Earlier tonight I attended the World Premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1 of 2 at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. 2012 will be remembered as one of the best years for superhero movies and luckily this direct to video movie is only another plus in that column. The movie matches the graphic novel beat for beat with subtle differences added by director Jay Oliva.
It’s no secret that one of the major influences on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is Frank Miller’s much lauded graphic novel. The trickle down effect that was Dark Knight Returns gave us Robocop, more adult comic books, and eventually Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s a pretty obvious choice for adaptation and Warner Animation brought their “A game”. I’ve always loved the original book, I reread it this summer in anticipation of the new Nolan film in hopes that I would see some of the book’s iconic imagery. Sadly, save for a few scenes and a slightly similar ending the movie was pulling from so much Batman lore DKR had to get in line.
Animation Director Jay Oliva
Luckily Warner Animated decided to do a direct adaptation, and they are usually faithful to their source material. Unfortunately a major complaint has always been the runtime of the movies and the inability to cram more content and story into one film. This movie does not suffer the same folly since due to the magnitude of the story the movie has been split into two parts, splitting the novel into two halves. I very much appreciated this, and while I haven’t seen the second part (to be released next year), the first part was very faithful and you get a great sense of the source material brought to life. I honestly hope this film sets a precedent for future releases for longer or at least 2 part adaptations so you can get more of the story animated. Justice League: The New Frontier and All Star Superman would’ve greatly benefitted from this treatment.
Actor David Selby as Commissioner Gordon
The animation is par for the course for Warner Bros. being a beauty to watch as well as deftly adapting Frank Miller’s style for the screen. Frank Miller’s Batman has a very iconic and distinct look, so to stray from that would take comic fans totally out of the movie, so I’m very glad they stuck to it. My only complaint is that they removed the narration for the movie. Some of my favorite lines in the book come from Batman’s internal monologue, and in a few instances they work around it getting the lines in anyway, but for the most part is totally gone. I had hoped it would be there, I don’t know why it wasn’t, but since it was a pretty integral part of the recent Batman: Year One release the creative team probably didn’t want this to be too much of a retread.
Voice Director Andrea Romano
Acting wise I felt the casting was well done, David Selby is more than just believable as Gordon bringing his age and experience to a role that requires age and experience. Buckaroo Banzai himself as Batman was an inspired choice for Batman but Peter Weller’s Batman did have to grow on me since his voice doesn’t change at all. He’s consistently in Batman mode, gruff and worn and ready for battle, but the fact that Robocop playing Batman in a movie based on a graphic novel that inspired Robocop helps. Ariel Winter was an interesting choice for Carrie Kelly, she’s about the right age and not a bad actress but since the movie is steeped with 80’s milieu her performance is lacking the 80’s-ness that I attribute to the character and hear in my head when I read the book. You can’t really blame her for that of course since she was not even born yet in the 80’s.
Selby, Romano, Oliva, and moderator Gary Miereanu
All in all Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1 is a faithful and very well executed adaptation of the comic book as well as being another home run for Warner Bros. Animation. I haven’t seen all their films but the ones I have seen I’ve enjoyed and if you haven’t been watching Young Justice, then you are not a true DC or animation fan. A recommended purchase for Batman and comic fans alike, and hopefully the success of the recent Nolan film will also give this direct to video movie more visibility and crossover appeal.