Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Bob Goodman based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Characters by Bob Kane
Producers: Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael McKean, Wade Williams, Gary Anthony Williams
Released: September 25, 2012
This past Monday, the Paley Center in Beverly Hills was having the west coast premiere of The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, the animated adaptation of the famous graphic novel, and was nice enough to let me come watch it and stay for the panel in which they had Bruce Timm, Bob Goldman, Jay Oliva, Andrea Romano, David Selby, Ariel Winter, and Peter Weller to talk. I’ll start by reviewing the movie, and then going into the panel afterwards.
The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is a faithful adaptation of the first two chapters of the graphic novel it is based on. I feel like grabbing my copy of the book and sitting down with the movie to see what stayed and what changed. Some changes were noticeable. Batman doesn’t have voice over narration during any action scenes, leaving the visuals of the action to present us with how he is thinking and feeling. You see old Bruce wince as he struggles with his elder body in a young man’s game. You hear him groan and breathe harder to let you know this isn’t like it used to be for the Caped Crusader.
Peter Weller (ROBOCOP! BUCKAROO BONZAI!) is a wonderful voice for Batman and Bruce Wayne, being right up there with Kevin Conroy and Diedrich Bader in my Bat-voice Pantheon. He has the tired and angry Bruce of the book down, and due to cutting back on not having voice overs in the action shots, his brevity plays a key role. When he does speak you know he means business.
The rest of the voice cast is great as well. While I expected Gordon to have a gruffer voice, Selby’s interpretation had the tone of a man tired of the many years of violence he’s had to face; it was a nice contrast to Weller’s Bruce who revels in the violent world they live in. Ariel Winter brings Carrie Kelly’s Robin to life by giving her that level of cool and inexperienced that the character exudes.
The film had changes that I was all right with, because while I understood their message in the book, they always made me cringe. Timm and Goldman seemed to agree during the panel when they talked around a scene they didn’t want to animate or talk about further. I imagine it’s the theater scene, since that one is just loaded with trouble these days.
After the screening there was a panel, and the stars and crew were there to tell us stories. What was also nice was having other crew members in the audience who wanted to see the show. I noticed that when Winter and Weller shook hands for the first time, they were sitting in a position that made them look like the 1960s TV intro of the two characters shaking hands. I thought it was a cute, unintentional homage to the characters that couldn’t have been planned better than as it happened organically.
The panel was moderated by Gary Miereanu, who was the one who got myself and many others in for the event. Everyone was excited to talk about the movie, and for many it was the first time getting to see it. I think my favorite part was when everyone was being introduced, Andrea Romano got the biggest round of applause, she is a legend for her voice directing and casting, so it was nice to see her get such praise.
The panel talked about the scenes they loved most. Weller discussed how he loves comics and how they are art, and since he’s a professor of art history, the man knows what he is talking about. Winter talked about how she likes Robin because she’s the inverse of 15th century stories where women are silent; instead she is someone who knows what she wants and goes for it. The others mentioned how they loved the way Carrie Kelly realizes she’s Robin, and that it’s a scene they think shows the power of being a part of the Bat myth.
The whole night was really great, and the audience not only got to ask questions, but then some of them were given either signed movie posters or copies of the movie on Blu-Ray. It was a great night and I hope I get to go see Part 2 there. It was really incredible and I need to go buy a copy of that movie now.
One more important note, my friend Kelly Turnbull of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things drew this wonderful art piece to give to Peter Weller, I gave it over to Gary, here’s hoping it made it to him.