DC Animated Superhero Retrospective Series - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Pts. 1 & 2
Did this truly need to be split up into two films? Could we not have just had a 2 and half hour adaptation of this story? Also, this makes me wonder, if it was so important to get every little part of the graphic novel into this film, why was the same not done for All-Star Superman, a story many would argue is equally important to the man of steel as this one is to the caped crusader? Sounds a wee bit fishy if you ask me.
After the death of his protégé Jason Todd, billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne was forced to retire from his Batman persona. Ten years later, Gotham City is overrun with crime and terrorized by a gang known as the Mutants. The 55-year-old Wayne maintains a friendship with 70-year-old retiring Police Commissioner James Gordon, while the Joker (Batman’s archenemy) has been catatonic inArkham Asylum since Wayne’s retirement. Arkham inmate Harvey Dent undergoes plastic surgery to repair his disfigured face. Although he is declared sane, he quickly goes into hiding following his release. Dent’s disappearance, news stories of the crime epidemic throughout the city and the memory of his parents’ deaths drive Wayne to become Batman once more. He combats serious crimes, rescuing 13-year-old Carrie Kelley, but now struggles with the physical limitations of age.
Public reaction to his return is divided; Dent’s psychologist, Bartholomew Wolper, blames Batman for creating his own villains. Dent resurfaces, threatening to blow up a building unless he is paid a ransom. Batman defeats Dent’s henchmen, learning that the bombs will explode even if the ransom is paid; he realizes that Dent intends to kill himself. Batman disables one bomb, and the other detonates harmlessly. He defeats Dent, who reveals that although his face was repaired he still thinks of himself as Two-Face. Kelley dresses as Robin and looks for Batman, who attacks a gathering of the Mutants with a tank-like Batmobile (incapacitating most of them). The Mutant leader challenges Batman to a duel; he accepts, to prove to himself that he can win. The Mutant leader (who is in his prime) nearly kills Batman, but Kelley distracts him long enough for Batman to subdue him. The leader and many gang members are arrested. Injured, Batman returns to the Batcave with Kelley; he allows her to become his protégée (despite protest from his butler, Alfred Pennyworth).
Batman has Carrie disguise herself as a Mutant, and she lures the gang to a sewer outlet at the West River. At the Gotham City Police Department, the Mutant leader murders the mayor during negotiations. Commissioner Gordon deliberately releases the leader, providing an escape from the building, which leads to the sewer outlet. Before the amassed Mutants, Batman fights the leader in a mud pit; the mud slows the leader, removing his physical advantage, and Batman overpowers him. Seeing their leader’s defeat, the Mutants divide into smaller gangs; one becomes the “Sons of Batman”, a violent vigilante group. Batman’s victory becomes public and the city’s inhabitants are inspired to stand up against crime. Gordon retires after meeting his anti-Batman successor, Ellen Yindel. In Arkham, televised reports about Batman bring the Joker out of his catatonic state.
Feigning regret for his past, Joker convinces Wolper to take him on a talk show to tell his story; he makes plans for his escape with an old henchman, who supplies him with mind-controlling lipstick. Meanwhile, Superman, who works as a government operative in exchange for being allowed to covertly help people, is asked by the President to end Batman’s vigilante activities. Framing these events is a growing hostility between the USA and the Soviet Union over possession of the island of Corto Maltese. As Batman’s continued presence humiliates the national authorities, Yindel becomes commissioner and orders Batman’s arrest, and Superman warns Batman that the government will not tolerate him much longer.
Joker makes his talk show appearance as Batman fights with the GCPD on the studio roof; while they fight, Joker kills Wolper, gasses everyone in the studio to death and escapes. He finds Selina Kyle and uses one of her escorts and his lipstick to take control of a congressional representative, who calls for a nuclear strike on the Soviets before falling to his death. Batman’s investigation leads him to Kyle, whom he finds bound and dressed like Wonder Woman. Kelley notices cotton candy on the floor, and Batman deduces that Joker is at the fairgrounds. There Kelley accidentally kills Joker’s henchman while Batman pursues the Joker, who indiscriminately guns down dozens of people. As Batman corners a wounded and partially blinded Joker, he admits to feeling responsible for every murder Joker has committed and intends to stop him permanently. In the ensuing fight, Joker stabs Batman repeatedly, and Batman breaks Joker’s neck in front of witnesses.
Content that he made Batman lose control and that he will be branded a murderer, the Joker finishes twisting his neck, killing himself, ultimately brings an end of their conflict. The GCPD arrive and Batman, bleeding profusely, fights his way to Kelley and escapes. After Superman deflects a Soviet nuclear missile, he is hit with the blast and badly injured; the detonation creates an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out all electrical equipment in the United States and causes a nuclear winter. As the city descends into chaos, Batman, Kelley and Gordon rally the Sons of Batman and the citizens of Gotham to restore order, and Yindel accepts that Batman has become too powerful to take down. While the rest of the powerless U.S. is overrun with crime, Gotham becomes the safest city in America, embarrassing the President’s administration and prompting them to send Superman to finally stop Batman. Batman and Superman agree to meet in Crime Alley.
Wearing a powerful exoframe and supported by Kelley and former Green Arrow Oliver Queen, Batman fights Superman, using various tactics to make the fight even. When Superman gains the advantage, Queen hits him with an arrow made with synthetic Kryptonite, severely weakening him. Batman defeats Superman, and claims that he intentionally made the Kryptonite weak, to defeat Superman without killing him. Batman then apparently dies of a heart attack, while Wayne Manor self-destructs, and Alfred dies of a stroke. In the aftermath, the world learns that Wayne was Batman; all of his secrets are destroyed with the manor and his finances disappear. As Superman leaves Wayne’s funeral, he gives Kelley a knowing wink after hearing a faint heartbeat coming from Wayne’s coffin. In underground caves, Wayne is revealed to have faked his death and makes preparations to continue his mission more discreetly, allied with Kelley, Queen, and his followers.
If you listen to Kevin Smith podcast, Fat Man On Batman, then you’ve been gravely over sold the fight between Batman and Superman. But let’s talk about this matter for a brief second as well. Now Frank Miller was the first writer to start this immortal conflict, or as I prefer to think of it, the Batfan dick waving contest that never seems to end, and for the time it was monumental. It really sold just how big this story was, because now Batman has caused so much ruckus that SUPERMAN, the Last Son of Krypton himself, is coming down to crime alley to kick his ass. And then Batman “wins”! If you’re paying any attention to this article, you’ll note that I put quotes around that word. Because does Batman truly win? Think about it. At the end Bruce basically says that Clark’s gonna let ‘em slip so long as they keep quiet. Earlier in the story, Oliver remarks that Bruce had a bad habit of being mysterious but LOUD about it. If you’ve just gotten the living shit beat out of you and have had to go into hiding and change your methods of doing your business have you TRULY won? And as for the fight itself, Superman was beating Batman’s ass the whole time. And on top that, not only was he weaker than normal and holding back, Batman repeatedly had to weaken him FURTHER to really get the upper hand. And it wasn’t like he was fighting him with his normal Kevlar armor, he was basically working in the Mark I version of this thing.
If you’re getting your ass beat as basically Iron Bat, you’re not winning the fight, especially if you have a HEART ATTACK right on the spot once you finally get the upper hand. So put simply, Batman didn’t really win that fight. But let’s talk about the rest of the movie.
While a little wooden at some crucial moments, Peter Weller is terrific as Batman!
Ariel Winter does great work as the wonderful Carrie Kelley!
Wade Williams gives a really good, and surprisingly understated, performance as Harvey Dent. Hang on a minute,
And now The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 1… Okay, tell the truth Wade, you’re a big Batfan aren’t you?
Michael Emerson gives a wonderfully creepy performance as the Joker, but that’s par for the course with Micheal Emerson.
Mark Valley is terrific as Superman!
I’m not familiar with this actor, but David Selby is terrific as Commissioner Gordon!
The action is terrifc, more so in Part One I’d say.
The score by Christopher Drake is stupendous as always!
While I think there’s something lost in translation of the story, with the absence of everyone’s inner monologues, the script does a good job incorporating some of the more important bits into the dialogue.
When everyone’s starting to realize that the Batman is back for sure, one of the news anchors gets a little smirk on her face like she knows for sure who this is and she’s glad he’s back!
It bugs me a little that Conan O’Brien is voicing Dave Endocrine in this movie since he was specifically designed to be an analogue to Dave Letterman. Look at this!
And I love Conan! I love him to death! But don’t tell me it would’ve made more sense to go after Letterman!
While Part 1 is pretty restrained, it feels like Part 2 is more interested in the violence of the story than the story itself like. Like did we really need to see the Joker stabbing Batman that many times? Take it from Hitchcock, Jay Olivia, not seeing things is more disturbing than actually seeing them!
Did they fight for the topless woman with Swastikas tattooed over her nipples? Because that was random and ridiculous in the book and it’s still ridiculous here.
Okay, it’s official. Andrea, you need to quit calling Rowin Atkin Downes, because he’s irritating as hell. You couldn’t called anyone else for a one armed crotchety old Green Arrow? Really?!
Does Frank Miller have a thing for needlessly shoehorning in Catwoman? Because he did it here AND in Year One, and frankly I’m not sure which is worse. But I guess this is because instead of a badass martial artist and thief with an ill temper, you have an overweight madam. And am I the only one who questions that? If you didn’t enjoy being a hooker, why would you go on to employ them? Anywho, that’s another that should’ve been left out here.
Again, Hitchcock. Leave it to the imagination. You didn’t need to show us Harvey completely disfigured to explain to us how he sees himself in his mind’s eye, we already got the point when he said he knew everyone was really disgusted by him even though they were pretending he looked normal. You already told us through that one what Harvey believed he thought he looked like, you could’ve gone without spelling it out for us.
Why is LANA LANG the head of the Daily Planet? Wouldn’t it make more sense, if it was LOIS? What did LANA ever have to do with the Planet? I get the feeling Frank doesn’t know his left from his right with Supes, so I get that he’d probably confuse the two perhaps, but why wouldn’t someone bother to change this little detail to improve the story?
Why did they leave the bit with Selina dressed up as Wondy while tied up in the movie? This story was originally written by a known misogynist, he probably had Selina dressed up as Wonder Woman to degrade the character. Why not just leave her in one of these
I feel like this would’ve been a large improvement to the film, as not only would it it remove the degradation of a wonderful female character, but also make the scene make a little more sense, because why the hell would you have a Wonder Woman outfit at an escort agency?
The scene where Superman saves a blind man who’s fallen on the tracks of a subway station, instead of just flying down scooping the guy up then dropping him back on the waiting platform he just stops the train. That’s stupid.
Okay, I know it’s a little controversial to change the time and setting for a comics to film translation, but this sorely needs one! It doesn’t make any sense to have Reagan and the Cold War in a movie released in 2012/2013! Here’s a suggestion, move up to say 2007 when we had the housing market crash and have the president be Bush, and the foreign baddies be Iran or North Korea or something. You still have a republican president to needlessly hate on and you have a foreign threat for Superman to pound.
All in all, despite my problems with Part 2 and my dislike for the idea of Batman somehow beating Superman, I really dug this movie! I have a lot of affection for this story, despite it’s glaring problems, so all in all I’m gonna give it an 8.4 out of 10!
Thanks for reading everyone, I’m sorry this one took so long, and I hope I can get to my next review sooner, which shall be…