Movie Review – The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1&2 (2012 & 2013)

Director: Jay Oliva

Stars: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Paget Brewster, Richard Doyle, Gary Anthony Williams, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Maria Canals-Barrera, Robin Atkin Downes, Michael Jackson

Based on Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns: Parts 1 & 2 takes place in the latter years of Batman’s career. After the death of Robin, Batman has become grizzled and retired, although Gotham still suffers from a disease of crime. A new gang, the mutants, are rampaging through the streets, and Bruce Wayne decides to resume his fight against crime. But in doing so he awakes an old adversary, The Joker, who has a plan in store for him. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon is in the process of retiring as the commissioner and the new regime sees Batman as an outlaw, and due to his activities the President threatens to send his right-hand man – The Man of Steel – to defuse the situation.

I was debating whether to write these as separate reviews or not, but decided to lump them in as one because the graphic novel is a single story and, although I think the first movie works fairly well on its own, I don’t think you’d want to watch part 2 without the first part. Now, I love the graphic novel although I recognize it as a story where Batman has been taken to the extreme, and certain factors (like Superman) are twisted a little bit in order to serve the story. I’m going to quickly mention Superman v Batman here because it seems to be taking a lot of inspiration from this graphic novel, and I’m not sure it’s the right way to go, but we’ll see.

Anyway, although the second part has a lot of what people will probably want to see (The Joker and the fight with Superman) I actually think the first part is a better movie. It feels like it has a smoother narrative and it works well to show Batman returning to the streets. I loved the direction and the animation is superb, and I really noticed the music and the sound effects here and the way they complemented the story. The voice acting is great and the film captures the mood and the tone of the graphic novel. The second part has some harrowing imagery as the stakes rise and Batman gets pushed to his limit, but there are also some touching moments as well.

Coming into this I pretty much knew that I wa going to like it because I love the graphic novel, and this adaptation definitely does it justice.

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