Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 Review

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1, based on the 1986 graphic novels by legendary artist, Frank Miller and staring Peter Weller as the voice of Batman, tells the tale of the Caped Crusader’s return to Gotham after a ten year absence to fight a brand new type of enemy, The Mutants. Is this direct to home video release loyal to the original source material or is it just capitalizing on the popularity of the Christopher Nolan films?


Gotham City has been without the Batman for ten years. After the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, Bruce Wayne made a vow to never wear the cape and cowl again. Now in his mid-fifties, Bruce is comfortable in retirement, donating funds to police and sharing the occasional cup of coffee with Commissioner James Gordon.

But things have changed in the streets of Gotham. A new gang called the Mutants have ravaged the streets and terrorized the innocent. Lead by a monster of a leader, the gangs rob, murder, kidnap and rape for sheer sport.

Meanwhile in Arkham Asylum, Harvey Dent a.k.a Two-Face has undergone a risky surgery to repair the damaged side of his face. It’s a success and with the intense emotional rehabilitation from therapists, Harvey now sets his sights in being released back into society. Unfortunately, Harvey’s inner demons take the best of him and he holds the city ransom by threatening to blow it up.

With the city in chaos and criminals running amok, Bruce is left with no choice but to become the vigilante once again. Can the Batman save Gotham or will his old age get them best of him?

Batman TDKR part 1 - Batman confers with Commissioner Gordon
Old friends – Batman and Commissioner Gordon


I was twelve years old when Frank Miller published his acclaimed graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. It was always one of my favorites because it wasn’t campy like the Super Friends tv series. It was an adult and realistic look at a potential future of  Batman that no one really tackled. Since then, no other Batman story arc has been so influential in the mythology of the caped crusader. There was even an homage to Frank Miller in the Animated Series and it was pretty much the basis of Batman Beyond. After you watch this movie, you’ll notice a lot of similar plot and dialog to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Most notable is a moment when a veteran cop is telling a rookie to sit back and enjoy the show that is Batman going after criminals. In fact if you have never read the comic books, you may say how this “cartoon” ripped off  The Dark Knight Rises, but it’s actually the contrary.

If you are a fan of the original graphic novels, you will not at all be disappointed in the animated adaptation. You can almost follow along with the first two issues of the graphic novel as the movie transitions from action sequences to news reports that act as narration of the story. The movie may not be as dark in color to the book, but you can definitely notice the influence of Frank Miller’s artwork as the movie brings his pages to life.

Batman TDKR part 1 Batman in the Batmobile
Batman in the “Batmobile” on his way to battle the Mutants

Peter Weller, the original Robocop, stars as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne. While many consider Kevin Conroy to be the true voice of Batman, I can assure you that Weller does a great job. Personally I would have loved if Michael Ironside reprised his role from “Legends of the Dark Knight” episode of the Animated Series, but I was happy with Weller and his performance. Rounding out the cast is Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Robin/Carrie Kelly, David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, Wade Williams as Two-Face, Michael McKean as Dr. Wolper and Gary Anthony Williams as the Mutant Leader. One thing I can assure you  is that, once again, veteran voice director Andrea Romano brings the actors voice performances to their full potential.

My influence of Frank Miller started when my father gave me a copy of Ronin. It was the first major comic book I read that had swearing, blood shed and nudity. To an eleven year old it was shocking but it opened up a new world to me. With that in mind, my only major complaint is the PG-13 rating of the film. Movies like 300 and Sin City chose to keep true to Miller’s style by keeping an R rating, but I supposed this was needed to sell the video to a wider audience. But keep this in mind, The Dark Knight Returns part 1 is not for kids. It is still a very adult themed film.  As a fan of Frank Miller and the original graphic novel, I highly recommend part 1 and can’t wait until early 2013 to watch the conclusion.

Available: September 25th to Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download!
Runtime: 76 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action
Director: Jay Oliva
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams
Genre: Animation, DC Comics, Batman, Movies
Distributor: Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video
Official Site:
Purchase: Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand

  • smikey1123

    not a bad review bats. I felt pretty much the same with it. I would have definitely loved to have Ironside, but Weller is acceptable as well.

  • Nice review. So far im loving what DC has been doing with their straight to DVD/Blu-Ray films. Btw how’d you get the movie so early?

  • I also wish that it would have shown some of the more mature scenes of the novel but overall I loved it. Definitely DC Animations best. Weller was great.

    • It seems, Marvel is king of Live action and DC owns the home video animated market

      • I do wish they would have taken more risks with the art direction as well. Still great movie though.

      • John

        DC need to get on it, and make some good films – The Batman series wasn’t bad, but Batman it most certainly is NOT!! Went down the pathetic ‘modern day’ route like Marvel did (works fine for them, but not DC). The next live action Batman series need to do justice to the comics and cartoons, something Nolan didn’t give two shits about. The only ‘Batman’ feeling I ever got when watching the 3 films was when Joker was in the scene, otherwise it was just some dude with a stupid voice in a caped costume, driving a stupid car!

  • EZE

    I remember the episode of the new adventures of batman/superman, where a group of kids had their own version of Batman. One the kids stories focused on The Dark Knight Batman. I really enjoyed many versions of Batman, and it’s one of my favs.

    • That’s what I referenced in the link of the review. The episode is called “Legends of the Dark Knight.”

      • John

        Right you are!!

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