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'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1' Blu-ray Review

The story that changed the way everyone looked at Batman is coming to the small screen.

Without a doubt, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS changed the way people looked at Batman and comics in general. Batman always had a certain level or respect but was Frank Miller's 1986 four-issue prestige series that brought both grittiness and a new way to think about Batman.

The story told the tale long time readers never expected to see. We had a grizzled Batman who had been inactive for ten years. The idea of Batman retiring seemed so out of character. We all imagined Batman would be active until he was killed in the line of duty. Yet THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is seen as one of the definitive Batman stories.

The idea of an attempt being made to adapt this story was both exciting and frightening. DC has a good track record in terms of its animated original movies but taking on one of the best Batman stories is a tremendous task.

Thankfully, the idea was made to break the story into two parts. This movie perfectly adapts the first two issues of the series. It also does a near perfect job of adapting those issues scene by scene. The animation is a little cleaner than Frank Miller's style but you still feel the influence there. Some parts that took only a few panels are delved into with more detail, for example the opening scene with Bruce Wayne involved in a car race. Other scenes, such as the numerous television reports are condensed without losing the full effect. It's actually about fifteen minutes into the movie until we see Bruce back in costume.

The main downside of this adaptation is the loss of some of the inner monologues. They would come across as disruptive or possibly cheesy so it's one of the compromises that had to be made. Carrie Kelly's first time out has her talking to herself rather than thinking to herself. It does work nicely here. The biggest lacking moment was during Batman's battle with him calling out to Dick to be at his side and watch his back. This is missing from the movie but again, the price in delivering a polished adaptation rather than one bogged down by too much prose.

Despite some of the minor changes, there are still several scenes that use the exact dialogue from the comic. You can follow along with your copy if you desire. The better move would be to simply sit back and enjoy the show. You do get a sense of the dreariness and tone the story is meant to deliver.

The voice acting fits the movie nicely as well. Hearing Peter Weller as Batman takes a tiny bit to get used to. David Shelby as Commissioner Gordon didn't quite have the right ring to it. The others (Carrie, Alfred, Mutant Leader, etc) all do a great job in bringing life to the comic pages.

The Blu-ray does offer a good amount of special features. The biggest is a sneak peek at Part 2, set for Winter 2013. We get to see some unfinished scenes along with more insight from Bruce Timm and others involved. This feature has a running time of 6:53.

Another feature is "Her Name is Carrie…Her Role is Robin" (12:23). Here we see Michael Uslan talking about women's rights movement and the importance of a female Robin. Bruce Timm, Bob Goodman and others discuss Frank and Alan Moore taking a mature take on comics in the 80s to help reinvent them. Grant Morrison also shares his thoughts on the matter.

There are a couple episodes from Batman: The Animated Series. Parts 1 and 2 of "Two-Face" are included.

The full Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story (38:26) documentary is also included.

There is also a sneak peek for Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, which was odd since it's been released for a while now along with a digital comic for THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

If there's been any fear over the attempt at adapting this classic story, we can now put those to rest. It is unfortunate that we have to wait a few months for Part 2 but that's a better option than having the entire story condensed down to a single movie. We get crisp and clean animation reminiscent of Frank Miller's style and the comic is virtually brought to life in its entirety (or at least the first half of the series). Fans that read and loved the original comics should be pleased and those that haven't read it will be in for a treat. The movie may not be perfect but most of the few faults could be said to lie within the actual story rather than the execution here.

If you're a fan of Batman and the DC original animated movies, there's no doubt that you'll want to add this to the others already in your collection.

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Edited by raptorsrevenge

Glad you liked it. Mine has already shipped from Amazon, with the Avengers. :D It always seems like Gordon's voice over is hit or miss. The voice over for the character in the AA video game is comical, if not a little unbearable.

Posted by Lvenger

I'm dreading Part 2. If DC truly stick to the original storyline, they'll unleash a wave of angry fanboy debates about whether Superman can beat Batman.

Posted by Webjaker

The ONLY thing I missed was the Voice Over/Inner-Dialogue but I absolutely LOVED it! Cannot wait until PART 2!

Posted by kennybaese

When they say "Winter 2013" do they mean January/February or November/December? Because if it isn't coming out until the end of next year... that would be the worst. It's a great way to kill whatever momentum this thing would build dead in the water. I'm guessing it's probably coming out at the beginning of next year.

I'm still holding off to see if they release a complete edition with the two parts edited together. I'd much rather not have to get up and swap DVDs while watching this.

Posted by NXH

@kennyshat said:

When they say "Winter 2013" do they mean January/February or November/December? Because if it isn't coming out until the end of next year... that would be the worst. It's a great way to kill whatever momentum this thing would build dead in the water. I'm guessing it's probably coming out at the beginning of next year.

I'm still holding off to see if they release a complete edition with the two parts edited together. I'd much rather not have to get up and swap DVDs while watching this.

I'm pretty sure it's the begining of next year.

Posted by Mucklefluga

Hmmmmm, since i can't read the novel i might buy this.

In other news, the edited scene for the UK copy of Avengers really annoys me.

Posted by JamDamage

It worked well. There were a few lines taken out here and there, and even some changed (which didn't make sense why they would do that since they worked well enough in the book) but over all it was great. At first when I watched it I was looking for the changes, then I just got sucked into it and enjoyed it a lot. I'm sure the Superman fight at the end will be differant, and I just hope they don't change it to much. I'm sure it will have some action added to it. Using narrartion in Batman Year One seemed to work real well. I thought it made the animated story very good. I wonder why they didn't use it for DKR. I needs to be used in the Superman solo scenes. It explains, sort of, why Batman retired in the first place. It gives us an outlook as to why Superman would even go after Batman. To leave that out would be a shame and just piss me off. One scene left out of the DKR that pissed me off was a very small Two-Face scene that I think should have been in there.

Posted by JamDamage

@Lvenger: There is no debate anymore. DKR the book already showed that Batman can beat Superman. The questions was answered 25 years ago, and Superman has backed down to Batman in certain ways plenty of times already thruout the years since then.

Posted by Onemoreposter

@JamDamage said:

@Lvenger: There is no debate anymore. DKR the book already showed that Batman can beat Superman. The questions was answered 25 years ago, and Superman has backed down to Batman in certain ways plenty of times already thruout the years since then.

..........

Posted by Dark_Vengeance_

I am going to pick this up tonight.

Posted by Lvenger

@JamDamage said:

@Lvenger: There is no debate anymore. DKR the book already showed that Batman can beat Superman. The questions was answered 25 years ago, and Superman has backed down to Batman in certain ways plenty of times already thruout the years since then.

Really? You take that line of thought? (Sigh) Read this blog then try and say that Superman can beat Batman. DKR was a non canon fight by the way: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/citizenbane/superman-vs-batman/87-79268/

Posted by zackattack529

hmmmm..

Lupe fiasco's Food&Liquor II CD

or

Dar Knight Returns pt 1 Blu Ray???

Decisions, decisions...

Posted by Judge_Dredd

Anybody can beat anybody, depending on who wrote the story. I know there's the popular "rumbles" discussion stuff, but yeah.

I also pre-ordered this, can't wait to check it out. Nothing can top the graphic novel, especially visually, but this looks great.

Posted by JoeEddie

I have never read the DKR. I just could not get past the art.

Posted by TheSmallvillefan12

Definitely picking this up tommorrow along with The Avengers.

Posted by mrdecepticonleader

Cool

Posted by Master_Thief

@Mucklefluga: what was the edit

Posted by Mucklefluga

@Master_Thief: In the oulsen death scene you don't see Loki's staff pierce through Phil's body, this edit gives the scene a lot less impact.

Posted by CitizenJP

@JoeEddie said:

I have never read the DKR. I just could not get past the art.

This is exactly why I never finished it myself lol.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

I was watching this simultaneously reading the book!

Posted by mattwing87

Id like to see an animated movie of the Court of Owls story arc! Or the War of the Robins!

Posted by mcclellanscott

It has been years since I read the original graphic novel. I think I will be doing that tonight as a build up. Comixology has all Frank Miller Batman issues for .99 cents a pop!

Posted by Bestostero

although i watched this movie online already through the early release, im still excited to get this and Avengers tomorrow and watch again!

when the heck is the Dark Knight Rises gonna be release though?

Posted by SolthesunGod

I'm not sure if I'll get this. I think that any Batman adaption has a tough act to follow after the Batman Animated series.

Was this better than Mask of Phantasm?

Posted by Mrfuzzynutz

buying it when part 2 comes out

Posted by Suprman

I've heard good things about it all around on every review I've read so that's a good sign.

Posted by Aspirant

Robocop makes for an awesome Batman. Loved Welker as an older Bruce.

Posted by PurpleCandy

@JoeEddie said:

I have never read the DKR. I just could not get past the art.

This XD, same here I mean around that time you can find better drawn stuff, today you can find better stuff drawn by teenagers :P

Posted by csl316

Cool, was looking forward to hearing Tony's input on this. I just watched Year One and it seemed to move so damn quick. I'm completely on board with cutting these movies in two instead of just being in and out within an hour.

Posted by GothamDet

I re-read the book the next day after watching this.

Edited by sautor

@Lvenger: Wth is non cannon figth? Its one the most if not the most influential batman comic of all times... Current comics take heavy inspiration on that comic if anything thats the golden age of canons

Go defend superman somewhere else not in the TDKR review lol.

edit

Lol at that blog, Red son wasnt a batman win? as i have that comic right here and seeing superman calling wonder woman for help cos he couldnt take on batman is a pretty big hint on whats happening...heck batman didnt even wanted to kill superman in that comic.

Posted by x_29

Better than the dark knight rises.

Posted by Jacko77

Booring! too much Batman here and there! what about other characters??

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Great stuff! Have to head to my local Redbox sometime soon to rent this :)

Edited by BoyWander

The Killing Joke or Battle for the Cowl next please!

Posted by ravisher

that ending

Posted by Om1kron

already pre-ordered!!!

Posted by Lvenger

Your simplistic logic amuses me. DKR is non canon to the pre new 52 and new 52 universe. It's iconic but not canon to continuity. Neither is red son. And the reason I bring it up is because of the potential arguments it'll cause elsewhere. Please take your attitude and rectify it when you post on this site.

Posted by oneidwille

@zackattack529 said:

hmmmm..

Lupe fiasco's Food&Liquor II CD

or

Dar Knight Returns pt 1 Blu Ray???

Decisions, decisions...

Thanks for reminding me! And purchased!

Posted by Tyrannotaur

Does anyone think there will be a chance of these two movies coming bundled together in a super special edition? I dunno if WB would do that or not. I was hoping they would for the last Harry Potter, but nope.

Either way I'll be checking this out. I usually like the DC Animated movies. Well JLA New Frontier wasn't for me.

Posted by ogg927

I hadn't read the graphic novel, but I just might get it; looks good and the DVD looks awesome!

Online
Posted by lightsout

Add me to the list of people who just couldn't get through the comic-version because of the art (and the formatting w/the tons of news reports as many little square panels didn't help either). Oddly if it was a book with no art, it would have been easier (I liked the story that I made it through), but the art was just "distracting" to me.

That said, I thought this movie was GREAT. I'm a sucker for the moments where the hero works over the petty-criminals (with little effort, showing that "hero-ness" that a comic-fan can look up to), and this flick was rich with moments like that. I wish I had waited to watch it because I can't wait for part 2.

Posted by Stormbox

awesome movie

Posted by MrMazz

This is a a great adaption and the best DC Direct to Video feature they have done.

Posted by longbowhunter

Just finished watching it. I loved that they kept the 80's neo-noir/cyberpunk feel. It translated well. Watched it On Demand. Plan on buying it when part 2 comes out.

Posted by sautor

Funny that you mention it.

It is cannon enough to get a movie. To Dc (the owner of the IP) think this comic is worth investing money in it, unlike years upon years of "canon comics" that wont get even mentioned 3 years down the line.

That is the diference between a legacy comic and your "cannon comics"

If this movie stays true to the comic then well see a supuerman eating dirt in that fight, and you in the next review crying a river on how poorly it was handled :)

Posted by KuhLeeTing123

Nice, I'm a big fan of Batman

Posted by Nathaniel_Christopher

Watched the movie just yesterday. Not as good as Under the Hood, and Mask of the Phantasm is still my favorite of the DC Animated bunch, but it was a good solid movie that does the comic justice. Always interesting to see an alternate reality Batman. I have a few complaints with the movie, but they didn't stop me from enjoying it. The removal of Bruce's Monologues, which was really one of the greatest things about the comic, struck me as kind of weird, especially when there were monologues in the Year One adaptation. I also didn't like that they removed the part where Bruce asked Dick to watch his back. They split the movie into 2 parts...when I see something like this, the first thing I want to say is that they're doing it for the money, but I can let it slide. And maybe this is just me nitpicking, but I didn't like Carrie Kelly's voice actor. She just did not get the job done. Carrie sounded like a spoiled teenager. Besides all of that I thought the animation was solid and they cut the story off at just the right point to lead us into the 2nd part, so at least they knew how to end it and set the next part up. As much as I didn't like Carries voice actor, I thought Bruce's did an excellent job. I have to wonder if they're going to adapt Dark Knight Strikes Again.

Posted by spiderturtle

@zackattack529: I got both :] and Lupe also made a Batman reference on one of the songs and i was like O_o

Posted by Bad_People

I loved the famous "Batman swings with arm extended in silhouette frame" I saw in the trailer, he paused just long enough to see it. Great stuff.

also Thanks for FINALLY giving me the name of the last Robin I needed for the Robin the Cradle challenge, been looking for that forever.

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