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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,
Part 2 (2013)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/29/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/29/2013
George Santayana once wrote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But, let's face it, at this point in time, there is a lot of history out there and it's impossible to remember it all. And even really important things can slip your mind after enough time has passed. Or, these things can lose their power after a certain amount of time. The Cold War plays a huge part in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. While watching it, I suddenly remembered how much this effected by life in the 1980s. I also suddenly realized that my children knew very little about it. This may make the movie feel a bit dated, but it doesn't diminish the overall effectiveness of Frank Miller's creation.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 picks up just after the events ofPart 1, where several significant events had taken placed. Batman (voiced by Peter Weller) had defeated the leader of the violent Mutant gang, and most of the gang members had change their affiliation to "The Sons of Batman". Batman had taken on a new Robin in the guise of a young girl named Carrie Kelley (voiced by Ariel Winter). Also, The Joker (voiced by Michael Emerson), who is incarcerated in Arkham and who had been in a catatonic state for years, suddenly came to life. Meanwhile, The President (voiced by Jim Meskimen) (who is clearly Ronald Reagan), is dealing with a crisis in which the United States and the Soviet Union are battling over an island. Thus, he doesn't need the distraction of Batman being back in action. So, he asks Superman (voiced by Mark Valley) to help with this. Meanwhile, Ellen Yindel (voiced by Maria Canals-Barrera) takes over as police commissioner in Gotham City for the retiring Gordon (voiced by David Selby) and she immediately puts a price on Batman's head. The Joker's physician, Dr. Wolper (voiced by Michael McKean), arranges for his patient to go on a local talk show in order to give his side of the story. Batman, who is struggling physically with being back in action, must deal with all of these problems, while trying to keep Robin safe.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 continues the adaptation of Frank Miller's landmark 1986 comic book creation. As noted in my review for Part 1, I have never read the comics (I always meant to, but I'm more of a Marvel guy.), but my research has shown that the movies stick to Miller's story. Part 1 introduced us to a Gotham City of an alternate future where a now 55-year old Bruce Wayne brings Batman out of retirement as the city is falling into chaos. He reluctantly takes on a new (female) Robin and manages to defeat the gang. Part 1 concluded with The Joker coming back into the picture, which set up great expectations for Part 2.
The most interesting aspect about the second half of The Dark Knight Returns is that it continues the story of Part 1, and yet somehow introduces an almost completely new plot. The inclusion of The Joker, Superman, Commissioner Yindel and the Cold War subplot show that Miller didn't feel limited in creating a huge new world for this older Batman to explore.
However, while it is certainly a worthy adaptation, Part 2 simply isn't as good as Part 1. For starters, the promise of the newly animated Joker never really pays off. Yes, he goes back to his old ways, but this version of The Joker lacks any real pizzazz and only has one funny line. Aside, from these creepy dolls who work for him, his scenes are lackluster and his storyline is over too soon. The inclusion of Superman (along with some other nice cameos) helps to open up the story into the DC universe, but some of it feels "staged" for lack of a better word, especially the scenes with Superman and the President. While they were published around the same time, since I saw the Watchmen comics first, I felt that the idea of Superman winning a war for the U.S. wasn't very original. Speaking of which, the way in which Yindel has the police hunt Batman doesn't come across as feeling very new either. The finale goes on for too long, although the coda is satisfying.
While it may not work as a whole, The Dark Knight Returns is still worth seeing, especially when one notes how much it influenced Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies. The animation is good and the voice acting is fine (although I found Michael Emerson's Joker to be a big flat). The movie earns its PG-13 rating as it's quite violent and many people die in Part 2, and DC deserves credit for not scaling back on Miller's work. It may not be perfect, but Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is a fine example of how a complicated/epic comic story can be brought to the screen. I would love to see someone give "Kraven's Last Hunt" from the Spider-Man books this sort of treatment.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 makes one question the practice of giving lipstick to mental patients on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. The picture is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good (although they aren't very vibrant) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the HD transfer doesn't reveal any issues in the animation. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is one of those tracks where you have to stop and remember, "Someone had to create all of those sounds." The stereo effects are good, especially when sounds are moving from side-to-side. The surround effects come to life during the action scenes, and the Bat-copter sounds fill the rear speakers. The explosions and gunshots bring the subwoofer to the party and its clearly glad to be there.
The Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide" (9 minutes) has a group of DC luminaries discussing the Batman and Superman characters, and how their struggle has been represented in the comics. They also talk about some of the themes in The Dark Knight Returns books. "The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death" (14 minutes) gives an overview of the history of The Joker in the comics and how he relates to other characters in literature. This leads to an examination of the character in The Dark Knight Returns. "From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Olivia" (44 minutes) has the director explaining many aspects of the movie, including how the movie has to be an combination of the screenplay and the original comic. This includes Olivia providing commentary over test art and storyboards. The Disc includes bonus episodes from Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. We also get sample pages from The Dark Knight Falls by Frank Miller.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.