The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, based on the 1986 graphic novels by legendary artist, Frank Miller and staring Peter Weller as the voice of Batman, tells the continuing tale of caped crusader’s return to Gotham as he battles a resurrected Joker and the Man of Steel himself, Superman. Is Part 2 as authentic to the Frank Miller books as Part 1 was, or does it fall short?
The Dark Knight has defeated the leader of the Mutants and a lot of people are upset, especially Ellen Yindel, the new Gotham City Police Commissioner who has zero tolerance for vigilantes. Even President Reagan has enlisted the Man of Steel to convince Batman to go back into retirement.
Meanwhile, after years of being in a “catatonic” state, the Joker realizes that the return of Batman has once again given him a purpose. Feeling he can discredit Batman, he tricks his Psychiatrist to allowing him to go onto a local talk show to show the world he is remorseful for his past crimes. But it’s all a ruse. The Joker floods the television studio with his Smilex gas and kills everyone in the audience, including the host. Unable to stop him due to a confrontation with the new Commissioner, the Batman declares war on the Joker and decides once and for all to finish him.
One the other side of the planet, Superman is trying to stop a conflict between the United States and the Soviets. After the US declared super heroes illegal and imprisoned them, Superman remained as the government’s lacky. The President uses Superman to defeat the attacking nation. The Soviet,s being sore losers, launch a nuclear warhead that is ultimately diverted by Superman, but the bomb still explodes and nearly kills him. The blast emits an EMP that knocks out power in Gotham and other cities in the US. Now in a state of chaos, Batman unites “The Sons of Batman” vigilante gang in order to maintain order and enforce the law. While all the major cities in the United States are falling to looting, crime and anarchy, Gotham remains united.
But even with Batman’s success in resurrecting Gotham, the President still isn’t happy. He orders Superman to bring in Batman. He issues a challenge and Batman accepts but on his terms. It now becomes a showdown of titans at Crime Alley.
(If you haven’t already, check out my review of The Dark Knight Returns part 1 HERE)
Arguably, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novels are considered one of the best Batman stories ever told. If you are a fan of the 1986 books, then I can assure you that Warner Bros Animation has done Miller justice… again! Part 2 tells two intertwining stories that are covered in books 3 and 4: the defeat of the Joker and the battle with Superman.
What Bruce Timm (the creator of Batman: The Animated Series), Director Jay Oliva, and the rest the WB Animation crew has done is bring the beloved comics to life. Everything from the art style and dialogue is present. This is Batman in his most raw form. He’s vulnerable and battred. He bleeds, but his unwavering goal to be Gotham’s guardian keeps him focused. And whether you have read the comics or watch this movie, you can’t help but notice the major influences in the Batman universe especially in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight saga.
Voice casting is top notch thanks to veteran voice direction by Andrea Romano. Peter Weller, better known for being Robocop, returns to as the Dark Knight. And just like Robocop, his portrayal of Batman is all business. New to Part 2 is Michael Emerson (LOST/Point of Interest) as the Joker and Mark Valley (Fringe/Harry’s Law) as Clark Kent/Superman. While Emerson may not have the iconic delivery of the Clown Prince of Crime that Mark Hamill has with the Animated Series, he does a great job as a more somber character. The Joker in this version, is pure evil and out to make Batman look like a fool. Valley as the voice of the Man of Steel reminds me of the same that Tim Daly has always provided. His voice is clean and authoritative.
The Dark Knight Rises Part 2 is an absolutely perfect adaptation which makes it not at all appropriate for younger children. This is not Batman from the Super Friends or the Brave and the Bold. This is Batman dealing with real issues and real danger amongst a homicidal maniac and the Gotham Police. What I also loved about the movie’s adaptation is that they didn’t try to modernize it or make it politically correct. Bruno, the female gang leader with huge breasts covered with swastikas, makes an appearance. Real Cold War issues between President Ronald Reagan and the Soviets in the threat of nuclear war still is a major subplot. The movie could have easily replaced the Soviet Union with Iran or North Korea, but they didn’t. They kept true to form in compliance with the original. If you are familiar with the comics, you’ll easily be able to pick apart in the movie all the iconic poses that Frank Miller beautifully illustrated in his books.
Of course the highlight of the film is the battle with Superman. I purposely broke out my comics to compare. What I loved is that they didn’t just cut and paste comic panels. They actually added to the fight. What the comics really couldn’t portray, the film really shows off the strength and abilities that Batman has in his powered armor suit. He is not inferior to Superman, but rather an equal. The filmmakers took great artistic license in giving the fans an epic battle.
Even if you are not familiar with the source material, The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2 is a series for all super hero and comic lovers. It’s one of those stories that is an institution in comic lore. I highly recommend either renting or buying the film to experience Batman in his darkest of times. Hopefully we as fans will be treated very soon with the sequel, 2001’s “The Dark Knight Strikes Again.”
Available: January 29th to Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Available now 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, Mark Valley, Michael Emerson
Genre: Animation, DC Comics, Batman, Movies
Distributor: Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns