being displayed. There are full impact blows to the face and limbs broken. As well as many references to death and killing.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One so far is a very good adaptation. Most of the gripes I've heard about the movie lack a lot of focus, and some folks seem to not understand that somethings are going to be lost from book to movie. In any case, if you enjoy Batman, comics, or action packed movies, then this is something you will like.
Pros: -Animation, captivating story
Cons: -Very small development needed in small areas, but nothing big
When Frank Miller’s critically acclaimed “Batman Year One” saw a direct to video movie adaptation, fans knew that a movie adaptation of Miller‘s much hailed “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel was indeed coming. After all, “Year One” was Batman’s Alpha, and so a story can never be complete without an Omega. Warner Bros. animation is the one studio with the right stuff to bring the celebrated graphic novel come alive into the screen, and I … more
In the early 1980’s, comics veteran Frank Miller penned what many critics claim is one of the greatest graphic stories ever. It was called THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and it told the story of an old and gray Bruce Wayne. He’d long ago given up being the Batman – not because of any one reason in particular, though there was an obvious combination of events that culminated in Wayne hanging up the cape – and the streets of Gotham City quickly regressed into lawlessness. … more