After a few months reprieve, the second part of Batman The Dark Knight Returns came out on DVD and digital download last week. The latest DC Universe Animated Original Movie is based on the third and fourth chapters of Frank Miller’s seminal comic series of the same name. Seeing as how these chapters depict Batman vs. The Joker and the first modern throw down between Batman and Superman, there is a lot to anticipate on this adaptation.
Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 ended with a resurgent Dark Knight who had curbed gang violence and unintentionally started a movement of his own, “The Sons of Batman.” Picking up shortly after these events, Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 shows the cultural effect that Batman’s return has had on the city, the country and on a certain paled-faced psychopath. The “trouble” that the Dark Knight has been stirring up has even drawn the attention of The United States Government, and in particular it’s President (Ronald Reagan.) The President sends a lapdog Superman to Gotham to tell Batman to “tone it down” and convince him to go back into retirement, like the rest of the heroes. As expected, Mr. Wayne does not exactly listen. The first half of the film focuses on The Joker, the yang to Batman’s yin. This showcases one of the more brutal onscreen battles between the two enemies. Theirs is a complicated love/hate relationship that is fascinating marriage to watch. Batman also faces city-wide panic as the U.S. and the Soviet Union bring The Cold War to a nuclear finish. Finally, the climax of the film depicts one of the most memorable part of Frank Miller’s tale: the fight between Batman and Superman.
I think the concept of a retired Batman was very foreign before The Dark Knight Rises was released. Out of all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman epics, that film in particular takes thematic cues from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which is widely regarded as the essential Batman story of the modern era. So how does Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 fair? As I mentioned earlier, the last two chapters of the story are showstoppers on their own, giving this film an advantage over its predecessor. Part 1 was a lot of build-up and Part 2 is the payoff, making it for a far more entertaining viewing experience. Though I might argue that any role Peter Weller has had recently is mere RoboCop fan-service, he is an enjoyable elderly Batman. Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson voices The Joker, which is a tall order for any actor. While he does not excel the way that Heath Ledger or Mark Hamill did, he did bring an ample amount of creepiness to the role. Mark Valley brought little to the table as Superman, though in his defense the character is intended to be a less awe-inspiring figure in this story than he typically is. The animation brings Frank Miller’s minimized action to a grander stage, making the fights necessarily more epic than how they were originally portrayed. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 is not without its flaws – it’s not necessarily the perfect animated representation of Frank Miller’s work, with a little more optimism and a little less emphasis on the cultural climate than its source material. Nonetheless it is a fun movie that makes Part 1 look better in hindsight and reminds us of the many reasons we have loved Batman since The Dark Knight Returns hit comic book stands in 1986.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars
Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 & 2 are available now