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.
Rick Pipito Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises
It has taken me a few hours, but now I can breathe and tell you what I thought about The Dark Knight Rises. My rating right off the “bat” (pun intended) is a 9 out of 10. There were a couple problems I had, but I got over them quickly, and I’ll explain below. I am going to go in depth about quite a few of the MAJOR SPOILERS, to perhaps open a discussion. If you’d like a review without spoilers, check out my brother’s review. Again, I will have to warn you that there will be Spoilers after this paragraph.
“And here we go,”… again. Christopher Nolan has given us an epic work of art. This whole trilogy as individual installments was outstanding, but as a whole, they are EPIC! That being said, he has stayed true (for the most part) to the fans of the Batman universe and for one final time, he has pulled no punches. I noticed three things that stood out to me. Elements of this story were taken from four major plots from the 1990s and early 2000s. (Knightfall, Tim Drake, No Man’s Land, and the Talia/Bane relationship.)
It has been 8 years since the death of Harvey Dent, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Batman is no longer needed by the city, and Wayne is basically considered Howard Hughes at this point. Here was my first issue with this point. Could Batman really stay out of it for that long? It seemed like too long of a gap for me. Batman became obsessed in the comics with protecting Gotham. So why can I ignore this? Because he didn’t need to be the bat anymore. The Harvey Dent act made organized crime extinct.
From the explosive opening on the plane, Tom Hardy really shows how menacing Bane is. Okay, so my second problem with the movie was that there was nothing called “Venom” running through tubes to beef up Bane into a monstrosity. Then I saw the movie, and accepted the changes greatfully. Though I would have loved to see that, I think the choice to alter his story slightly was a wise one. His background of being born and raised in prison was kept true to the comics, with the added part of him needing the mask. The mask could have been talked about more, but it was highlighted to the point of knowing that it kept him from feeling any pain.
Still not convinced? Okay, let me put it this way. Say you get into a fight with someone who is visibly a lot stronger than you. There have been plenty of times when the smaller person wins because of speed and size. A smaller person can maneuver around someone and manage to land more hits to take down his/her larger opponent. Now, take the same situation, but substitute someone that can experience no pain for the muscle bound one. Now its a whole different battle. How the hell do you take down someone who you can’t even hurt?
The Camera angles and vicious fight sequences between Bane and Batman made Tom Hardy really look monstrous anyway, so there was no need for the steroid compound. He even punched a chunk of concrete off of a pillar at one point. Oh, and as a fan, I will admit, I had a tear in my eye when he lifted Batman over his head and literally Broke The Bat! It was the exact same scene from the comics, and replayed nicely. I couldn’t believe it.
Christian Bale also did an amazing job as usual. I still want to giggle a little when I hear his Batman Bark, but overall, his performance was great. Bruce Wayne had nothing left to live for, and the emotional scene between him and Alfred, where he tells Alfred “goodbye,” had half the people in the theater choked up. The battle Batman deals with in this movie isn’t just Bane either. He is dealing with his own self managment. He has shut himself out from the world, and has to realize at his deepest darkest hour, what he needed to do. Bane made the Joker look like a joke. He was a terrorist mastermind that even fooled the world’s greatest detective.
Speaking of detectives, John Blake was an unexpected surprise. Joseph Gordon Levitt was probably the highlight of the movie for me. I knew something was up, and from the second he told the background story of his parents and the foster care by Bruce Wayne’s donations, I turned to my wife and said, “Holy $#!+. That’s Robin.” Yes, his name may have been changed, but he literally was Tim Drake from the comics. My suspicions were placed in concrete when Bruce told him that he needed a mask to protect his loved ones, and gave him the coordinates to the batcave. And yes, his first name was revealed to be Robin.
So Batman had a sidekick, and so did catwoman… well, sort of. To my knowledge, they never said what Selina Kyle’s roommate/thief friend’s name was, but she most definitely was Holly Robinson from the comics. A short and fun role that was worked in well. But the highlight here isn’t the sidekick, it’s the main act. Anne Hathaway was the best Selina Kyle/Catwoman I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent, but I feel that Anne really made the performance top. The head piece and hair could have been done differently for the cat look, and I missed the nails and whip, but she kicked major ass. Both the good guys and the bad guys, really weren’t ready for the beating that she could dish out.
So other than the three main performances, what else can be said? Well, all of the supporting characters (Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth) were a pleasure to watch. Speaking of pleasure, there was also Marion Cottilard as Miranda Tate. I figured it out, from the second that Ra’s Al Ghul was mentioned and Wayne and Tate slept together, that this wasn’t who it appeared to be. I knew she was Talia Al Ghul, but wasn’t expecting the twist (quite literally) that happened when she revealed her true colors. I only wish that if the series were to go on from here, that Talia would have survived with child of Bruce Wayne. Afterall, Damien Wayne (their child) is now the current Robin in the comics, so it would have been something extra, but not needed.
Liam Neeson is another one. He showed up in a brief cameo as Ra’s Al Ghul. I loved how he explained that he was immortal in more ways than one, and that it was just left that way. On the same note, Cillian Murphy reprised his role as Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. This time he was judge at blackgate prison. I only have this to say… I think that if Heath Ledger was still alive, this role would have been given to him as the Joker. It would have made more sense to have the joker carrying out these sentences in the way they were portrayed, and had Murphy do something else to complete it, but still, it brought a smile to my face, regardless of who was sitting on the judge’s chair.
One final role that I wasn’t expecting was Roland Daggett. In the animated series from the nineties, I recall the one episode with Daggett. How do I remember this? Because in that episode, he was the man directly responsible for the creation of Clayface. He didn’t have a large role and there was no clayface, but it showed that he could be brought in at some point. Another quick throw out was when the police laughed at Gordon’s claim that there was an army of mercenaries in the sewers. Someone said something along the lines of “Sure, and I guess you want me to believe there is a giant alligator down there too.” This was an obvious reference to Killer Croc.
Look, for those of you who might have a problem with the ending, tell me why… I mean, it is obvious that Batman is not dead. He was seen in Florence with Selena Kyle, Gordon had a repaired batlight, and he had a new protege (adopted son) to keep an eye on. It wasn’t Batman that died, it was Bruce Wayne. Don’t you see? This was a potential setup by Chris Nolan so that someone can take these loose ends and run with them. This trilogy was all about Batman beginning. Now he is established. Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be anymore. Batman is the key. He always was. It was that way in the comics as well. Who knows, maybe a little Helena Kyle (Huntress) could be on their way as well somewhere down the line.
From the number of days it took Wayne to heal his back to the severing of Bane’s tubes, this movie may have altered a few things, but stayed true all around. My brother mentioned the vehicles in his review. I disagree with his view. The Tumbler and Batpod were damn cool, and though I wasn’t too happy about the Bat, it definitely gave me a temporary satisfaction for the batwing.
My final thoughts are this. Please PLEASE PLEASE… whoever is in charge at Warner Brothers/DC, do NOT start this franchise over! Everyone wants to see what happens next. You now have a Justice League movie in the works. This is your first step. Batman exists in a universe. Use that universe. Perhaps Wayne will come off of his sabatical/fake death once the world needs heroes. You can recast him if you need to, but keep Nolan’s universe alive. I will be sad to hear if this truly is the end of such an epic era of Batman.
The Dark Knight has risen to the challenge of what The Avengers has brought to the table. DC has hit as hard as Marvel, now let’s watch each side continue to bring us the most entertaining films of all time! Please, if you have any comments, make them. I’d love to get a discussion going on everyone’s thoughts.
Dan Pipito Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises
Let me start by saying, that this is really my first review. Sure, I’ve chimed in on some of Rick’s past reviews, but this is really my first solo article. For comic continuity I run everything by Rick. See, I recognize story lines, and the names of the masked and unmasked, but I’m not close to knowing who or what should and shouldn’t be. I do get excited when I see something on screen that I can relate to, and think “wow is what I think going to happen really going to happen?”
At 4:30 this AM I was pretty much all smiles. I love Batman and as a character I want this vigilante in my city to clean up the filth on the streets. Chris Nolan on the past three films has put a dark, realistic spin on Bats and his comic world, and I give a thumbs up to him on his trilogy. His character designs for the enemies are everything I wanted: A mysterious and magical, but lethal Ra’s Al Ghul; A Scarecrow that literally made me cringe and feel as if I was poisoned by his twisted vision; A criminal and scarred up cameo of Mr. Zsasz; The Joker, a dark, sadistic and menacing smile that wouldn’t hesitate to off any “schemer” that steps on his line; Harvey Dent “Two Face” that was driven mad only to show his true black and white colors; And now… The Dark Knight Rises.
I’m going to start this review and try to keep it short. I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone, since in these Nolan films the first time is the absolute best. This stays true, I feel, to this trilogy rap up. (If you would like spoilers, check out my brother’s review in a day or two after he sees this.) I wasn’t sure where the story would go, but going into the movie I knew Bane was the one who would “break the Batman.” In the comic book story arc I believe the Batman did make it back into the field, after having someone else take up the cape and cowl. He was crippled. Bruce Wayne later began to take on an apprentice who would become a Batman “Beyond the Dark Knight”. See what I did there? Batman Beyond? Anyway, I digress.
The cinema takes this all in a new direction but uses characters and villains from the same universe. As for design and I look at comic book movies with visual critique. I know what my eye likes to see; from costuming, to special effects and practical effects. Here I feel that Nolan truly shines. The use of digital effects is warranted and I, as an artist from a traditional background, respect this. His set design and and props make for a believable universe that may indeed exist in our neighboring city. Mass amounts of extras used to fill the rioting streets, rather that a programmed mob of A.I. bots leaves Gotham City a living breathing city.
I really enjoy all of the iterations of Batman; from classic blue and gray, to the Burtonesque Dark Knight, and I feel that this Dark knight had a great concept. It used found applied sciences of Wayne tech to develop an armor that could protect and help instill fear into his enemy. However something with the cape and cowl just doesn’t quite flow well, shouldn’t this be one piece and shouldn’t Batman’s head not look like a bobble head ( a bit over exaggerated I know )? In the performance of Mr. Wayne I like this version, but Christian Bale makes Batman a scratchy, growley out of breath weirdo dressed in Halloween costume. Really? did we have to continue this? I did vote on Scrypt comics’ post that Kevin Conroy was the only real Batman. Check that post out here: https://scryptcomics.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/who-is-the-real-dark-knight/
Overall batman is still kick ass. And Sexy…Catwoman… Right? That goes together. Well in my not so eagerness to see Anne Hathaway play a seductive comic icon, I feel she did a great job. I loved her character in that she was always Catwoman, whether in tights or as Selina Kyle. She kicked bad guy and good guy butt and it’s always great to see the Batman and Catwoman’s unique relationship. As for her costume design, tight tights are always great, and so is being a cat burglar in high heels. Her headdress was to tech’d out for me though. In my mind you can’t beat the Arkham City Catwoman, they could’ve shot for a closer resemblance in my book.
Bane.. Well he’s no puffy, yellow, venom filled Shuemaker suit, but really for Nolan’s world, his design was great. He was believable. He was strong. And he had a mask, that they really didn’t get into, but I would assume could lead to his need for the super juice venom that pulsed through him. As for his Jeremy Irons like voice, sure I can get buy that. It made him intelligent, and not some thug that was just all muscle. He had a voice and made him a solid character that you wanted to watch Destroy Batman.
There are some other characters, but I’ll let you decide on their presence. (Again, read Rick’s coming review, as I’m sure he’ll mention some spoilers.) Next are the vehicles. I’ve never really cared for these supe’d up, future military, clunky Batmobile/wing/motorcycle. In my eyes, these are really the only things that take from the Gotham that Nolan built. You’ll see. I kinda felt like I was watching Matrix sequels for a second and maybe I’m being harsh, but what ever happened to the cool sleek designs of Bat vehicles?
Over all this movie was a blast. Nolan and his team do well to tell a story, and to produce a film even. I feel that unlike other comic book films they really think out a plot, and whether it be directly from the comics or not, the liberties taken just help make the universe of the Dark Knight live on. I will be seeing it again down the road, and hope that it breaks the trend of very little re-watchability. On closing, go watch The Dark Knight Rises. I wouldn’t bother if it’s presented in 3D but it was shot in IMAX; so give that a whirl and enjoy. Here’s to the end of a Nolan trilogy. I thank him, the cast, and crew for giving us a fun ride.