Cert: TBC Runtime: 76 mins Director: Jay Olivia Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams and Gary Anthony Williams
This would be a good death… But not good enough
So a year before I was born in 1986 Frank Miller released a four comic mini series call The Dark Knight Returns. It is regarded as one of the greatest Graphic Novel tales of all time. It is one of my personal favourites and it is one of the main context that Christopher Nolan used for his trilogy. Warner Brothers Original Animation have released a few Batman mini movies and now The Dark Knight Returns has joined the ranks but in two parts. The second part will be released in 2013 but there is no date as of yet. So if you don’t know the plot of this amazing tale here it is.In a dystopian near-future version of Gotham City, a 55-Year-Old Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) has retired from being Batman following the death of his former Robin,Jason Todd. Criminals now run amok and the city is constantly terrorized by a gang known as the Mutants. Bruce Wayne is now something of a recluse, despite his continuous philanthropic endeavours and friendship with Commissioner James Gordon (David Selby), who now knows Bruce’s former identity as Batman.However, the escalating brutality of the Mutants prompts Bruce to take up the mantle of Batman again, but the public opinion over Batman and his methods is sharply divided. While the public generally approve of Batman’s return, richer and more powerful people, such as the Mayor and Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, brand Batman as a fascist. Bruce’s old friend, Harvey Dent (Wade Willaims), formerly Two-Face, undergoes plastic surgery and his face is repaired, but at the high cost of eradicating Dent’s good side forever. Batman confronts Two-Face and stops him holding the city ransom with a bomb. With Dent’s plans now gone, Batman has a larger villain to battle in order to bring safety back to Gotham.
All in all, while I did feel some disappointment with this film, I did find it to be an entertaining re-telling of Frank Miller’s original work. It seemed to hold the proper tone that Miller was trying to capture in that an aging Batman has to contend with a society that no longer wants his presence as well as his age handicapping his abilities.One thing that did bother me was the lack of “voice-over” narration by Batman as seen in the graphic novel. While the lack of this narration did not detract from the film and it’s impact, I think there would have been an even stronger impact upon viewers if we could hear those intimate, calculating, emotional thoughts that Batman had during each encounter. A perfect example is when he first comes back onto the scene and is climbing a rope to reach the bad guys. One bad guy says that Batman has to be old by now. In response to this, the Batman voice-over says, “Old enough to need to use my legs to climb a rope”. This occurs in the comics, not the film, but I think it really allows the audience a peek into the mindframe and mindset of Batman while he engages in his crime-fighting activities. As I said, it is not a mood-killer that it was left out of the film, but I do think the creative team behind the film kind of missed out on a very good opportunity to really suck the audience of the film into the mind of Batman.Another thing that bothered me was the voice casting for Batman/Bruce Wayne. Yes, Peter Weller did a fine job with this, and I give him his due credit for giving life to an aging Batman. I also understand why the creative team might have wanted to not utilize the legendary Kevin Conroy (the one and only true voice for Batman from the animated series of the 90’s, the Justice League animated series, the animated movie between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and the Arkham video games) for the voice in an effort to open up people’s minds to the concept of more than one person being able to bring Batman to life.
Unfortunately, I feel like the creative team missed the boat a bit on this one. For anyone who ever watched the animated series from the 90’s, you may recall that they did a storytelling episode that actually made use of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. In specific, they showed a scene that blended Batman’s initial attack against the Mutants with his final fight against the Mutant’s leader in which he utter’s the infamous expression, “This isn’t a trash heap, it’s an operating table, and I’m the surgeon.” In this instance, the creative team behind the animated series made, in my opinion, an absolutely genius decision to utilize Michael Ironside (“Jester” from the film Top Gun) as the voice of Batman. I really and truly wish the team behind the Dark Knight Returns movie had decided to retain his voice or, if they had indeed tried to go that route, that Mr. Ironside had accepted any offer to do said voice for this film. While Peter Weller certainly exemplified the cold and dark visage of Batman, Michael Ironside, in just a ten minute clip, truly seemed to epitomize the dark, gritty, dangerousness of a Batman who, while having grown older, has also become a lot more calculating and deadly with his experiences. It was a truly missed opportunity.Overall, I was generally happy with the film and look forward to seeing how they put the rest of Miller’s story into film in part 2, particularly the verbal back and forth and eventual combat between Batman and Superman.