They did it. They really did it. I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to do it, but they did. They made the sequel and it didn’t stink.
Adapting Frank Miller’s comic epic “The Dark Knight Returns” to animation form was one of DC’s more challenging animation projects but they succeeded by choosing to make it as faithful adaptation as they could. And more importantly, they chose not to compact the storyline as much as they often do. Personally, I thought that the overall pacing did move a bit fast—I would have tried to stretch things out a little but overall the movie managed to move things around without feeling too rushed and wraps everything up fairly nicely if not completely neatly.
The plot is excellent, picking up where the first movie ended and "Dark Knight Returns Part 2" is the grim denouement of this story. This sequel is the inevitable backlash to Batman’s retaking Gotham City by storm. Sure, he’s kicked out the Mutant Gangs, but The Powers That Be aren’t pleased, the Joker is madder than ever, and the new Commissioner is gunning for Bats.
The first part was an outstanding build up which rewarded us with the return of the Dark Knight after a 10 year hiatus. It was a magnificent opening act where we get Two-Face, his defeat by the Mutant Leader, the new Robin, and his inevitable return to brutally destroy the Mutant Leader. Now, we get the really meaty section of Frank Miller’s tale. We get the Batman’s final confrontation with his greatest enemy; the Joker and more importantly, we get him going up against Superman in the unforgettable grand finale.
I know a lot of people might be a bit disappointed with that part. I mean, it’s Superman! Why are they fighting? Aren’t they friends? Why? This is Batman. Why stick Superman in this story?
But Green Arrow said it best. The world is NOT big enough for these two titans. And they have never been friends. They’re not best buddies. They were acquaintances at best. Reluctant allies who tolerated one another. And why not? They are such magnificent contrasts to one another.
Superman was taught by his adoptive parents to stand as a Champion for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Their lives was his inspiration. And Batman? His parents taught him something else when they were lying on the cold hard pavement, dying in front of his helpless eyes after being shot by a merciless criminal. Their deaths transformed him into an Avenger who lurks in the shadows, preying on criminals and becoming their nightmare, their personal demon and their boogeyman who makes them wet themselves.
Sure, Miller could have written in the Gotham PD, or the National Guard, or even the US Army, the Marines, and the Navy to try and take Batman down. But WOULD such a confrontation have that kind of impact as seeing Supes and Batman pounding away at each other? And besides, who else is big enough to stand a chance against the Dark Knight?
They’ve disagreed over means and methods, about the law and government, over all kinds of things and now—here, their final argument is going to be told and it’s going to show once and for all—who is the stronger of the two. The God? Or the Man?
And just for the record? Bet on Batman.
The Joker, when all said and done just can’t quite equal the emotional impact of those two going at it hammer and tongs. Still, it was a real turning point of the storyline where the Joker and Batman did finally have it out with Bats almost losing it and killing the pasty white psychopath, but he maintained his morality and the Joker went out of his way to screw him over one last time. It felt right. This is how both of these two old nemesis should end one another, even Batman’s last contemptuous spitting on the Joker’s body.
The animation is without a doubt, uniformly excellent and as good as the previous outing. What’s more, the final battle with Bats versus Superman was beautifully animated. Batman’s brutality and use of his intellect to counter Superman’s raw power was totally overwhelming and the animation was artfully handled and was even better than Miller’s version on the printed page. Whoever claims that Superman would automatically win a fight between him and Batman needs to watch this fight and reconsider their “opinion”. Yeah, in a fair fight Supes could easily thrash Bats with his little pinkie. But there is no way that Bats will EVER fight fair.
The violence and gore has definitely been stepped up in Bats’ fight against the Joker and it might be a bit too much for little kids, but big kids (like me) will find it thrilling and damn good entertainment with Batman not playing around with the Joker anymore.
The music is just as compelling as before in the first part and has the same somber, haunting tone, and dark mood as before which helps enhance the entire atmosphere of the movie.
As for the voice actors, I have to admit that I was wrong about David Selby (Commissioner Gordon) who proved his mettle in this last saga of the Dark Knight. Otherwise, we had award winning performances from Peter Weller (Batman) and newcomers Mark Valley (Superman) and Michael Emerson (Joker). Emerson in particular is to commended for a much creepier psychopath performance than I expected, easily becoming one of the great Jokers like Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamil, or Heath Ledger.
I did think that some of the scenes, like with President Ronald Regan were a bit too much blatant copying of Frank Miller’s work. Miller’s political satire was just a little too dated for this modern day adaptation. Otherwise, the Dark Knight Returns Part 2 definitely lives up to the promise of the first half, providing an excellent finish to a great story. You will need to watch "The Dark Knight Returns Part 1" to fully appreciate the sequel, but it’s definitely worth it. "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" has serious competition to be one of the very best animated Batman movies in my opinion and this (and Part 1) is one of those ‘must-see’ movies.
RATING: 4 STARS!!!!