‘The Dark Knight Returns’ Animated Feature On the Way?

Published 3 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 7:06 am,

batman dark knight returns The Dark Knight Returns Animated Feature On the Way?

Along with Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns was the comic book that changed comic books – both for the better and the worse. Now, twenty-five years on, comic book writers are still trying to emulate the dark, gritty, and imaginative sensibilities of Frank Miller’s groundbreaking story, typically emphasizing the dark and gritty over the imaginative.

So it was pretty much a given that the story – which I endearingly refer to as Old Man Batman In the Future – would be adapted as a feature film, animated or otherwise. Well, according to Bleeding Cool, an animated version of The Dark Knight Returns is indeed on its way to the direct-to-DVD market.

For those unaware, The Dark Knight Returns is the tale of 55-year-old Bruce Wayne coming out of Batman retirement to take down an old enemy – Two-Face.  As a result of un-retiring, he’s forced to fight the various street gangs that have risen in his absence, as well as The Joker, the American government, and eventually the Man of Steel himself, Superman. (Spoiler alert: Batman wins.)

Apparently, “multiple sources” are telling Bleeding Cool that an animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns is coming down the pike (not unlike Justice League: New Frontier and All-Star Superman before it), courtesy of “several veterans of Batman toons past.” This news comes after last year’s announcement that Batman: Year One, also written by Frank Miller, will be adapted as an animated feature, to be produced by DC animation veteran, Bruce Timm.

This actually wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen an animated iteration of The Dark Knight Returns. In the WB’s The New Batman Adventures, there was an episode that paid tribute to Frank Miller’s quintessential caped crusader tale. It essentially adapted one of the more important scenes from the book – and pretty faithfully, I might add.

Check it out below:

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about DKR getting the same underwhelming treatment that All-Star Superman received earlier this year. On the one hand, Returns is a story that should absolutely be adapted into other mediums for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s just so damn entertaining. (Our own Chris Schrader goes into more detail explaining why a Dark Knight Returns movie should be made.) On the other hand, these animated features almost never do the source material justice and sometimes feel more like grabs for cash shallow adaptations rather than genuine attempts to craft pure artistic awesomeness.

If I had my druthers, Warner Bros. would be hiring Genndy Tartakovsky to direct this movie using (perhaps) the same style and technique he did for his animated prelude to the film Priest. Hell, it was basically a love letter to The Dark Knight Returns anyway.

frank millers dark knight returns The Dark Knight Returns Animated Feature On the Way?

Batman: Year One, directed by Lauren Montogomery and Sam Liu (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths), is set to premiere at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. Keep your eye on the main page for more The Dark Knight Returns animated movie news.

Sources: Bleeding Cool & Comics Continuum

Images by Frank Miller

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TAGS: batman, the dark knight returns

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  1. Genndy Tartakovsky, ha! beat me too it :)
    i would love to see this come to light. a wonderful story indeed, but very VERY dialog heavy. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll handle all the news segments in the comic. They don’t really lend themselves to the exciting animated medium.

    • How to keep this potentially great idea for a movie from not being a great idea

      When reading or even rather looking at “The Dark Knight Return’s” Graphic Novel, what do you see?
      1. DETAIL(not a couple of shadows here and there & not a big black drawing)
      2. You see hours and hours of work by one man, Frank Miller
      MY POINT IS IN ORDER FROM KEEPING THIS MOVIE FROM BEING JUST ANOTHER MOVIE OR EVEN JUST ANOTHER DC ANIMATED MOVIE:
      1. Use Water color in the background of the film and plenty of paints
      2. Use hand drawn pictures to add depth, weight, and bring more life to the movie and it’s characters, freeing up the stiffness of the characters and it’s background because Gotham city is a leaving and breathing place (The difference of what i’m saying and what DC Animated films have been doing is like the difference between “The Little Mermaid”, Successful in movie theater’s, box office number topping, thus those particular artist hard work made part 1 movie timeless & The Little Mermaid 2 went straight to dvd, not really high in demand because those particular artist chose to try an easier more expensive approach? by using computer generated pixel art, which didn’t ant doesn’t capture the detail that hand drawn art could and does

      • How to keep this potentially great idea for a movie from not being a great idea

        When reading or even rather looking at “The Dark Knight Return’s” Graphic Novel, what do you see?
        1. DETAIL(not a couple of shadows here and there & not a big black drawing)
        2. You see hours and hours of work by one man, Frank Miller
        MY POINT IS IN ORDER TO KEEPING THIS MOVIE FROM BEING JUST ANOTHER MOVIE OR EVEN JUST ANOTHER DC ANIMATED MOVIE:
        1. Use Water color in the background of the film and plenty of paints
        2. Use hand drawn pictures to add depth, weight, and bring more life to the movie and it’s characters, freeing up the stiffness of the characters and it’s background because Gotham city is a living and breathing place (The difference of what I’m saying and what DC Animated films have been doing is like the difference between “The Little Mermaid”, Successful in movie theater’s, box office number topping, thus those particular artist hard work made part 1 movie timeless & The Little Mermaid 2 went straight to DVD, not really high in demand because those particular artist chose to try an easier more expensive approach? by using computer generated pixel art, which didn’t ant doesn’t capture the detail that hand drawn art could and does

      • How to keep this potentially great idea for a movie from not being a great idea

        When reading or even rather looking at “The Dark Knight Return’s” Graphic Novel, what do you see?
        1. DETAIL(not a couple of shadows here and there & not just a big black drawing)
        2. You see hours and hours of work by one man, Frank Miller
        MY POINT IS IN ORDER TO KEEPING THIS MOVIE FROM BEING JUST ANOTHER MOVIE OR EVEN JUST ANOTHER DC ANIMATED MOVIE:
        1. Use Water color in the background of the film and plenty of paints
        2. Use hand drawn pictures to add depth, weight, and bring more life to the movie and it’s characters, freeing up the stiffness of the characters and it’s background because Gotham city is a living and breathing place (The difference of what I’m saying and what DC Animated films have been doing is like the difference between “The Little Mermaid”, Successful in movie theater’s, box office number topping, thus those particular artist hard work made part 1 movie timeless & The Little Mermaid 2 went straight to DVD, not really high in demand because those particular artist chose to try an easier more expensive approach? by using computer generated pixel art, which didn’t ant doesn’t capture the detail that hand drawn art could and does

      • I Made previous comment not acknowledging the one most important person in addition to Mr. Frank Miller himself who needs to be hired and promoted on this movie as art directer Ms Lynn Varley. SO, ALL YOU DC ANIMATORS, KNOW MATTER HOW MUCH YOU RIGHT CLICK YOUR MOUSE BUTTONS AT THE FILM STUDIOS, IF HISTORY HAS PROVEN CORRECTLY IT DOES’NT AMOUNT TO A GOOD OLD HAND DRAWN VERSIONS OF THE SAME COMIC CHARACTER FOR THIS PARTICULAR GRAPHIC NOVEL BECAUSE ITS GRITTIER TO DRAW BY HAND AND THIS IS A GRITTY GRAPHIC NOVEL , SO, DC PLEASE HIRE ON Frank Miller AND Lynn Varley AS HEAD FILM ANIMATORS

  2. also, i had forgotten how good The New Batman Adventures had captured the DKR. Fantastic animation!

  3. It would be awsome if they used the CGI animation style they used for the DCU oline trailers and do a limited theathrical release. we can dream can we.

  4. DC has been doing some awesome animated films: Dr. Strange, Green Lantern, New Frontier, Superman & Shazam, etc. So if they go that calibre, and stay true to Miller’s vision, this could be something really special.

    • Dr Strange is marvel. Any way, they should get some of the talent behind sin city to help create the animation seeing as they both have striking similarities in dialogue.

    • Dr. Strange?

  5. You had me at “Frank Miller… animated feature”.

    Looking forward to this.

  6. I’ll take any frank miller comic adaptation in any form. Waiting on some dare devil myself.

    • I was thinking the same thing, eddie. I would LOVE to see the Born Again storyline in either animated or feature film form.

      • Oh I am with u on that a Born Again adaptation as well as TDK. Some stories are best told via animation….but no extreme anime or crap style drawings tho.

  7. Get Mark Hamill and kevin conroy!

    • Mark hammill confirmed that Arkham City would be his last Joker

      • But he is doing the Sequal to Arkham.

      • I wonder if they could get Hamill out of retirement for this.

  8. I don’t know if they will for it justice but I can’t help but be super exited for this movie. I’ve been hoping they would make thus into an animated movie ever since I read the book. But they have to make it at least 2 1/2 hr. long and try to fit as much as they can into this. Btw TDKR is one of my two favorite graphic novels. The other being Planet Hulk :D

  9. My bad on Dr. Strange. Brain fart. Still, DC is making some great animated features.

  10. DC trumps Marvel in every way. Especially in the animated features! Story, art style, voice casting, and strict canon material make it great! If it was up to me I would make DKR a verbatim cell for cell, word for word.

  11. Yea, I think TDKR is suitable for animation. Have you seen the cartoon channel after 9:00 p.m.? Lol. Anyways I think TDKR will make a great animated movie. And thanks for that little nugget about year one becoming an animated feature. I think that story is awesome and came at a time when comicbook writing needed some kind of revival. The scene where Batman takes out the wall and says “….from this moment on, none of you are safe.”, is worth the price of a graphic novel or a movie all by itself.

  12. Mr. Moore, I am curious. What do you mean by “..dark and gritty OVER? the imaginative.” ?

    • I mean that there have been many comic books since DKR debuted that attempt to emulate its style, but all they do is dark and gritty. They’re usually not very good, in my opinion.

      • Thanks for the reply. I thought you were trying to say that dark and gritty is the opposite of imaginative. Also, I did not realize you were commenting on the imitations, not on TDKR. Thanks.

        • You’re welcome.

  13. SUPER EXCITED!!!!!!!!

  14. I’ll probably skip this one. I’ve never read TDKR, but if it’s anything like Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin, I’ll hate it.

    • It’s nothing like All-Star Batman and Robin. That’s a terrible book. You really should give it a chance.

    • Ben Moore is right, although All-Star may taint the experience for you, because it’s supposed to be in the same timeline. I just got All-star Batman out of the library. It’s worse than Dark Knight Strikes Again, and that’s saying a lot. I think Frank Miller may have misplaced a few tools in his toolbox.

      Dark Knight Returns is good. Batman: Year One is also good.

    • Nothing like it. Nothing at all. This would be worth seeing for sure if they do it right!

  15. That clip was faithful in everything but tone and, more importantly, context. Simplified rather than stylised, too much “Duh” thick-as-a-brick voice acting. And “Gotta love him!”??? Dear God. The actual TDKR fight scene had Batman making the mistake of trying to match the gang leader’s ferocity, getting beaten nearly to death and having to be unceremoniously rescued by wannabe-Robin Carrie Kelley (who he hadn’t actually met before). That was the whole point of it.

    At their best, comics can capture both the internal dialogue – the contemplative nature of a novel – together with the visuals of a movie. That’s why they work. That’s why they’re unique. What Miller did with TDKR and what Moore did with Watchmen was the apotheosis of what both had been building up to for years beforehand in mainstream comics. With the best will in the world, I think what’ll have to be left out of or altered in an animated feature film because of the nature of the medium will render it an empty shell of what was originally intended. What works on the printed page doesn’t necessarily translate or adapt as easily as you might think – as Snyder (again, with the best will in the world) discovered with Watchmen.

    And as much as I like and respect Bruce Timm’s work, I really hope he sticks to production alone on Year One. His customary blocky style would be totally the wrong approach for rendering David Mazzucchelli’s and Richmond Lewis’s evocative, deceptively simple art and colour palette.

    • Those artists did Batman: Year One, one of my all-time favorite comics. TDKR was Miller.

      But I appreciate your thoughts and agree. I thought that the only way to do Watchman right was to make a film that employed it’s own medium the way that the comic did so. But making a two hour movie, they would have to cut and alter the plot and characters until it was unrecognizable. I’d be okay with that.

      I would be for Genndy Tartakovsky doing TDKR, but give him free reign to stylize it how he sees fit. I’m sure he would make a great cartoon.

      • I’d rather see an adaptation that was it’s own thing, that took guidance and inspiration from the comic. Too often, they try so hard to capture the look of every panel, and loose any life or spirit.

        • All right. I just watched the Bruce Timm cartoon again. I’d seen it before. It’s very good. You have to consider that it was shown on Batman: The animated series, in an episode that showed different versions of Batman. Kids watch the show.

          • That’s true: that’s me taking it out of context!

      • Uh, that’s why I didn’t connect those two with TDKR… :-D

        Yeah, I think Watchmen was so densely written that, unlike 300 or Sin City, the closer you try to reproduce it on the film the more it becomes apparent what’s missing. Which isn’t to take anything away from the experience of someone who saw the movie first, or who hasn’t read the comic at all.

    • Well, that’s why I said “pretty” faithful. It’s faithful BY WAY of the style of The New Adventures of Batman. But then, it wasn’t really trying to be anything more than that. It succeeded, I think, at doing what it wanted to do pretty well.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more about Bruce Tim’s work, because his style works for his Batman universe; It is very simple and blocky almost like pixels even, it lacks in detail, but as the saying goes “If you build it they will come”, his work was merely his own take on what Tim Burton had already done in a darker “Batman” approach. However, cartoon movies especially ones as serious as these upcoming Batman animated film’s: “TDKR” & “Batman Year One”, need to have good, strong theme music to set its tone for it’s more fitting serious take on these particular cartoon movies. For example, in Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book”, “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid”, the music stretched in helping capture the direct emotion of the character allowing the audience to almost instantly connect with the characters feeling their emotions and pain. Developing the characters weight, allows you to know exactly what and how they feel in any situation whether that particular scene caused for lots of dialog or not it’s an essential approach to a dark quiet character such as batman(not throwing out the dialog that he already has in the graphic novel, “TDKR” just adding more different looks of distaste on his face (Frown’s and anger)while adding accompanying music to match the looks and suck you in as the audience to feel what the character feels as he protects Gotham city and maybe more breathing on his part to display realism and the fact that while he is doing super hero work he is not a superhero just a man, this makes the character, Batman even more interesting)

  16. I would love to see TDKR in a big screen movie or in animation if they stay TRUE to the novel. But, on a side note I think DC did a good job on Under the Red Hood.

  17. I hope not.

    Personally for me despite being a huge Batman fan I always found both Frank Miller and Dark Knight returns to be over rated. I thought the comic it’s self was far to cheesy in many many areas and the art was horrendous just plain ugly. I like and respect what DKR did for Batman comics, but I don’t like the comic it’s self. There was a moderately decent story in there, but it was buried under cheesy corny moments one after the other. Rather than creating a Dark and Gritty Batman it seemed to take the old cheesy batman and have him start being dark and gritty. More often than not the Batman comics to follow that were inspired by DKR IMO were much better.

    I wish DC animation would start making better selections on the stories to do. I could give a long list of stories I’d rather see than this and an even longer list of stories id rather see than The Red Hood. Not to mention adding in year one? I mean year one was a great story, but did we really need another telling of Batman’s origin. Every new film or animated franchise has done it enough we don’t need it again.

    • Wow, tell me how you really feel. Other than ” Year One” what stories would you like to see? I do agree the orgin story has been over done in Batman and Superman. But, I did like the approach Mr. Nolan took In BB.

  18. It better be Kevin Conroy as Batman.

  19. Greatest 4 issues of any comic series ever

    Oh and Once again Jim Lee sucks

  20. If anyone has read the comic for this, it’s an AWESOME idea!! This was a bad ass write up story for Batman. Gritty to the end.. Loved it. Would love to see a live action graphic novel edition of this, and will buy it for sure.

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