Review: Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
Where do I begin? I had the opportunity to see an early release of Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. If you have been with me for a few months, you may have caught my review of the first part. In that review, I gave it many compliments and more than my seal of approval. So what did I think of the second part? There are SPOILERS AHEAD, so if you want to judge for yourself, skip down to the last paragraph for my spoiler free rating.
I’m not sure what happened with this, but it is definitely a case of “the sequel didn’t stand up to the standards the first one set.” Voice casting was horrible. I still enjoyed Peter Weller as an older Batman, and even the Joker had his moments, but overall it was nothing to write home about.
Portrayal of the Joker was wonderful, aside from the fact that he barely laughed. He was a psychotic maniac killer with no remorse. Other than him though, everything was wrong (and like I said, the voice could have been better – he’s no Mark Hamill).
The story begins with Batman disguised as an old hag in a store. A thug boss named Bruno robs a convenience store. Bruno was drawn horribly. The design was terrible. She wore no shirt with only swastikas over her nipples, and looked like a man. In fact, every female in this cartoon looked transgendered. At the same time, most of the men could have been drag queens. I’m not sure why this was done, but it was annoying. So Batman as the old hag takes out the goons and Bruno, but for some reason never takes a second to remove his old lady disguise. hmmm. Wierd at that.
Then we get to a scene with Clark Kent meeting with Bruce Wayne. Of course Clark hasn’t aged because he is Superman, while Wayne is old. Anyway, Clark is standing on a hill with an eagle on his arm and his shirt unbuttoned. Hair blowing in the wind, this iconic pose makes him closely resemble Fabio more than the hero he is. It is so cheesy, it forced me to shake my head. At the same time, Clark is now working for the President of the United States. By the way, this story is taking place in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan as president. President Reagan’s portrayal is downright awful. From voice acting to design to seeming like a dimwit, it is off on all accounts and downright offensive for some viewers I’m sure.
Finally, we get to a great scene. When the Joker appears on a television talk show, he murders everyone there. I can’t express how great this scene was, and you really get the feel for who the Joker really is. On another note, Batman is a fugitive and facing off against the Gotham City Police Department. On the roof of the building where the murders are happening, the real heroes can’t work together for five minutes, and they just leave the scene without investigating below. Oh, did I mention that Gotham police department is terrible. They can’t hit the broad side of a barn, and never catch their targets.
Apparently Selina Kyle, who is old and obese at this point, is running an escort service. Her cameo here was a little misplaced, but nice to see. While the GCPD is more focused on taking down Batman, he is chasing Joker into a tunnel of love. The amusement park sees its share of death. Joker killing everyone by shooting everything that moves is awesome. Robin’s battle, though short lived, with Joker’s goon ends greatly as well.
Now we get to the battle between Joker and Bats. When Joker gets a batarang in his eyeball, he barely flinches. No pain at all for some reason, and he continues on as if he were wearing an eye patch. At the end of the battle, Batman breaks Joker’s neck, but it doesn’t kill him, it only paralyzes him. Somehow even though he can’t move, Joker manages to finish himself off by making his own neck break sideways. Batman burns his body and is losing his grip on who his is because Joker stabbed him a dozen times in the stomach.
BATMAN SHOULD BE DEAD! but somehow he is immortal and manages to live only to fight Superman a few days later. That’s right I said Superman. After being caught in a nuclear explosion (the animation here is amazing by the way), Superman has not fully recovered. Bats and Supes duke it out, and with a little help by Green Arrow (who now has one arm), Batman beats Superman.
There is a lot I’m leaving out here, because the build up to this moment is great, but I’m not sure how he can even stand against the man of steel since his guts are still sewn together. Ridiculous and useless fight that proved only that Batman is still a force with which to be reckoned.
What really gets me is that Alfred dies of a stroke, which makes sense, and the Wayne manor is burned to the ground. Oh, Bruce Wayne also dies of a heart attack, but at his funeral we find out he faked his death. Not sure how he did this cause it doesn’t explain it. In the end, Wayne, Robin, Oliver Queen and the leftover mutants from part one build a new hideout/cave underground as a Bat-army.
SPOILERS ENDED. Okay, so I skipped a lot of detail, but didn’t want to waste any more of my time talking about something that really disappointed me. Bruce Timm in my opinion is the king of superhero animation, but sadly this interpretation of the graphic novel is not worth the time. Granted, this is only my opinion, but I’m a HUGE fan of ALL the DC animation series and films, and this one has officially replaced “All Star Superman” as the worst one yet. So here I sit, disappointed in something I had very high hopes for. I still recommend checking out part one, but with my rating of 3 out of 10 stars, I can’t say many great things about part 2. Please chime in with your thoughts if you check this one out.
Review: Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
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.
Superman vs The Elite: DVD review
“SUPERMAN VS THE ELITE” Review by Rick Pipito
Runtime: 76 Minutes
Warner Brothers pictures 2012
Starring: George Newburn, Pauley Perrette, Robin Atkin Downes, David Kaufman, Tara Strong.
Produced by: Bruce Timm
Directed by: Michael Chang
This review will have quite a few SPOILERS, so if you don’t want to know them, and are only looking for my rating of this animated movie, then scroll down to the last paragraph. That being said, let’s begin.
Two words can describe this film. “Fresh” and “Air”. That is exactly what it was. Superman is one of my all time favorite heroes, and while many people dislike him because of his over usage and too much power, Bruce Timm has made sure that another of his DC Animated Universe movies (the 14th to be exact), has hit its mark.
The movie begins with disasters abound. It truly shows the world and everything that is beyond human control. Fires, earthquakes, and even a small cameo by Dr. Light doing some terroristic type things. No matter how protected the world is with a Superman, this opening shows that he can’t do everything. And even when he does stop catastrophies, there will always be more.
Opening credits begin by showing all of the past animations of Superman. I think that this was a way to show how much of an icon he has been throughout the last century. It’s always been him. Once that ends, they begin by showing an animated Superman cartoon. It is in a different art style so that you know right off the bat, it is a cartoon inside the cartoon. Lois and Clark briefly discuss its quality.
Having George Newburn return as Superman’s voice (he was the voice of Supes in the animated 90s cartoon) was great. Like Kevin Conroy is to Batman, I really feel Newburn is the Man of Steel. I did not like; however, Pauley Perrette as Lois Lane. Sure, she still had typical Lois attitude, and it felt like Lois Lane, but Pauley’s voice was all wrong for the part. The only positive side to this is that she sort of sounded like Margot Kidder in places, but the delivery seemed off.
Clark has to leave his wife mid conversation as the Atomic Skull begins a killing spree in Metropolis to lure Superman out. Highlight of this battle? Superman shouting at the top of his lungs “Let GO!” His commanding voice blows out windows and the Skulls equilibrium; something you don’t see the man in blue and red tights utilize, almost at all.
Now we get to the core of what this story is about. There is a brief moment where Superman is standing over the Atomic Skull. He has to exhibit control over his emotions and this is evident as his fist is shown shaking. The last son of Krypton could very well use that emotion and kill the villain right there, but he chooses not to. When the United Nations confronts him about this, Superman defends himself by explaining that he believes there is core good in everyone, and he is not the one to play judge, jury and executioner. He is only there to intervene and protect others. The U.N. questions this by saying “Is this the Superman that the world needs?”
After leaving the conference, he zips at super speed across the world to break up a war, but a group of four young heroes show up to assist in stopping the chaos. Before Superman gets to ask who the other four are, they teleport away. Of course this puts Perry White in an uproar because he wants his top 2 reporters to find out more about the mysterious group. Jimmy Olsen is shown briefly, but is utilized appropriately. Perry is dead on par with how he should be, and the banter between Lois and Clark really does emanate not only their relationship, but the playful jabbing of a married couple as well.
Finally, Superman gets to meet the others as they show themselves to him. Manchester Black leads the group. ColdCast, The Hat, and Menagerie are the other three. I love the fact that they did this storyline. Although it was taken directly from the pages of DC’s back issue “What’s So Great About Truth, Justice & The American Way?” the characters and content are something we don’t typically see in animation. For once we aren’t stuck with Lex Luthor or an origin story. By the way I do love Lex as a villain, but I just want to see him utilized differently, as it gets abit redundant.
Superman mentions another of his forgotten about abilities here as Manchester explains his origin telepathically. An emotional and effective one at that. They are interrupted as Manchester hears hundreds of screams echo in his head. Now all five heroes have the chance to work together again, and Superman really pushes them beyond their limits. When the disaster is averted, Superman has to stop Manchester from almost making soup out of the brains of the ones responsible.
Soon after, the group of young heroes announces to the world that they are known as the Elite, and basically that Superman’s ways are obsolete. Those who kill or harm others, will be met with harsh punishment and death. The world seems a little frightened, but they eventually almost all side with the way they want to handle things. Those who don’t, fear them, because they are not bound by any laws.
Lois continues to investigate and a really cool shocker is in here that I won’t spoil. Where she finds her information is the twist.
The Atomic Skull breaks free from Strykers Island, and though it takes the combined efforts of Superman and The Elite to defeat him, people die in the battle. Manchester keeps his word and kills the Skull, as a boy (who just lost his father) tells him to. Clark flies off to confide in his parents at the Kent Farm, and this is another cameo of characters that is utilized well. It really shows what Superman goes through emotionally.
There is a quick glimpse of the shrunken City of Kandor in the Fortress of Solitude, and Superman shows the world that he can peacefully stop an overseas war. His efforts are gone however as the Elite show up and announce that they have eliminated both warring countries’ politicians. Superman can no longer hold back as he lets his emotions go, and punches Black. War is now declared among the metahumans and the Kryptonian.
I won’t spoil how the final battle goes, but all I can say is that Superman goes to a place mentally that screws with the minds of his enemies and the viewers. I know that Superman would never cross that line, but this end battle made me put that in doubt. It was very powerful, and well played out. All I can say is that it was a more emotional ride than watching Doomsday pummel Superman to death in the 1992 comic book… At least for me anyway.
All in all, I give Superman vs the Elite an 8 out of 10. The animation could have been better in spots, but there is most certainly no complaint from me. The story was outstanding, and with a different use of Superman’s abilities and new antagonists, this really makes me wonder if the DC Animated Universe will be able to top it in the future. It’s a must see for any fan!