On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013)
by NIR SHALEV
Where we last left off: Commissioner Gordon had retired and was replaced by a much younger woman who doesn’t appreciate the work of the vigilante known as The Batman; Harvey Dent’s plans to hold a city for ransom were thwarted; and all members of the Mutants street gang have changed their war paint and tattoos, and their name is now The Sons of Batman.
Now, the new police commissioner is trying to kill Batman rather than arrest him. The Joker has been released from the asylum because he’s a “changed man”. The federal government, backed by President Reagan himself, has called Superman to put Batman down. Batman knows deep down in his guts that the Joker isn’t a changed man and is plotting to murder many people, and soon. But he doesn’t get many chances to prove his point when he’s constantly fired upon by every police officer in the city with killer intent.
What ultimately transpires, without spoiling anything, is the ultimate, disturbingly violent and bloody showdown between Batman and The Joker. Then that’s followed up by a fight between Batman and Superman. Yes, the Caped Crusader takes on the Man of Steel after dealing with The Joker and his massive homicidal killing spree.
This is not a family oriented film. If it was to be released in the theaters it would have received a PG-13 rating at the least, and if it was a live action version it would have received an R rating. The Joker fight alone is so bloody and violent, riddled with many innocent civilians murdered (and even Batman stabbed on several occasions) that we question ourselves as to whether we really want to see something like this. It’s no longer a cheesy form of entertainment; it’s now a vigilant man fighting off a homicidal maniac in public with guns and knives. But that’s entertainment, folks!
The two films paint a world that audiences are easily able to recognize, but this world is also terrifically animated (in more than one sense) and is terrifically larger than life. We love watching superheroes and supervillains duke it out, so why not add high stakes to the mix? And why not make it bloody?
The original comic book was coated with Reagan-era pro-military, liberal drivel and it masqueraded as a classy yet bloody Batman story. However, this film doesn’t seem to support Frank Miller’s original political stand (who would?) and doesn’t take everything it had to say at face value. It delivers its story through an accurate adaptation, without seeming to support any of its political ideologies.
The negative is that this film suffers from terrible pacing and structural issues. The music isn’t as amazing or memorable as it was in the first film and as a result, I am underwhelmed by this second film.
I don’t remember feeling this way back when I originally read the comic, but the comic also took longer to read than it takes to view these two films back to back. Perhaps a 76-minute running time was indeed too short a running time in order to tell a story of such epic scope and magnitude. Then again, the first film is also 76 minutes long so I suppose it all comes down to the script. Perhaps the producers should have given screenwriter Bob Goodman more time in the rewrite process rather than have him focus so much on the adaptation alone.
One not so minor gripe that I have with this film is that Peter Weller is the absolute worst voice actor for Bruce Wayne/Batman and Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) is the absolute worst voice actor for The Joker that I’ve ever heard. They almost ruin the film. But don’t judge the films on this criticism alone
All in all, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Parts 1 and 2 are terrific films that should be viewed in one sitting if possible. A lot of money, care, and passion was put into producing works that are well animated, mostly well voiced, and mostly well written. Its action sequences and character development make The Dark Knight Rises seem like it never existed and that’s all because the talent and crew behind these two films have a strong passion for the original product.
We all love Batman stories and movies and we don’t mind different iterations of them. So give these two films a chance. Heck, they’re so good you might just want to purchase them. Disc extras include several short features, a few page excerpt from the original graphic novel, three episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and an extended promo for Part 1.
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