‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2’ Blu-Ray Review: The Second Half to the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s iconic ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ has arrived. So how does it stack up with Part one?
***SPOILER ALERT: I’ll be discussing major plot points. You’ve been warned.
Last year I reviewed ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1′ (read my full review here).
Overall it was faithful to Miller’s vision, from the animation style to the dialogue. But they left us hanging to see the two biggest set pieces of the story: Batman vs. The Joker, and then the clash of the titans, when the Dark Knight fights Superman. Watch a preview here.
As far as the Joker’s arc, the result is mixed. I find Michael Emerson’s performance too restrained. Miller’s vision of the character was radical; he made him effeminate and erotically fixated on Batman. While this remains intact, Emerson feels too nasal and understated. He lacks the manicness essential to the character. I wish Mark Hamill had returned to the role.
I applaud DC animated for not shying away from the bloody carnage the Joker enacts on the late night David Endocrine Show and in the amusement park.The Endocrine scene is a real treat; in the original series, it was a David Letterman spoof. But it’s Conan O’Brien who lends his real voice here, and it really sells the scene. When the Joker releases his deadly laughing gas it’s quite disturbing to see the audience and Endocrine perish.
Batman’s climactic battle with Joker at the amusement park is dynamic, and the Joker’s random violent assaults are unsettling.
Batman’s conflict with the Gotham P.D. in the wake of Commissioner Gordon’s retirement is bombastic and hammers home that this version of Bruce Wayne is unhinged. While he vows never to kill; endlessly maiming police officers isn’t much better. It shows a facet to the character that undermines his heroic intent, one of many elements that makes Miller’s vision so radical.
But the pièce de résistance is Batman vs Superman. The premise for this is what’s most dated; the conceit that Ronald Reagan used Superman as a pawn in the Cold War.
I’ve read criticisms of the use of this arc in the adaptation. But if it had been excised, fanboys would be flipping out too. This is a period piece. It was a pointed commentary about Reaganism and fears of nuclear war. I don’t see how it could be changed without damaging the narrative.
Superman is dispatched to take down Batman via the President’s order, and it’s a battle royale lifted right from the comic. And, it remains a downer . As revolutionary as it seemed at the time, there’s something upsetting about these two former allies pulverizing each other. Bruce is headstrong and Clark is an idealist, but they were always able to find common ground. But it’s handled well and climatically.
All in all ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2’ is a well-adapted vision, but not as satisfying as Part One. I really miss the interior narration from the book. It informs so much of the character’s motivations. Seeing Alfred die while Wayne Manor explodes doesn’t have the same gravitas without him thinking to himself “How Utterly Proper“.
The animation is solid, and maintains the bulk of Miller’s vision even if it smooths out some of his rough edges. And the voice work from Peter Weller as Batman and Mark Valley as Superman is effective.
Special Features wise it has some cool extras:
Superman vs. Batman, When Heroes Collide gives commentary from various comic creators and animators about the mythical impact of seeing these iconic heroes clash.
The Joker: Laughing In The Face Of Death; explores the Clown Prince Of Crime’s legacy and Miller’s reinvention of the character. The interviews with original Joker creator Jerry Robinson are a nice touch.
From Sketch To Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with director Jay Olivia has some nice insight. I wish they’d also included a feature-length commentary to get even more back story on the adaptation.
Also included are 2 episodes from Batman The Animated Series and one from The Brave And The Bold as well as a preview of the TDKR motion comic and Superman Unbound.
If you’re a diehard fan of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, you’ll want to include this in your Blu-ray collection. Flaws and all, it’s still thrilling to see the pages of the epic series brought to life.
Want to pick up ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2’ on Blu-ray? Just click on the Amazon or iTunes links below, including a link for a hardback collection of Miller’s original story.
[amazon_image id=”B00A2LOAKI” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 [Blu-ray][/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B008RV5K5E” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 [Blu-ray][/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”1563893428″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Dark Knight Returns[/amazon_image]
And here are some cool Dark Knight Returns collectibles from Entertainment Earth: