Garrett's Review of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 is as powerful and strikingly beautiful as the 80's Frank Miller graphic novel it proudly adapts. The sounds and sights are vividly brought to life through gorgeous sound design and realistic voice acting from the likes of Peter Weller as an aging Batman/Bruce Wayne, Michael Emerson as the Joker, Ariel Winter as Robin Kelley (or the female Robin), David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, etc.
The sound design, from the cracking of an aging Batman's back to the cry of a bat and take-down of a goon, is high-quality. You can tell the sound designers went the extra mile to authenticate the sounds and sights we imagined in Frank Miller's vision came to life in vivid fashion. The film's voice acting is a big step-up from YEAR ONE and one step above JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, even without Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Peter Weller as Batman/Bruce Wayne gives a world-weary credibility that the story's aging Batman deserves. And David Selby wonderfully plays Gordon with the same approach, with a keen understanding on when a man can rise against an imminent threat that would otherwise consume Gotham if he didn't stand in its way (sound familiar?).
DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation have been producing quite a run of fine animated adaptations of classic Batman graphic novels. As THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is arguably the most lauded and fondly remembered of them all, DC and Warner have pulled out all the stops and crafted their best collaboration yet.
In PART 1, the stakes remain just as high as in the graphic novel, and the emotions run just as deep. As in many of Batman's past animated films and comics, the fate of Gotham City usually hangs in the balance within the stories of Batman's almost never-ending fight against Gotham City's criminal oeuvre. From Scott Snyder's recent and riveting Batman tales (BLACK MIRROR, COURT OF OWLS to name a few) to Grant Morrison and Joseph Loeb's classic tales, many have succeeded in illuminating the Batman myth and his one-man crusade over the decades.
What we see in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 is the stakes that the antagonistic Mutant Gang have raised against a Gotham rendered from Frank Miller's vision circa 1986. The stakes of Miller's story may be on par with Rocksteady's ARKHAM CITY and the recent Joker epic (which began this month) in DEATH OF THE FAMILY. What we feel in PART 1 is the deep emotions that Bruce intensely feels towards his all-too-familiar, haunting past as he returns to the cowl after ten years in solitude and all the pains that come with a return to form.
The hard-hitting violence and action from the graphic novel has remained completely intact. From the sequence on Gotham Life Building to the brutal smack-down between Batman and the fearsome Mutant Leader drive home the animators/filmmakers' utterly committed approach to show Batman fans that this adaptation is not filtering out anything.
All in all, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 delivers on the fronts of authenticity to the first half of the famed graphic novel and keeps proceedings fresh with high-production quality with notable achievements in the sound design and voice acting departments. Let us hope the balance between underlying emotion and hard-hitting action sequences will reach the epic height that the second half of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS graphic novel did. Based on the October 17th trailer of PART 2, the preview's epic nature and the continuation of PART 1's unfiltered approach should have fans looking forward to its release on Blu-Ray and DVD early next year.