Release Date: September 25, 2012
Genre(s): Superhero, Action, Crime, Animation
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Michael McKean, David Selby, Gary Anthony Williams
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer(s): Bob Goodman (screenplay)
Running Time: 77 minutes
Adaptation of: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (comic)
Synopsis: After the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, Bruce Wayne hung up his cowl and retired the persona of Batman. Now years later, Bruce’s inner demons, coupled by the sudden appearance of an old foe, beckon him to don the cape once again. But the now elderly Caped Crusader will need the help of a new ally—a young girl who emerges to take up the mantle of Robin and claim her place beside the once great Dark Knight.
Batman seated in the cockpit of the “Batmobile”, or as I like to call it—the “Bat-tankageddon”.
I’m a huge Batman fan, but things didn’t start out that way. In 1989, when I was five years old, my parents took me to see Tim Burton’s Batman. Now, I thought Batman was pretty cool, but the Joker really struck a chord with me and from that moment on, he would be my favorite fictional character—ever. After the film, Spider-Man still remained my favorite superhero. That finally changed when I was sixteen and read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This not only made me an instant fan of Miller, but the story elevated Batman to the number one spot on my list of favorite superheroes. I had seen all five live-action Batman films that had been released, seen every episode of the campy 60′s show and the incredible 90′s cartoon, but none of that made an impact like Miller’s story. The story is an incredibly grim, compelling, and dystopian take on an older Batman, written so well that it begs to be adapted into a film. That has finally happened, and it’s pretty spectacular.
“Guess who, you ugly motherfucker!”
Writer Bob Goodman and director Jay Oliva really put some effort into this adaptation. Goodman’s screenplay is so faithful, it seems like he just transcribed the comics text balloon by text balloon. Oliva’s background in storyboards seems to have come in handy during his directorial debut, as he carefully and accurately recreates some of the most recognizable panels in comics history. The animation team really busted their asses replicating Miller’s original, heavily-shadowed, and unique artstyle—I imagine they ran out of black ink at least twenty or so times. Absolutely no detail seems to have been omitted, even simple things I was sure would be cut out like the “My Name is” t-shirts. The animation is just fantastic—as usual with these DC Universe animated features—and the fast-paced action scenes flow effortlessly.
The cast deserve plenty of credit too. Voice director Andrea Romano once again assembles a surprisingly great ensemble to voice this feature, including Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Carrie/Robin, and Michael McKean as Dr. Wolper. Fucking RoboCop is elderly Batman! That’s some inspired casting, that turned out beautifully; Weller’s Bruce Wayne is easily best of the bunch. Winter’s Carrie is exceptionally great as well; she seems to really nail the courage, spirit, and sass that makes the character so lovable.
Seriously, bro?! You want to take THAT thing on? It has a neck for fuck’s sake.
As amazing of an adaptation Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 is, it’s not without it’s flaws. The pacing in particular seems to be a bit of an issue within the film—it seems that Miller didn’t really have a film version in mind when he constructed the story, and Goodman perhaps translated the source material a little too faithfully. Don’t get me wrong, the film will hold your interest well, it just has a few speed bumps. Another possible downside to viewing this film is you pretty much have to know quite a bit about Batman’s history to get everything that is going on. If all you know is Christopher Nolan’s incredible recent trilogy, you’ll most likely be a little lost during this film. Besides those minor tears in the proverbial batsuit, this adaptation is a must-see for any Batman fan. I’m really looking forward to Part 2(which adapts issues #3 and #4 of Miller’s original four-issue mini-series)—that’s when all the crazy shit goes down.