The Dark Knight Returns: Part I

Director: Jay Olivia (2012)
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby
Find it: IMDB

The best Batman movie of the year. There's a reason I haven't gotten around to reviewing The Dark Knight Rises yet, and that reason has something to do with Christopher Nolan's trilogy topper leaving me profoundly disappointed. The Dark Knight Rises is an okay comic book slash action movie, I suppose, but it's a sucky Batman film. In Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Batman has now spent more time retired than he has fighting crime. The Dark Knight's career effectively consists of him beating up some criminals, toppling a gangster, defeating the Joker and getting his girlfriend killed. Also, taking the credit for Two-Face's death. Still, I liked Bane, and the bit with the football field was good.

But wait, this is a review of The Dark Knight Returns, not that other thing. Batman (Weller) is retired again - although in this instance, he does deserve a bit of a rest after a good few years of crime-fighting. Jason Todd is dead, Dick Grayson estranged, and the city is overrun by a gang of criminals calling themselves 'The Mutants'. Bored and still harbouring serious anger management issues, Batman Returns to sort his city out. First on his to-do list: the re-emergence of Two-Face and the hiring of a new Robin.

The Dark Knight Returns made me feel exactly how I wanted The Dark Knight Rises to make me feel. I genuinely had chills run down my spine during the "operating table" line, as well as during Bats' initial return. He might look disconcertingly like an angry version of his Brave and the Bold self here, but this Batman is properly scary. Not since Batman Begins have we seen Batman really terrorise the fuck out of some unsuspecting criminals. This adaptation of Frank Miller's comic book is almost entirely faithful, save for a few wisely chosen moments which make Batman less of a dickhead. Namely the scene from the book, in which Batman uses a criminal's massive machine gun to blow the bastard away - this adaptation has him simply conk the bad guy on the head with it, which feels more consistent with the Batman we know and love.

Except for maybe this one.
As with the other recent DC animated movies, it looks geat; very similar to Miller's artwork, except without the crap panels and occasionally dodgy anatomy. The voice acting isn't bad, although David Selby's Commissioner Gordon sounds a tad too old and doddery. There will always be those who say that Batman should be voiced by Kevin Conroy and no-one else, but I liked Peter Weller's crusty, understated version. The music is ace too, with a nice booming synth score which makes The Dark Knight Returns sound like an 80s action film.

Frank Miller may have gone off the rails recently, but this work remains as good as ever. I watched this as part of a double bill with Year One, and enjoyed both tremendously. Nobody does fascism fetishism like 80s' Frank Miller. I may never get an All-Star Batman and Robin adaptation (starring Charlie Sheen as the goddamn Batman) but The Dark Knight Returns (Part 1) will do quite nicely instead. 

The best Batman movie of 2012.    


  1. I liked this movie but I didn't think it was that good. It missed a lot of crucial stuff from the comic. But at least it wasn't that Year One animated movie...god, that sucked.

  2. Ah, see, I really liked Year One too..

  3. In full agreement here...the best Batman film of the past year, hand down. Good review.