Twas one of the coldest days I’ve experienced since moving out to the NYC area, and I chose to wait in line to see the exclusive premiere to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. The Blu-ray is being released next Tuesday the 29th and has been available on digital download for a while now, but I received a free ticket to see the New York City premiere of the movie at the Paley Center for Media on W. 52nd St, how could I pass that up?! After bearing temperatures that only Mr. Freeze could withstand I finally made it into the warmth of the theatre and was ready to enjoy the epic conclusion to animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic.
What I really enjoyed about this adaptation is that the translation from book to screen was close to perfect. A story that still stands strong today, The Dark Knight Returns is probably one of the greatest Batman stories of all time. Warner Premiere and DC have an awesome partnership on these animated movies and they just keep getting better and better as time goes by. I just wish that DC and WB could get on the same page for their live action movies, something that I think is coming but will take studio dedication to providing the proper storytellers. Let the people writing the “funny books” write the scripts, ’nuff said. TDKR starts with the Joker awaking from his “trance”, basically paralleling the return of the Batman to Gotham City, the Ying and the Yang of the city. It’s funny because I think back to The Killing Joke when Batman asks the Joker, or who he thinks is the Joker at the time, “What’s going to happen to us. In the end. We’re going to kill each other, aren’t we?” For those of you who have not read Miller’s story or know the ending to TDKR stop reading now cuz there’s major spoilage ahead.
First off, Michael Emerson (LOST) plays a genuinely creepy Joker. It’s difficult to get Mark Hamill’s voice out of your head when you think of what the Joker should sound like and I have a problem when anyone else portrays him, BUT I’ll tell you what… Emerson hits it out of the park. From the return of the Joker on the set of the Dave Endochrine show to his homicidal attack at the carnival, Emerson does a superb job of creeping me out. I think the scene at the carnival was the most difficult to watch with the recent shootings and all the talk of excessive violence in media, it even made me think “man, this is a little too much” but it’s funny because the whole ideology of Batman is how much he hates guns and there is even a line in this movie in which Batman says “A gun is a coward’s weapon. A liar’s weapon. We kill too often because we’ve made it easy… too easy… sparing ourselves the mess and the work.” Like I said, relevant. As you know, if you read the story, the carnival is the Joker’s last stand and is also the point in which Batman becomes a criminal. After the savage, bloody fight between these two “animals” the Batman breaks the Joker’s neck and with his last breath the Joker tells the Batman that even though he is dying that he has won, he made Batman lose control. The thought here is how else do you stop this monster, a storm of homicidal proportions?? I think it’s interesting when Batman questions himself how many deaths COULD he have prevented by killing the Joker at an earlier point in his career, THAT is the decision Batman has to deal with all the time! What would you do?! Frank Miller answers that question, kill the Joker. Miller pushed the character of the Batman to places no other writer has and that is what sets this Batman story apart from the rest.
Something I really enjoy about this film are the themes presented within Millers writing and Jay Oliva’s directing. When Miller wrote the story the Cold War was in effect and the world stood on the brink of destruction. But in this DC interpreted world the USA had a super weapon of their own, Superman. So here you have Gotham City, where one man cannot use violence to clean up the streets and is labeled an outlaw, yet the USA can use a Meta-being to tip the balance of world politics in their favor, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Miller’s clear criticism of “the American way” is very apparent in The Dark Knight Returns, and his take on Superman as the “bad guy” is greatly appreciated. Mark Valley (Human Target) voices Superman in the film and he does a good job, what I liked most were the interactions between him and President Regan. President Regan is played by Jim Meskimen (There will be Blood) and he plays the part to great humorous proportions. The epic throw-down between old friends is the conclusion of the story and also the parallel between the two super-forces opposing each other on the world battlefield. I won’t go too much into detail but let me tell you it’s AWESOME and you need to watch it in action whether you’ve read the story or not especially when a certain Emerald Archer shows up. Another interesting, and rather humorous, scene is earlier in the film when Clark is asking Bruce to step down and not continue his heroic path. Look at the eagle and the wolf that represent each character, like I said heavy use of themes, and cheese. During the panel that followed the film, Jay Oliva talks about how much fun it was to panel out this fight and how his work on story-boarding the fight scenes in the upcoming Superman movie Man of Steel is very similar. This statement gives me some hope for that film.
As a whole, The Dark Knight Returns is worth the 3 hour sit down, if you can handle it! The re-arranging of certain parts of Miller’s original story was necessary to the way the film was separated into 2 movies. This allows for certain elements of the story not to be spoiled too early and for a more cohesive flow throughout the movie. I give TDKR P2 5 outta 5 stars. DC and Warner Premiere’s animated movies only get better with time like fine wine, and they raise the bar in what is expected for comic book animation these days. I am really looking forward to the Flashpoint adaptation, I hope that they separate that story-line into 2 parts as well. Check out the following videos from the panel that followed the premiere, featuring (from left to right):
Michael Uslan: Producer, Author, Batman Expert, Jay Oliva: Director, Andrea Romano: Dialogue/Casting Director, and Gary Miereanu: Director of Publicity for WB Animation.
So be a good soldier and pick up your copy of The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 in stores now, Part 2 hits Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday the 29th! Digital Download available NOW!
Come back soon to DFAT for news and updates for DC and Warner Premiere’s next animated feature Superman: Unbound!!