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

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:45 am,

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

The film is a lovingly faithful recreation of the story that spawned it – for better or for worse, depending on the viewer.

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

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  1. 4/5

  2. i was entranced. It was awesome.

  3. For me, it’s a 3.5/5
    However, overall it’s still on the weaker ends of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. They’ve done so much better.
    Though I can’t wait for Superman: Unbound and Justice League: Flashpoint.

  4. 4.5/5

  5. Thanks Kofi, great review.

    For me 3.5/5. It was well done, a great conclusion. If only Marvel could produce fine animated movies like this. *Sigh*

    • its not a conclusion. The story is not over yet..

      • Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends

    • I’d trade the DC animated movie greatness for DC silver screen greatness anyday of the week! I love the DC animated movies but wish their live movies turned out as good.

      Not sure why they haven’t figured out how to put these animated scripts into live movies. Had they simply did Green lantern 1st Flight as the actual Green Lantern live movie they’d have made some money & Green Lantern II would be in production right now.

  6. 4.5/5

  7. It seems like the historical threads that had me worried ended up being a bit of an issue. Have yet to watch it, but at least now I know to go into it with my head in the right place.

    Great review, Kofi. Hopefully the extra features will be cool to just throw on in the background as well.

  8. If you ask me, those animated Batman movies are just there to make more money. Nolan´s “Batman” films made a lot of cash for WB, so they try to use the character to attract as many fans as possible. Just because they know it´s over now. (The live action)Justice League, if it ever really happens, will be just a rip off of Marvel’s Avengers, and everyone knows it. So DC/WB are trying to milk the cow (and rip off the fans) as long as it´s possible. IMO, it´s just a poor decision.

    • I definitely agree

    • Could be true, but these animated movie’s are making alot of Batman fans happy, I’m definitely one of them. Cash grab or not, they are really good movies.

    • well duh, but they work hard on them.

    • I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you don’t really read Batman comics.

      For anyone who has read these stories, it’s really fun to watch them play out in an animated feature. It’s gratifying for the fans who understand it, not ripping us off at all.

      • +1

      • Which is why I always question why people want the live action movies to be different……


    • Whatever their excuse is, I hope they never stop.

    • I’m still a bit disappointed by the drawing style, but oh well.

    • Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the animated movies are far better than the Nolan Batman movies, so I could care less.

      • Your opinion is invalid.

        • Really? Is this your opinion?

          • Yes.

  9. 2.5 out of 10 for me

    • I mean 2 out of 5, i’m tired of batman. DC doesn’t care about any other characters. Just supes & bats.

      • …being tired of batman is your reason for a 2….

  10. I loved this adaptation. I did not live during the Cold War and I still enjoyed that part. I also loved the graphic novel.

  11. 4/5 It was a good movie but I agree with Joker, it just didn’t cut it for me.

  12. @Scapegoat:
    YES, you are SOOO right, (eye roll). WB shud just stop releasing animated Batman movies because Nolans Batman was the pinnacle of all things Batman, and Nothing will ever top it. Listen, I love Batman, and I dont want to live in a world where we’ve already seen the best Batman interpretation onscreen. Part of what makes Batman so awesome is that like James Bond, Batman can be reinterpreted, and made BETTER with each passing generation of films. Why would WB stop releasing such fine animated films (something Marvel CLEARLY has not been able to do, with the exception of AVENGERS: EARTHS MIGHTIEST HEROES) just because Nolan has breathed so much life into HIS interpretation of Batman? As far as your comment on WB/DC ripping off The Avengers with their Justice League film: are you saying that The Avengers is the end all, be all of superhero films. You mean to tell me that there is nothing that could have been better? Greater? Ground breaking? Is the Avengers so great that it has a stranglehold on any and all subsequent superhero films? Because if thats what you are saying, then once again, I prefer to wait and hope to be amazed by both DC AND Marvel. I hope one day, we can look back at Nolans Batman and The Avengers (and phase one films) as small potatoes. Im just a huge fan, so I can’t afford to just write off DC/BATMAN off, I patiently wait for the next interpretation of Batman to be better because whats the point if everything great from Batman has already been shown? Here’s hoping the Justice League (somehow) knocks it out of the freakin park!

    • well said

    • Was that essay necessary?

      • Are any of these comments?

      • beats your excuse radd, mr. Im tired.

    • Hey I loved everything you just said
      I am a comic book fan till the day I die and like you I look for better. The Avengers was dope and Nolan’s Batman movies were dope but I don’t want it to end there. There is so much potential in these comic book characters to be adapted to film. It bewilders me when I hear people go on and on about how Avengers is the end all to comic book films and how if DC does a Justice League they need to follow their same formula smh
      Avengers was great nonetheless and I believe Justice League can be too but for them to follow Marvel’s formula for success is just knocking down their own creativity. I am hoping for Iron Man 3 to be successful Man of Steel, Thor 2, Wolverine, X-Men Days of Future Past etc. As a fan I will root for both Marvel and DC to succeed and go beyond their limitations.

    • I’m not denying that the Nolan movies were good, but the pinnacle of all things Batman? I don’t think so. It wasn’t even really Batman for me. Or maybe I misunderstood what you said?

  13. this movie was a straight up adaptation of the comic series. if you didn’t enjoy, or over thought it like these critics did, you would give them the same rating i guess. if you take it for what it really is – an adaptation from paper to screen – then you will love this movie!!! both of these rule!!! its the comic come to life!!! 5/5!!!

  14. almost complete garbage when put next to part 1, i give this mess a 2/5 and that’s only b/c of the fights which where at best half a**ed. there where so many continuity, logical and narrative errors (dialogue felt cheesy as well) that the movie became one big pile of cluttered garbage.

    what the hell was up with green arrow suddenly appearing and doing a rambo at the end of the movie, it felt so out of place and stupid (along side most of the logic in the movie).

    very disappointed by this, especially the show down with joker (though i did like his portrayal).

    • Maybe your expectations are way too high.

      • i went in expecting it to be as good as part 1 and it was no where near as well paced or fine tuned as part 1, there are a ton of continuity and logical errors through out the film, plus the pacing and characters are all over the place.

        the joker didn’t feel like the joker (minus the rampage he goes on in the theme park) and his ‘sub plot’ felt rushed. the superman against russia thing was stupid, out of place and didn’t seem like it had anything to do with the main plot, which was also a mess.

        • You know thats what happens in the comic right?
          The film is an adaptation.
          Also the comic is a non canonical stand alone so this world, joker, batman etc are supposed to be different.

          • well then i guess that comic sucks a** b/c everything felt like it was all over the place. i find superman killing russia’s for america then telling batman he isn’t to decide the fate of the people a tad ironic. stupid stuff like that, or the nazi woman’s gun being jammed then unjammed and being able to fire 5000 shots are what ruined what could have been a fun movie.

            there where just to many annoying things throughout the movie that kept distracting me and made the end face off not as cool as it could have been. weird how they had all these problems when the movie goes for a few more minutes then part 1.

            • I agree. I went in expecting it to be just as good as part 1 and I felt it just missed the part. The Joker just felt like a joke. I read the comics before so I knew how it all ended up going but I guess it just didn’t live up to the comics for me. Part 1 I felt did a better job in making the comics come to life. The animated film in part 1 felt like it had more emotion, more heart, and the fighting scenes felt better. In part 2 it just felt like it was placed there for the money grab. The whole Superman telling Batman that he wasn’t to decide the fate of people just felt weak. Overall I felt Part 2 was just as big as a fail as TDKR.

            • jwalka

              Superman was acting on behalf of his ‘boss’. Batman was working on his own.

              The Nazi woman if you watch the scene and not just oogle at her pulls the batarang out of her weapon (which they clearly show that is the reason it is jammed) and tosses it aside. There is even a clang when it hits the ground/wall.

              Green Arrow was mentioned earlier and knew since Bats came out of hiding the Govt was going to do something about it. Probably via Kent since thats how Oliver lost his arm…. and he wanted in on any payback.

              The heroes did not die or just disappear they just quit being heroes.


              Thats correct Batman a lone citizen can not per the US Government decide the fate of people. Only the US Government or their agent (Kent) may. This movie/book was a political (not as much as the book) statement as much as it was a Superhero cartoon.

  15. This is a great animated movie keep em coming and everyone else wanna talk bad about It, Try to make a Batman animated series movie and make It half as good as this until then hush.

    • -points to Mask of the PHantasm-

      Ahem, excuse me…

  16. Wow, 3/5…. I thought part 2 was very good. It was less serious than part 1, but still pretty good. IMO 4/5. Are they going to make the third part??

  17. In my review scale, 3 out of 5 = “Good”

  18. so… what happened to Robin? i mean the first one? they mention him in the first part but nothing came of it. did i miss something?

    • If you read the sequel to it will let you know what happened to Robin (Dick Grayson) or you could wiki it, I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

      To each their own, but I thought it was terrible. (Not the movie, the comic sequel).

      • I believe they were referring to jason todd, dick is in the sequel and crazy but jasons death is usually (or was) something that weighed heavily on bats the most.

  19. Wow. This review. Maybe they should’ve had someone who didn’t read the comic do this review. That way the review could be done objectively and fairly, without it being unfairly compared to one of the greatest comics of all time. I know this is an adaptation of that comic, but it should be viewed as its own thing and be weighed based on its own merits and failures instead of being bashed based on what the reviewer thinks it should have been like.
    I can’t wait to buy the DVD and watch part 1 and 2 back-to-back with my fellow batmaniacs. Super excited.

    • Ehh I dunno. “Bashed” is a very strong accusation for what I thought was a very fair review.

      1. I am a comic fan and I enjoy reading reviews that go into that stuff. If it was omitted, it would feel like an incomplete review to me and a few others. It seems you don’t enjoy the same, which is fine, and I’m sure there are places that this is reviewed by people who haven’t read the comic.

      2. I would normally think the “Should be reviewed by comic virgin” opinions would be applied to reviews that are overly fanboy-ish (in one direction or the other). I have read those reviews and this isn’t one. Seems his main complaint is that it is too true to source material in a FEW areas, retaining things that are nowhere near as relevant as they were when the comic was printed. I think that is a valid point to make, regardless of comic roots.


    • feel the same way… that was my whole problem with this review… i love part 2… it was crazy awesome

    • How can you not make a comparison to the source material in a direct adaptation. It’s not like it was “inspired by” or an independent story influenced by the character, it is supposed to be that story brought to life. It doesn’t have it’s own merits to stand on, if it doesn’t faithfully adhere to the source it is a failure. The comparison is necessary

  20. i am so shocked that this reviewer had nothing really but negative stuff to say about this movie… i guarantee there wasnt a fanboy out there that didnt love this movie… it was excellent… just listening to some of the comments on here it seems like this guy watched a different movie or is a chick! this is clearly a 5\5 for me… its better than red hood and possibly better the TDKR… im not kidding.. watch this movies its incredible.

    • the term ‘fanboy’ summarises the people that would love this garbage. i dont follow DC and only know the basics to some of the justice league members and i hated this. kofi (the reviewer) is into comics and the like plus he does very serious reviewers (animated movie or not).

      just b/c you liked it and he didn’t doesn’t make him wrong, he simply gave his thoughts on the movie and you can take it or leave it. i use reviews as a guide to know if i will like the movie or not, in most cases kofi and i usually stride in the same direction (his reviews have never let me down).

      • garbage?

    • I am a huge Batman fan since I was a kid and I even felt that Part 2 wasn’t even close to being as good as Part 1. In the comics, the Joker felt more fierce whereas in the animated film he felt just eh. I didn’t get that fierce, frightening feeling from the Joker as I got in the comics. I have to agree with Kofi on his review on a 3. It was good but not as great as it could have been. I am still excited to see more DC animated being pumped out but I felt the quality of it all could have been better executed.

  21. Very fair review.

  22. When Millar wrote this series he brought batman into the real world.

    When Tim Burton made Batman he only saw the darkness but not the reality, Hence his batman was dark but in a world so surreal that no one could really relate,

    Thank goodness Nolan got Millars vision. Lets hope future installments honor Frank Millar’s work.

  23. Why had no one else pointed out that Batman looks like a fat a$$? This dude looks like Bruce Wayne on Krispy Kremes and Budweiser! If that’s Batman, then I might as well be an Olsen twin. That animation is pathetic.

  24. I just wish Marvel makes animated movies anything close to this or ‘Under the Red Hood’ (my favorite DC animated film). They really do have much better Superheroes. But I just love DC the last 10 years or so.

  25. Wow i couldnt disagree more. I thought this was one of the finest DC animated efforts. Emerson did a great, understated job as the joker and the scene in the tunnel of love gave me a lump in my throat. I felt it was very effective in its adaptation and stands very well on its own

  26. For me the two films combined where at least a solid 4.5 out of 5. I liked the period detail about the cold war paranoia sa it added another layer of subtext to the plot. I really enjoyed seeing one of my favourite graphic novels translated to screen, its a pity it didn’t happen sooner but it was well worth the wait.

  27. *mild spoilers*
    I loved the movie, but the Joker just didn’t cut it for me. The only two times where I saw him as actually being THE Joker was when he was running around with the gun literally shooting every person in sight, and the way his voice and face changed right before Joker finished himself. Everything else was really good. I would have also liked to see Commissioner Yindel’s transition, from Bat-hater to Bat-supporter, be looked at more thoroughly. It just seemed to happen out of nowhere.

  28. I loved The Dark Knight Returns animations, especially the fight scenes. The brutality is just so wonderful and great. I’d give them both an 8.5/10. But my favorite Batman animation of all time is Under The Red Hood. I’ve already watched it like three times, and I never get tired of it

  29. I have read Frank Millar’s Dark Knight Returns and it is by far one of the best graphic novels ever. I can put it up there with Watchmen and I did enjoy both of these animated movies, I thought they stayed true to the book but like “ALL” comic book movies live action or animated they tend to change something up. I didn’t care Emerson’s voice of Joker, like one guy said it felt like he was just reading the lines and there was no character at all. But other than that I enjoyed part 2 just as much 1