It’s no secret at this point that I am a fan of Batman in cinema. It’s also no secret that I am a ‘noob’ in terms of Batman on the pages of a comic- not to say I wouldn’t like it there either I just have never taken the time to familiarize myself. So why in the world would I even try to wrap my head around the animated adaptation of one of the most revered comic books ever published? The short not so eloquent answer is that I just love me some Batman. BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 for an uninitiated comic nerd is often a welcome departure from the Gotham City Chris Nolan has portrayed recently even if at times and a joy to behold for anyone looking to surround yourself in Batman mythology.
PART 1 finds Bruce Wayne now 55 years old and has retired the cape and cowl after the death of his previous partner Jason Todd and now lives as somewhat of a recluse while his friend Commissioner Jim Gordon is now retiring from the force. The streets of Gotham are riddled with crime and constantly threatened by a gang that call themselves the Mutants. Dismayed by the constant violence inflected by the Mutants Bruce decides to hit the streets once again as Batman to stop the threat of crime in the city. Along for the ride is a young girl, Carrie Kelley, buys a Robin costume and goes in search of Batman in order to help the caped crusader fight crime.
Almost identical in the style of animation from BATMAN YEAR ONE, the new animated feature looks pretty great especially during action sequences. There are a lot of really cool action scenes stemming from Harvey Dent holding the city ransom with a bomb, Batman in an epic showdown versus hundreds of the Mutants and a final showdown against the leader of the mutants- all of these are a lot of fun to watch.
Essentially though, as fun as this is and as great as it looks it still doesn’t quite feel like a film so much as a cartoon I’d catch on TV sometime. As someone who watches a lot of movies though it might just be a bit of over judgment that I’m bringing down on the style and the quality of the voice acting which is at time much more Saturday morning cartoon sounding than unrelenting darkness or overly comic book sounding.
It’s not to say it doesn’t glow with all the glory of the comic pages because it quite simply does have the framing and timing of a comic book even coming from someone who doesn’t read them on a regular basis or at all. BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 is definitely not an entry point for people looking to familiarize themselves with the hero, but a great time will be had by those who know and love the character. People with a passing knowledge of the Batman mythos may be a bit lost at times, but will see quite a few familiar faces and at the very least get an urge to check out the source material. As an appetizer to the eventual PART 2 continuation, this direct-to-video adaptation is a must watch for fan of the comic book hero.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)