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Review: 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1' Returns With A Vengeance [Review]

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, with hard-hitting action and deep character development, is a perfect film to watch if you're familiar with the graphic novel. If not, it's just a good film.

Above Image: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012), Batman (Peter Weller)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012) is directed by Jay Oliva, and stars Peter Weller (Bruce Wayne\Batman), Ariel Winter (Carrie Kelley\Robin), David Selby and Wade Williams. The movie picks up after Wayne has become an older recluse and Gotham City has become overrun with crime. He comes out of retirement to stop Harvey "Two Face" Dent and is joined by a teenage girl who wants to be the next Robin. Based on the seminal graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, the movie presents a much darker and visceral tone than previous incarnations. After Batman savagely beats a criminal, a horrified policeman says he crippled him. Batman responds, "He's young. He'll walk again. But he'll stay scared - won't you punk?" This Batman is not soft on crime. So, if you're looking for the Adam West Batman, you're in for a surprise.

Ten years after the government bans superheroes, and billionaire Bruce Wayne retires Batman, Gotham City is overrun with crime and terrorized by a gang known as "The Mutants." Wayne, now 55, is still friends with retired Police Commissioner James Gordon who encourages him to become Batman again. He's haunted by memories of  his parent's death, and news reports of crime around the city, but it's when Harvey "Two-Face" Dent (Wade Williams) is given plastic surgery, declared sane and released from Arkham Asylum that Wayne goes into action. Dent, face covered in bandages, threatens to blow up a building unless he's paid a ransom. Batman along with his tank-like Batmobile and arsenal of weaponry returns to clean up the streets.

The action in Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is insanely cool, with explosions and visual cues straight from the books. Directed by former storyboard artist Jay Olivia, the 76 minute movie moves at a brisk pace and, before you know it, the film is over. Part of that comes from the fact that the ending leads into Part 2. The film does a good job of translating the novel, but some parts feel rushed and a little out of place. While it's impossible to carry everything from the novel into the film, the screenplay by Bob Goodman captures all the important moments and dialogue.

The voice acting is excellent, although it takes some getting used to. Peter Weller's deep voice is perfect for the older Batman, with it's slightly sardonic tone, but I kept unfairly comparing him to Kevin Conroy from Batman: The Animated Series. 15-year-old Ariel Winter, Alex Dunphy from TV's Modern Family, does a great job as the frustrated young Robin who sees Batman as a surrogate father. Wade Williams, from Prison Break gives a touching performance as Two-Face. 72-year-old David Selby (Dark Shadows) has such great chemistry with Batman you really believe the two are old friends.

Dark Knight Returns Part 1 has no surprises if you've read the graphic novel, but if you've never read it, then it's got enough twists and turns to hold your interest. Overall it's a good film although not one of the best in the DC Universe animated series by Warner Premiere, Warner Bros. Animation, and DC Comics. It's well worth watching if you like your Batman dark and gritty. Keep your eyes out for my review of Part 2 which is on sale now, and coming to RedBox on February 26th.

Official Description
It is ten years after an aging Batman has retired, and Gotham City has sunk deeper into decadence and lawlessness. Now, when his city needs him most, the Dark Knight returns in a blaze of glory. Joined by Carrie Kelly, a teenage female Robin, Batman takes to the streets to end the threat of the mutant gangs that have overrun the city. And after facing off against his two greatest enemies, the Joker and Two-Face, for the final time, Batman finds himself in mortal combat with his former ally, Superman, in a battle that only one of them will survive.

Actors: Peter Weller, Michael Emerson, David Selby, Michael McKean, Ariel Winter
Directors: Jay Oliva
Writers: Bob Goodman
Producers: Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Sam Register

If you've seen the movie, what do you think of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1? Have you read the graphic novels? Do you like your Batman dark or light?

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  1. Peter Weller - impressive. I admit, I've never watched any of the animated shows, although I know they are done quite well.

  2. I watched it months ago on DVD. I wished they'd have found a way to change the cheesy Mutants. That might have been OK in the 80s but it hasn't really aged well. Anyway I guess Part 2 is out now so at some point I may watch it. Or not. The whole Batman vs. Superman thing was kind of stupid.

    1. The graphic novel is dated now, but I think they found ways to keep it fresh Pat. The fight between Batman and the mutant leader was brutally well done. Looking forward to part 2!

  3. This wasn't the best animated Batman movie, but it sure beats the hell out of that shitty Year One Animated movie. Fuck, that sucked.

  4. Weller has a fascinating career Alex.


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