Last month saw the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition, a two and a half hour movie adaptation of the seminal Frank Miller/Klaus Janson series that was originally released in two haves beginning late last year. To me, splitting up the story just screamed of a cash grab, since most fans would immediately want both parts. I waited, though, rightly figuring that once both releases were in stores, we’d eventually see them combined in its proper way. Which it is now.
Check out a clip and find out my thoughts after the jump!
As I write this, I’m listening to the minimalistic score to The Dark Knight Returns, created by Christopher Drake, and one of the high points of the entire film. Drake manages to capture the vibe that Miller and Janson created with their 1986 comic books series – dark, desolate, foreboding and defeated.
The deluxe édition film is, in my humble opinion, one of the best of the DC Animated films that have been steadily coming out since 2007. Granted, I haven’t seen them all, but I did find it vastly superior to the thematically similar Batman: Gotham Knight. The script, by Bob Goodman, stays extremely close to Frank Miller’s story, which tells the tale of the return of Batman after ten years of retirement. He faces down old and new foes and friends, works with a new Robin, and adapts to a world that has changed but is still full of criminals.
This is no G-rated animated adventure. In The Dark Knight Returns, characters bleed. Characters die. It makes for a bracing and riveting film. Peter Weller voices Bruce Wayne/Batman, and for me, is the only real misstep in the film. Now, I know that should be a big one; Weller is definitely stiff in the role, but my real disappointment is not hearing Kevin Conroy, the definitive voice of Batman’s animated iterations, play the character in his most grand story. Weller does a fine job, but hey, it would have been cool to hear Conroy play the aged Batman. And while Mark Hamill isn’t here to voice the Joker, Michael Emerson does quite a brilliant job. The final confrontation between Batman and Joker is monumental, and both Emerson and Weller deliver the goods.
The only other criticism is that I missed the inner monologues that permeate the comic version of the story. Frank Miller not only told the classic Batman story, but his writing allowed us into the character’s mind in ways that hadn’t really been accomplished before. Perhaps incorporating those would have made the animated film too arty to some, but I certainly would have loved hearing them.
With those critiques in mind, I can easily tell you that I thought that the animated version of The Dark Knight Returns is truly epic, with the deluxe edition version the only way to watch it. The animation is gorgeous and recalls Miller and Janson’s art perfectly; one of the few animated adaptations (alongside the Watchmen Motion Comic) that can stand proudly beside the work it’s inspired by.