Rickly's Review: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS - Part 1
DC Animation faces its stiffest test. Do they do justice in translating Franbk Miller's revered graphic novel into animated glory? Read my spoiler free review and find out!
Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment rarely do wrong...whether it be 10 minute shorts or films that span just over an hour. Frank Miller's novel here is one of the most acclaimed of all time and to me, despite DC's penchant for animation success, I felt it would prove challenging to properly stay close to the lore...
Splitting the book into 2 films proved a true stroke of genius...and as an everlong fan of Miller's book, they really knocked this out of the park.
The translation of Gotham's grit and violence while facing dystopic times is well sculpted. With a powerful soundtrack, there's a riveting and haunting feel as Bruce Wayne struggles with his retirement. Seeing Wayne and Jim Gordon cultivate a friendship in their old-age made for a lot of fun, and with so much actually brought straight from comic to the cartoon, it's a nice feel.
There's the gore, violence and gunplay that Miller loved to remain steeped in. Bruce reclaims his mantle and tackles the threats of the Mutant Gang and a certain two-faced villain as the shackles of Gotham are bound by crime and death once more. There's a nice chill factor that adds to the surrealism of the origin of Batman...notably, the death of Bruce's parents. Everything literally comes out the comic and it's in motion here. The action sequences are topnotch and instilled in the film, is that Christopher Nolan feel for those fans who admire the Brit...while the film still maintains that comicky feel to it. Certainly, Miller blended the best of both worlds well...and the film really remains high-octane and loyal to his book.
It took a while to acclimatize to Peter Weller's Robocop voice as Bruce (as I'm a loyalist to the esteemed Kevin Conroy) but I think that there was a dash of arrogance that voice director, Andrea Romano, needed and this is something that Weller developed well. It's a war-torn Bruce with spots of hubris in him...and it's just like that arrogant streak he had in the book...which will unfold when he squares off against a certain hero come the sequel.
Carrie Kelly's Robin plays well as support to Gordon and Wayne in the film as she, like Gordon, adds the stability and belief that Bruce needs. The same stands for Alfred. Romano nailed the voice casting, which also holds for the Mutant Gang, and the naysayers of the Bat. This film really needs the support voicework to mesh well...and it does...especially as Weller's voice takes some getting used to.
I just want to reiterate that fans should read the book before viewing this to fully appreciate it (and they could also see that TDKR included some pivotal scenes from the book...so yes...Nolan actually used comic-material)...and also, look out for nice little cameos from Sandman, Swamp Thing and Watchmen in this film. Yep...some little easter eggs that make a comic fan quite giddy.
The pace and the action are all remarkably done and the movie ends on just the right note. It's perfectly divided in its symmetry and the second half sets up nicely for that sequel. I really can't wait. This was one of the best hours spent engaging in animation...and here's looking forward to much more!
Rating = 5/5
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