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.
After suffering a crushing defeat, Batman recollected himself and challenged the leader of the Mutants gang one more time. This time breaking the leader and completely destroying his gang leaving the remnants to take up new allegiances, with one of them proudly claiming themselves as Sons of Batman. Due to this, Batman has made new enemies with intentions on bringing him down. -summary
If this comic to film adaptation is a taste of things to come, then DC baby keep them coming non stop. After being thoroughly impressed with the first volume retelling Frank Miller's amazing graphic novel Dark Knight Returns, this continuation was indeed at the top of my list for movies to see in 2013; and I tell you, Jay Oliva managed to do Frank Miller's masterpiece some serious justice. I don't believe it's an exaggeration if I say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has finally been toppled as the best Batman movie ever. This final volume covers a majority of the key points in Miller's book such as the final confrontation with The Joker as well as its political satire.
After I finished this movie I decided to browse through the book, and the movie impressed me even more as it nearly felt like a play by play of the book. Oliva deserves props for his attention to detail attempting to remain faithful. The visuals were outstanding in capturing the inner monologue of the book. This is one of those rare occasions where pictures, music, and sound effects were able to trigger my imagination, and I was able to visualize moments that would have indeed needed dialog to carry the emotional effect. For example, early in the movie Superman makes an appearance to confront Batman about coming out of retirement, and while he was approaching Gotham City, without anyone ever telling me I could feel he was "faster than a speeding bullet", "more powerful than a locomotive". The animation and sound effects were able to describe Superman as an outer world physical force of nature, almost god-like, that could probably destroy an empire if necessary. Even if I wasn't a fan of the character, his impact in comics would have been very difficult to continue brushing off.
The action scenes aren't as great as the first movie though, which is completely due to the type of opponents Batman had to face here. In any case, there were moments of good choreography, but the painful blows and savagery are what stood out the most. Peter Weller continued voice acting duties for Batman/Bruce Wayne, and again, he does an excellent job portraying a much older Batman than Kevin Conroy did in Batman Beyond. As for Michael Emerson as the Joker; he plays a more serious psychotic version of the Joker than Mark Hamil. Hamil always appeared to be having fun with the character, obviously playing the role within the restrictions of a kids show. Emerson feels a lot more serious, as this Joker character could have fit in as a killer in some of these crime dramas we see on the big screen. I liked this performance, because he was a great fit for the style of this animated movie. The entire cast performed their roles nicely with Ariel Winter, David Selby, and Maria Canals-Barrea receiving honorable mentions from me.
The story and plot are every bit as captivating as the book, with various plot threads going on and wrapping up great by the end. Batman soon has to deal with the Joker after he schemes his way out of Arkham, and later the new police commissioner Ellen Yindel makes it her goal to bring Batman down. The movie is very well paced and the sub plots don't seem to clash with one another. I'm sure some people will have those moments they care to see more than others, but Oliva's direction sees to it everything feels just as important. Now I know fans of the book would probably like to know how well the actual narrative translates over. Surprisingly, there are many moments here to me the movie did a better job getting Miller's vision across. One of the moments that stood out to me was definitely the confrontation with the Joker. Batman clearly had enough of him and this time it really felt like this was the end. The guilt of keeping this mad man around for so long felt genuine, and the Joker appeared dead set on embracing whatever the outcome was going to be. This stands as the second best encounter between the two for me in comic and movie form with The Killing Joke still being the best.
I also feel the depiction of an older Batman translated to film far, far better than the book. Batman looked and fought his age, since he wasn't able to easily put down opponents as he did in his younger days. Like the fight against the Mutant leader, there was this feel he could actually lose. Other moments such as the open debate on vigilantism and government propaganda didn't possess the same impact as the book, yet the movie did get the point across enough. I enjoyed the movie from start to finish, and if I have any gripes with it at all, it's that on many occasions it felt like the enemies were firing blanks. It just seemed like everyone had very lousy aim despite shooting right at Batman. I think these segments could have been written a little better. And although not a flaw for me, due to the excessive violence and dark content, this movie is not at all for children. This is not something you sit down and enjoy with the whole family. There are some brutal killings and even harsh language.
Overall, I am beyond pleased with this release as it's easily the best comic to move adaptation I seen. Now I'm not praising the movie because of how closely it follows the source material, in all honesty, I can care less how well the movie follows it, but it's a plus that it actually does though. Both movies clock in at over 2 hours, and it's just a joy to see how seriously these comic book stories are being taken. I really hope this is the beginning of a new trend here, because many of these story lines need more than 60-70 minutes in order for them to translate over properly. In any case, I highly recommend this entire two part movie to those who love superhero movies, animated movies, dark stories, or Batman.
-Entertaining watch all around
-Too dark for children, some elements could have been better put together
Frank Miller’s critically acclaimed mini-series/graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” had arguably re-defined the Batman mythos. It was such a monumental undertaking that for its storyline to be adapted successfully, one would need to consider a number of certain variables. Producer Bruce Timm and Jay Oliva whetted my appetite with the first chapter (see my review of the first film by clicking here) of their adaptation a few months ago, that I could safely say that it may be … 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