Whenever people find out what I do for a living they normally ask who my favorite superhero is and I try to sidestep it with ‘Besides Batman?’ Batman is the top for most people, myself included, and it’s impossible to talk about Batman without mentioning Frank Miller’s seminal work on the character. From Batman: Year One to The Dark Knight Returns, he put a stamp on the character that few others have been able to achieve. The Dark Knight Returns is without question one of my favorite comics of all time, as cliché as that might be to say, but it’s true. It is one of the most re-readable comics that’s ever been published and probably the best Batman story ever told. For years, fans have dreamed of a feature length adaptation of the comic and it’s finally here.
DC’s animated films have really been of a caliber untouched by their marvelous competitor, but this new film takes it to all new territory. If you’re familiar at all with the original comic, you will instantly recognize the opening to this film as almost spot on and you will continue to feel this way as the movie progresses. I hesitate to call this film a perfect adaptation, because it does omit most of Frank Miller’s token noir narrations – there are some but not all of them. There are also a few scenes that have been added, though they help get key points across for the narrative, and they don’t hurt the film. Some scenes from the comic book are rearranged to give it a better shape and rightfully so, because those story beats work better on the page than in the film.
Many people cried foul when Kevin Conroy wasn’t chosen as the voice for Batman in the film. Understandably so, because Conroy IS Batman to many of us and who better to voice the Caped Crusader in his most interesting story than the man we all know and love. I won’t say that Peter Weller is better than Conroy as Batman, but in terms of this film he fits perfectly. You can hear in his voice that he’s got a lot of miles on him, which really helps in the weathered Bruce of the film. But there’s also the matter of his raspy, authoritative voice which really sticks out in the world of the snarling Christian Bale. His performance is also escalated by the very talented Ariel Winter as Carrie Kelly/Robin. As the big man says in the film, ‘She’s perfect.’ Gary Anthony Williams (Uncle Ruckus from “The Boondocks”) also does a fantastic job as the Mutant Leader and Wade Williams delivers one of the best performances of the film with his very empathetic Harvey Dent.
The Blu-ray also has some pretty cool special features. A mini-feature on the importance of Carrie Kelly as Robin along with a 40-minute documentary about Batman’s co-creator Bob Kane are cool supplementals for the film, but the best one is the preview for Part 2 of the film. Though no actual footage is shown for the movie, it’s more like a sizzle reel, it’s got exactly what it needs to get you excited for Part 2 that is out in February.
I might lose some of you here, and I mean no disrespect to the much loved Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan, but this is one of the best Batman movies ever made. It has all of the things that you want to see–action, excitement, suspense, terror, humor–and some of the best voice performances that you’ll hear in a superhero cartoon. This movie will have you on the edge of your seat or on the verge of tears, even if you know what is going to happen. If you know how a story plays out and you’re still invested in the characters, you’ve got something very special on your hands. This is the Batman movie that we deserve and it’s got a perfect ending,…bring on part 2!
Rating: 9 / 10
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 will hit Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download on September 25th.