The Dark Knight Returns is one of my favorite Batman stories, so I was both excited and worried about how they would handle it. Breaking it up into two parts so as to leave out as little as possible seemed like a good idea (yes, and it’s a cash grab, because now the whole story costs twice as much, but it allows for a thorough adaptation). So with Part 2 available to finish off one of the best Batman stories ever, how does it hold up? Let’s find out! WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS.
Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 ended and follows it pretty faithfully. It adds to scenes when needed for film purposes, but they tend to not take away much from the story. One of the first changes I noticed was how they made the massacre at the David Endocrine Show far more of a violent end for David while cutting out his other guest all together. I did like that Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter were the talk show host and co-host.
Several of the additions to pre-existing scenes tend to be showing the violence; Joker kills a lot of people and it’s shown. This isn’t my favorite Joker voice either, it’s not a bad job, but I always heard him sounding throatier; they get his sensual tone right. This Joker is as much in love with Batman as he is hate, so his tone of sexual attitude fits, I just feel the voice needed to sound more like a man doing a woman’s voice. His voice does do languid well, though.
The film does a great job of showing Batman’s impact on the people, to go from chaos to order within a minute of him arriving on the scene on horseback. Batman is shown not just as a force of nature to terrify criminals, but to also incite hope and structure for the people. The one misstep in this whole thing is when Batman gives the big speech to the Sons of Batman on how they will refuse guns and fight for him. Weller does a great job overall, but here he sounds too relaxed; I always heard Batman being louder, angrier, as he holds the weapon of the enemy high before breaking it with ease.
The big fight between Batman and Superman is even bigger here than it is in the comic. It moves beyond the segment of Crime Alley where Bruce’s parents died, but with having Batman use construction materials to bash in Superman. The fight is large and it goes on for a while; I was impressed with how long it went on.
The music is reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s work for the Nolan Batman films, and that’s a good thing in my book. It also evokes the feeling of the era of Reaganomics and grit. The art is smoother than the art in the book, but it still very much has all the right shapes going for it to remind me of the book I love so much from whence it came.
The special features start with a feature about the fight between Batman and Superman with writers weighing in on who would win and why. They discuss the characters and their links to other myths. The feature on Joker has writers and a doctor of literature discuss the character and his role in Batman, comics, and myth in general; some of the footage seems small for the screen, though. A neat sketch to screen follows with Jay Oliva showing how they took a comic panel and brought it to the screen. It’s nice to see him show the thought process behind what and why they did it their way. There’s also a digital comic from the Dark Knight Returns, along with some trailers for other DC/Warner Bros. features. My favorite extra was the inclusion of two Batman: The Animated Series episodes, and one episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is the one where Superman and Batman fight.
Overall I really enjoyed the film. I re-watched parts of it for the fun of seeing the scenes play out in front of my eyes. It has its flaws, some of the voice work leaves me wanting more, some of the scenes seem to be violent for violence’s sake, but overall they tell the story of what happens when the Dark Knight Returns, and they do it well.