PaulRom Reviews: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, PART 1
DC Animation's first part of their highly anticipated adaptation of the classic graphic novel (written by Frank Miller) is finally hitting DVD/Blu-Ray tomorrow. Is Part 1 as successful DC's other animated projects, or does it fall short? Hit the jump for my review.
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Gary Anthony Williams, Wade Williams, Michael Emerson
Director: Jay Oliva
Running Time: 1 hr. 16 min.
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action
Release Date: September 25th, 2012
One of the most critically acclaimed Batman graphic novels of all time is Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which sees an older, retired Bruce Wayne forced to don the cowl once more when a major threat hits Gotham City. Comic book fans have been wanting to see a film adaptation of the graphic novel for years (plot elements from the story have been used for this summer's The Dark Knight Rises). Now, as an answer to the prayers of many, DC Animation releasing a two-part adaptation of this particular story. Known for usually crafting excellent direct-to-video projects (such as Batman: Under The Red Hood, Justice League: Doom, and another Frank Miller adaptation, Batman: Year One), expectations were high for their latest production. And I'm thrilled to say that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 does not disappoint.
I haven't read the original graphic novel other than a few pages/panels, so I can't really say how close the movie is to its source material beyond the art work. And the film's animation is very close to the novel's art work. The animation depicts the futuristic Gotham City brilliantly, and the character designs were all spot on. The film is more violent than I initially expected, with the Mutant Leader being particularly brutal. The Mutants make a formidable threat to Gotham, and seeing Batman taking on the Leader was thrilling to say the least (the final fight between the two was particularly stunning).
The voice work is great, as expected. Peter Weller (best known as the original RoboCop) is very good as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His voice doesn't have enough emotion to it, and doesn't hold a candle to Kevin Conroy or Bruce Greenwood, but Weller does a solid job portraying the Dark Knight. Ariel Winter is also good as Carrie Kelly/Robin, while David Selby is excellent as James Gordon. Gary Anthony Williams is perfect as the villainous Mutant Leader, providing the intimidating voice needed for the character. Everybody else does a fine job with their respective characters.
Concerning flaws, there's only one that really sticks out: its running time (which is usually the case with DC Animation's films). At 76 minutes, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is a bit too short for my liking. While not rushed like Batman: Year One (its 64 minute running time made an otherwise fantastic movie feel quite rushed), I would've preferred to see Dark Knight a little longer (90 minutes would have been perfect). With these movies being so short, it's a great idea to adapt the graphic novel with two films, rather than cramming the whole story into one (which is exactly what the Year One movie did).
Overall, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is fantastic. Despite its relatively minor flaws, DC Animation have really outdone themselves with this film. Perfectly written, well acted and deliciously violent, this is a movie that I recommend to any Batman fan. The Joker cameo at the very end was the perfect set up for Part 2, which hits stores early next year. To say the least, I am very excited to see the next half of the story.
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