spreading the talent

Review: Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Review by Rick Pipito

I have had the pleasure of watching one of the most unique Batman stories come to life in animation.  Some die hard fans may criticize me for reviewing this movie or even think about watching it without reading the original comic that it was based upon, but I did so because I know how things often don’t translate well from page to screen.  Now that I’ve seen it, I can go back and find the miniseries and read it to see the similarities and differences.  Warning SPOILERS AHEAD!

First, I’ll list the things I didn’t like:

1) Without a shirt on, I’d think Bruce Wayne should have visible scarring.  This isn’t there or even implied.

2) When the Mutant leader calls him out of the safety of his Batmobile Tank, Batman doesn’t hesitate when he is clearly outmatched.  This isn’t very Batman like to not use his brains, but since he is much older (55 years old), I can understand his wanting to prove himself to his inner thoughts.

3) Robin / Carrie Kelley suddenly decides she wants to put on a cape and save the day with Batman.  She’s naive and young, I get that, but that is not my issue.  The problem I have is that her acrobatic and medical skills are not really addressed.  I guess they will leave this for part two since, Batman did flat out ask her.  Still it would have been nice to know.

4) IF we were to assume that this story is in modern day, then it would make Commisioner Gordon around 90 years old.  I know this because he referenced World War Two and his old war stories.  A 90 year old Commisioner would not still be active.

Okay, that’s it.  There was nothing else that I didn’t like about this feature.  So here is where I really enjoyed the movie:

1) Peter Weller was a welcome addition for Bruce Wayne/Batman’s voice.  He sounded older, and his lack of emotion rounds out the feel of who Batman is.  I admit, I was skeptical at first, but for an OLD Batman, he was perfect.

2) Gordon sitting with Wayne in the diner in the beginning established their relationship.  It was obvious that Gordon knew Wayne used to be (Batman), and addresses that he couldn’t believe he was fooled by Bruce Wayne who acted drunk while drinking Ginger Ale, even though everyone thought it was Champagne.

3) Wayne drinking actual alcohol was interesting.  This showed his human side.  Without Batman, he didn’t know how else to cope.

4) The status of his relationship with Dick Grayson was mentioned as being nonexistent, and references to Jason Todd’s death were nice as well.  (Continuity wise with the comics, this wouldn’t gel however, as Jason is now alive in print).

5) The way that Bruce decides to be Batman again is a great buildup.  His dreams, memories, newspaper headlines, two muggers trying to mug him (which he scares away, as he begs them to try to mug him), and a drunken stupor that he drank himself into were really great story points.

6) Harvey Dent.  That is all I have to say.  Two-Face still existing even after his face was surgically altered to make him look presentable again was good, but when they showed a brief glimpse of what he’d look like with his entire face mangled, that was downright frightening.

7) Batman’s age shows.  He has to use a brace to repair his broken bones, but he also hits his victims repetetively.  A younger Batman could have taken them out in half the punches.  His willingness to use guns, and his rifle grapple gun are just another point to show that he knows he’s no longer in his prime.  Climbing a rope was too much for him at one point, yet he managed.  All of this combined made it that much more interesting.

8) At one point, I really though Gordon was dead.  I was shocked, but it worked well.

9) The easter egg in the convenience store was particularly for comic fans as a copy of “Sandman,” “V For Vendetta,” and “Swamp Thing” were on the magazine racks.

10) Batman still instilled fear in his old age.  One person even committed suicide after a brief confrontation.  That is how intimidating he remained.

11) The Batmobile/Battank reminded me of the Tumbler from the Chris Nolan trilogy, only cooler.  He took on an entire army of mutants with this vehicle and although I thought he was killing everyone, it seems he still kept true to his own morals by using rubber bullets.

12) The second battle between the mutant leader and Batman redeems Batman from his first.  This really shows that Bats fights with his brain.  The whole battle is strategically planned, and he takes his enemy down one limb at a time.  In my opinion, it was the most entertaining animated or live action fight I’ve ever seen in a Batman toon or movie.

Other notes of interest.

1) Lana Lang apparently has eaten way too much (not that I have a problem with overweight people because I don’t).  Lana was just known as this smallville girl who later did some journalism and fashion work.  She was shown here as the acting editor of the Daily Planet.  This is definitely a setup for Superman to appear in part 2. (he did in the comic)

2) James “Jimmy” Olsen was mentioned briefly.  (just another hint at part 2 I guess)

3) Before the bat signal was reactivated, Gordon got ahold of Batman on an old, red rotary phone.  This HAD to be a tribute to the Adam West Batman series, as that was how Gordon used to call him.

4) Batman wears 2 outfits.  The first is his classic Blue and gray when he first comes back.  After being beaten by the Mutant leader the first time, Batman dons a darker (black and gray) outfit that is more modern.

My review? Bruce Timm continues to bring us genius work.   I’m going all out and giving it a 10 out of 10.  Even with the things I slightly disliked, I can’t say they bother me that much.  I also have  to hope that those things will be addressed in part 2.

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