Marvel may be leading DC when it comes to live-action superhero films, but their rivals have long held the upper hand in the animated arena. Many of those features involve Batman, and fans were treated to a brilliant interpretation of half of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns late last year. The conclusion to that memorable story arc is hitting DVD and Blu-ray stands this week, and once again, fans will not be left wanting.
Whilst The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 dealt with Batman’s return and his victory over the mutants, here the focus is on the aftermath. Batman’s renewed activities have revived The Joker from his catatonic state, new police commissioner Ellen Yindel brands the vigilante a criminal and issues a warrant for his arrest, and the President orders Superman to intervene should Batman continue to defy the law banning superhero activities.
With TDKR: part 2, the faithfulness of the adaptation proves to be a double edged sword. In the final two volumes of Frank Miller’s seminal comic book, there is a major subplot regarding the Cold war. When the story was first published in the 80’s, this held special resonance, and those who have read the comic book may find this commendable. However, there is a vast audience for which this will have no meaning, and seeing Superman battling swathes of Soviet forces (with none of the voiceover narration so prevalent in Miller’s comic no less) may be puzzling. With that said, the little things – Alfred musing over some family photos for instance – are admirable exemplifications of just how much the creative team behind this adaptation understand the characters.
Just as with TDKR: part 1, the violence of the story has not been watered down; Watching The Joker (competently voiced by Michael Emerson) go on a psychotic rampage for example is every bit as crazy and uncontrolled as you might expect it to be, and it’s mildly surprising that they managed to fit this into a PG-13 movie. The numerous fight scenes also pull no punches (no pun intended). Every sequence is wonderfully animated, but undoubtedly the pick of the bunch is the final showdown between Batman and Superman. Intense, fast-paced and very, very exciting, the battle between the two titans is everything it needed to be and more. With the recent comment from director Jay Oliva that “there were some things in this movie that I didn’t want to do because it’s almost the same as Man of Steel”, this bodes well for Superman’s upcoming live action instalment.
Many of the actors lending their voices to the adaptation are impressive. Peter Weller brings the perfect amount of gravitas to both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and Mark Valley is well cast as Superman. If there is one problem here though, it is that some fantastic dialogue falls oddly flat at times. Additionally, Maria Canals Barrera – who voices commissioner Yindel – sounds far too much like Hawkgirl (the character she previously voiced in the Justice League animated series), which could prove distracting for fans of that show.
That really is nit-picking though, and ultimately The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2 is a worthwhile Blu-ray purchase and a satisfying conclusion to the animated feature, with plenty for both the uninitiated and enthusiasts to enjoy. Comic book aficionados will know that there is a sequel to Miller’s work in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and if DC can maintain this sort of quality, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be translated onto screen