‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2′ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated September 11th, 2014 at 2:00 am,

Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Reviews Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Review

Continuing where The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 left off, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 picks up months after Batman’s return to crime fighting, and his defeat of the ferocious Mutant Gang leader. With Gotham City’s worst crime organization now splintered, Batman works alongside his newest Robin, Carrie Kelly, cleaning up all the rogue factions of Mutants.

However, The Dark Knight’s triumphs (pun) bring some unforeseen consequences: Newly-appointed police commissioner Ellen Yindel views Batman as an outlaw and calls for his arrest; after years in a catatonic state, The Joker is revived by Batman’s resurgence and plans new mayhem; and even in the Oval Office, the president readies his pet Superman for forceful intervention, should Batman continue to make mockery of the law banning super hero activities.

Robin in Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Review

The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 was a stunning triumph in the way that it took Frank Miller’s seminal storyline (which forever changed the face of Batman) and effectively captured the dark, brooding, meditation on who Batman is, and what he stands for – despite the obstacles of page-to-screen translation. (Miller’s story used a lot of voiceover narration, for instance, which isn’t a tool film can employ as effectively.) Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is just as faithful and creative in its own translation of the final two volumes in Miller’s four-part story (“Hunt The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Falls”); unfortunately, that faithful recreation also proves to be this movie’s downfall.

There is much social satire built into Miller’s story – and nowhere is this more evident than in the final two volumes, which incorporate a major subplot about the Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust, which hung over the world at the time when this story was written (the ’80s). For fans reading the story in the actual Cold War era, this was a relatable and enjoyable thread to follow – but in the context of a 21st century animated film, it comes as a major distraction from an otherwise focused narrative. The sight of a Reagan-esque president spouting cowboy colloquialisms - or Superman battling Soviet forces in Cuba – are sure to be baffling to those who are too young to remember that time, and disappointing to those who hoped the subplot will have as much impact now, onscreen, as it did on the page, back then.

The Joker Michael Emerson in Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Review

The Dark Knight Returns not only changed the way Batman was viewed – it also changed the way people viewed his nemesis, The Joker. The Batman/Joker showdown in “Hunt The Dark Knight” was a savage and bloody thing (helping to establish the sort of sociopathic murderous Joker seen in live-action Batman films), and one would hope that at least that part of the tale would still hold weight onscreen. Sadly, that impact also loses a bit of its potency in translation. With so much to pack into a 76-minute feature, The Joker’s appearance feels very rushed and (being that this is still a cartoon, even if it’s angled towards adults) very toned-down from what Miller depicted in his book.

Lost/Person of Interest star Michael Emerson has made a name for himself playing creepy/eccentric characters, and one might therefore think that he would be a prime candidate for the voice of the Joker. He is not. I will say that I DO NOT believe that tried-and-true Joker voice actor Mark Hamill would’ve been “perfect” for this part; Frank Miller very purposely created his Joker to be a version the world had never quite seen before (effeminate, deadpan, sickeningly ruthless) and I believe that a different actor should voice that different interpretation. It’s just that Emerson (with his nasally delivery) is not the right candidate, and many of his lines feel detached from the animated character voicing them; not to mention, the sense that the actor is reciting Miller’s words, rather than breathing life into them.

Batman vs. Superman in Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Review

With the Joker segment not quite hitting the way it should, there is still the hope that the epic Batman/Superman showdown that concluded Miller’s story will make up the difference. Indeed, the actual fight between the two superhero titans is gratifying (especially if you know how it ends), but getting there is a bit of a chore.

As stated, the whole Cold War era plotline that finally drives The Joker’s “scheme” and ultimately pushes Superman to confront Batman is woefully outdated, and the film follows many of the source material’s minor threads right down the rabbit’s hole of meandering narrative (ex: Jim Gordon’s experience during the chaos of a power outage - or the history only hinted at during a brief appearance by Green Arrow). For those NOT looking for a beat-by-beat recreation of Miller’s work (read: those hoping for a Batman story) these deviations are especially distracting, while (again) those who love the books might find the sights of things like a satirized President Reagan, Joker’s childlike robot weapons or a fat and wrinkled Selina Kyle to be silly when presented onscreen.

Cold War References in Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Review

The returning voice cast (Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Robin, David Selby as Gordon) are just as solid as the first time around – while Human Target star Mark Valley is a pretty excellent Superman. Talk show host Conan O’Brien even steps in for a cameo as… a talk show host. Like Part 1, the animation style emulates the gritty, blocky design of Miller’s environments and characters, while making it all look crisp and clean in hi-def format. It’s definitely worth a Blu-ray viewing, in terms of visuals.

If there had been a way to streamline all the main threads into a more efficient and/or updated narrative (at the risk of pissing off the fanboys), Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 might’ve been a better movie for the changes. As it stands, the film is a lovingly faithful recreation of the story that spawned it – for better or for worse, depending on the viewer.

Blu-ray Combo Pack Special Features

  • From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process (HD, 44 minutes): Director Jay Oliva provides a commentary for Part 2 by way of this extensive, smartly compiled and edited production documentary, complete with panel-to-screen comparisons, character design and concept artwork, and a dissection of some of the differences between the last two issues of “The Dark Knight Returns” and its animated adaptation. More of a Maximum Movie Mode-esque feature (as opposed to a straight audio commentary or behind-the-scenes documentary), despite being a standalone extra rather than a running PiP commentary, “From Sketch to Screen” offers crystal clear insight into Oliva’s approach to the second half of Miller’s epic.
  • Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide (HD, 9 minutes): “Who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman?” A look at the complex roles Superman and Batman play in Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns,” the ways in which their individual evolutions as characters and icons affect those roles, and Miller’s intention with his Superman/Batman showdown, the portrayal of the government as an illegitimate authority, and more.
  • The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death (HD, 14 minutes): The Joker, his induction into the Gotham Universe as twisted trickster, his murderous schemes and sprees over the years, and his mad resurrection and fall in Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns.”
  • Additional Episodes: From the DC Comics Vault (SD, 68 minutes): “The Last Laugh” from Batman: The Animated Series, “The Man Who Killed Batman” from Batman: The Animated Series, and “Battle of the Superheroes!” from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • Sneak Peek: Superman Unbound (HD, 10 minutes): An extended preview of the next DCU animated movie.
  • Sneak Peek: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (HD, 10 minutes): An extended promo for Part 1.
  • Digital Comic Excerpt (HD): A much too short 4-page excerpt from the second half of Miller’s Returns.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 minutes): The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 

———

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. It is Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action.

Source: Images and Tech specs courtesy of Blu-ray.com

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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TAGS: the dark knight returns

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  1. Rubbish flick for the sheeple that seem to love senselessly dark thrillers these days. This wasn’t even Batman, to me. It was insanely violent and dark (see: Joker wantonly killing EVERYONE), and his part in the story was short-lived and weak. I was pissed when Batman used a gun, too (in the first and second part). Batman HATES guns (not trying to make a commentary, BTW, it’s just a well-established part of the character’s origin story). I know the source material for this was a dark reinvention of Batman, but this was dark for darkness sake, with very little meaningful content to back it up. Enough already, good guys can, you know, be good guys. Batman’s moral code is typically an unbreakably strict one, and moral ambiguity breaks the character. Watch the awesome Timm/Dini cartoon, or Mask of the Phantasm if you want some well-executed darkness (on occasion) and an excellent set of stories with one of the best Jokers to date.

    • I read what you had to say but I feel you’re being too closed minded. It’s Dark… The dark knight returns is a dark story.. and sure they made him use a gun(like in the first movie)but this is because he’s an old man who isn’t like he used to be but is still incredibly desperate to do good. I think if you stop focusing on “boo it’s dark” and looked at it from a Batman/movie standpoint you’d appreciate it more.

      Also, how can you call people that happened to enjoy it “sheeple”? That’s just plain wrong.. So you didn’t like it, everyone else that did is dumb? lol

      Batman. Is. Dark. Period. You either like it or you don’t.

      • ^ True. The comics were dark, and I thought these movies were spot on with the old comics. He/She saying it is “stupid”, means he/she’s not even a true Dark Knight fan, and they have no idea what hey are talking about.

    • “Rubbish flick for the sheeple that seem to love senselessly dark thrillers these days. This wasn’t even Batman, to me.”

      Then you do not know Batman.

      “It was insanely violent and dark (see: Joker wantonly killing EVERYONE), and his part in the story was short-lived and weak.”

      Then you do not know the Joker.

      “I was pissed when Batman used a gun, too (in the first and second part). Batman HATES guns (not trying to make a commentary, BTW, it’s just a well-established part of the character’s origin story).”

      Then you haven’t read a comic book in awhile. He has handled a ‘gun’ a few tiems I can remember off the top of my head. Once in Identity Crisis and he almost used it if it were not for Supes or WW.. forget which, and once he used a rifle (cant remember the story only the setting, he was around a boat dock and I think Deadshot was there.).

      “I know the source material for this was a dark reinvention of Batman, but this was dark for darkness sake, with very little meaningful content to back it up.”

      Actually there is a lot of meaningful content to back it up. One point being the Joker has ALWAYS attempted to goad the Batman into doing that which he has swore to never do… take a life. What would happen if there were no Superheroes? What would it be like if the US Government was a total and singular super power…

      Also it wasn’t a ‘reinvention’ of anyone. It was in the FUTURE……

      “Enough already, good guys can, you know, be good guys. Batman’s moral code is typically an unbreakably strict one, and moral ambiguity breaks the character. Watch the awesome Timm/Dini cartoon, or Mask of the Phantasm if you want some well-executed darkness (on occasion) and an excellent set of stories with one of the best Jokers to date.”

      Yes but the Batman is just a man. A moral code is something you strive for it is not a magic barrier that can prevent you from doing something. You want the best Joker to date? (this is debatable but not I think by a lot) pick up The Killing Joke.

      You have your Batman you like but apparently you are very closed minded and think that is the be all end all for a character.

      That is sad.

    • first of all, i respect your opinion dude, but this novel was wrote in the 80s and it meant something back then during and at the end of the cold war, just like watchmen. origin/back story… the dark knight was an original graphic novel set apart from the comic book series and the cartoon series(even tough it was wrote before the cartoon you speak of exsisted).. anyways, next time you go on a rant dude, read up on some history of the story you are gonna b**** ABOUT! fricken troll just been brought back 2 school

    • You know Batman used a gun when he was first created? that whole concept about not liking guns came when the code of comics went into effect. then when that was lifted frank miller came along who always writes dark stories, and this fit to what he wrote. Batman has aged what old man do you know that is friendly. someone like bruce with his life is going to be brutal, and unforgiving.

  2. P.S. If this had followed a well-executed script based STRICTLY on the Dark Knight series by Miller, it would have been incredible! I’m not against darkness in Batman flicks, it just needs to be done properly.

    • Umm, this DID follow the Dark Knight series by Miller perfectly, it WAS done properly, and it IS incredible.

  3. I loved it for what it was, an animated feature of Frank Miller’s comic. I thought they did a great job. I wish it were longer in order to include more.

  4. Hi guys, I just watched part 1 and 2. I’m not a very big comic book person but am a fan of Batman and must say this was an awesome experience. I can’t compare it to the book as I have not read them but I thought both were great with part 2 being the better.

  5. 5/5 Best DC animated film since Mask of the Phantasm.

  6. After watching the first one, I thought about the graphic novel and pulled it out to see just what was missed from the video. There were some spots here and there but nothing that took the darkness out of the original script. Yea, the Joker part was a bit weak, until The Tunnel of Love scene/battle. But there had to be SOMETHING to make the BAT turn and the Joker’s exploits come to an end. Think “Breaking Bad” the AMC show. and if you could not relate to the 70′s commentary, you weren’t there. But after it was all over, and Bats faked his “death”, it left me wanting more of it!

  7. As much as Screenrant loved Part 1, i’m shocked at how hard they were on this.

    The cold war part of the plot seemed strange for modern times, but i’m glad they didn’t mess with it. I think it was a good idea for them to follow the comic.

    As for the Joker segment, I think that’s more a complaint against the comic than the film itself (that is, if you’ve read the comic at all). I LOVE the graphic novel, but, the Joker segment seemed rushed to me in the comic. In this film adaptation, however, the Joker segment seemed LONGER. It didn’t feel rushed at all. It seemed weak at first (there were actually MORE deaths in the comic) but once they got into the house of mirrors, the Batman vs. Joker scene became epic. And the tunnel of love part was VERY intense. Perfectly translated to film.

    As for Michael Emerson, I didn’t think he did a GREAT job, but he was still really good. Although, I do agree that there are a few lines of dialogue that were ackward, or felt like they were read for the first time. But overall, Emerson did a good job. And I LOVE “Mark Hamill Joker”, but I think Emerson was better for this role. I thought there could have been MORE dialogue between Batman and Joker in that final confrontation, but reading the comic, it was fine, and still really amazing.

    Now, where I DO agree with Screenrant is the Superman segment and the conclusion were just EPIC! Again, the ending was surprisingly LONGER than the comic, which made it even more great (Alfred got better screentime here than the comic, that was nice) and the Batman vs. Superman battle took all of the action from the comic, but made it longer, and they made one incredible fight sequence here.

    In the end, I thought both parts made an incredible adaptation of possibly the greatest Batman graphic novel of all time (not an easy thing to do). In a film perspective, I did think the first part was paced better, but Part 2 was still great.

    My rating: 4.5/5

  8. WOW! What a shame for the reviewer! I loved this entire movie. I think that this and Superman/Batman Public Enemies would’ve both benefited from at least some of the heroes’ inner monologues being included but that’s quibbling. DC hasn’t failed with their animated adaptions at all IMO. All their animated movies are fantastic except for JL:Doom which was only really good.

  9. This is a weird review. Modernizing the storyline would gut out half the plot, thus forcing them to rewrite everything. Superman as Obama’s or Bush’s goon? Unless you got rid of the superman as a tool of the government side plot it would basically serve as a pointless change. And even if you did cut it out it would become unrecognizable as an adaptation. Making changes to the source material because you don’t expect your audience to understand satirical references to US history is kind of a condescending viewpoint.

    Also, Michael Emerson’s Joker was pretty outstanding. I picked up the book again after watching the movie and found that I kept hearing his voice in my head when I read the Joker scenes.

    I personally think this was a great Batman film. The pacing is a little off at times, but that minor quibble wasn’t enough to take away from the big picture.

  10. I did not read the comic, and I liked the first half. I was lost in why the justice league broke up, and what happened to Oliver the Green Arrow. I was even more disturbed to see Superman helping the USA goverment like he was their slave and enjoyed it. I guess he also killed off or put many superheros in jail as well. Superman helps everyone and if I recall stands for Truth and Justice. He upheld neither. I disliked the way he acted so much, that I have no intrest seeing the Man of Steal this year. Superman couldn’t even hold his own, as he needed the army to help him. Why not one on one?

    On the Joker fight when he used the gun, wh could he not use a baterang to set of fthat bomb? I sure he had one. Even if the Joker killed himself its easy to see with fingerprints if it was done to himself or someone else did it.

    Why could they not opened up why the justice league broke up?

    I was interested in that bat tank the new Robin and the two face story.

    • This is a Frank Miller story. His portrayal of Superman is very different from Supes’ portrayal by most other writers, he has a very controversial approach to the character. Watch one of the Superman animated movies or the classic 90′s animated series for a more commonly-agreed-upon Superman, definitely don’t view this as definitive.

    • Well in the book Batman really did snap Joker’s neck. Joker didn’t die from it though, but laughed saying everyone will think he did.

  11. “The Joker’s appearance feels very rushed and (being that this is still a cartoon, even if it’s angled towards adults) very toned-down from what Miller depicted in his book.”

    The fact that it’s animated didn’t contribute to it being “toned down,” the limitations of the PG-13 rating meant they had to lessen the blow. The artistic medium has nothing to do with it, I actually felt the movie should’ve been a hard R because of the Joker’s scenes(and that the Arkham games should’ve been rated M). There’s a ton of extremely violent animated content in the world, and this movie certainly wasn’t made with children in mind.

  12. To the point of the ‘Reagan sub-plot’ and ‘pet’ Superman I think the movie is just as hard hitting today as it was back then. Take it from a person who was born around the collapse of the Berlin Wall and grew up in the decade of ‘America The Greatest!’ only to fall back down into the fear of Terrorism and receive a new ‘Cowboy’ President bent on military might. In the tenth year post the Iraq War… its a pretty stark correlation.

    Personally I take that whole subplot as being very important to the concept of Supes (metaphor of the US as a whole) and Bats (metaphor of ultimate pursuit of justice despite an ineffectual administration) in this story and film.

  13. This movie was disturbing for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was the scene where the androgynous robin boy/girl straddles batman as he wispers, “It is going to be OK solider.” Or the scene where the old Bruce Wayne is talking to the other old man Oliver where Wayne asked what is it that he wanted and and Oliver said, “a piece of him, the school boy.” What was that supposed to mean? Then of course there is the whole cold war back story, which is convenient considering the recent demonization of Putin’s Russia in the mainstream media. And then you have the disgustingly murderous, lipstick-wearing and effeminate Joker….

    This was released around the same time as the Watchmen in the eighties. Presumably to expose kids to themes like sociopathy, sadism, pedophilia and violence. I find this movie and the comic to be disgusting displays of an anti-human agenda. The media propaganda runs together. Who’s going to be the first to tell me that I am imagining things and that androgynous Ellen-style haircuts are just all the rage.

    • Carrie Kelly is a girl Robin. The school boy is Superman, who presumably is partially responsible for Oliver, the Green Arrow, losing his arm. So he want his revenge.

    • This movie/comic totally went over your head. How can you be confused as to what gender Robin is? She’s a girl, nothing in the story hinted otherwise. And “the school boy” is Superman, how could that not be any clearer? I honestly cant believe how could interpret this movie in the way you did, it’s shocking actually.

      By the way, I’m replying to your comment because I just recently watched this movie after also recently reading the stellar comic. You’re probably never gonna read this….

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