The much anticipated second part to the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” is here and though the first part was amazingly faithful, and well done, it’s this second half that fans of the original comic have been waiting for.
“The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2” picks up exactly where the first film left off. After the defeat of the Mutant leader at the hands of a returned Batman, the city is divisive as to whether his return is good or bad. Some are happy to see that criminals are running scared, but others say it’s just an escalation of violence, with the Mutant gang splintered and some taking a vigilante approach to crime as “The Sons of Batman.” This vigilante group takes things a bit further than their namesake, but Batman isn’t stopping them. Amongst all this, the Joker comes out of his decade long catatonia after hearing about the return of his nemesis. And at the same time, Commissioner Gordon is retiring and the new headstrong candidate, Ellen Yindel is all about arresting the vigilante Batman. And finally there’s the little issue of Batman going against a government sanction against costumed heroes, and their way of giving Batman a cease and desist. You may know him as Superman.
I really can’t give any more away in case there are some people who’ve been living under a rock the past 3 decades or just aren’t comic fans but have grown to love Batman through cartoon, film and games. What I will say is that like the first part, this film is almost insanely faithful to its source material. Watching the two major confrontations was amazing, and the final throwdown is absolutely epic. Even the quieter moments, though still filled with tension, are well paced, and evoke many of the emotional reactions the comic did way back when.
Once again the artwork beautifully captured Miller’s style, while making it work for animation, and the score was definitely even more 80’s influenced than the first part. The voice actors all bring their A game here, with Peter Weller, David Selby, and Ariel Winter all returning as Batman, Gordon, and Carrie Kelly (Robin). Winter made me like Robin again by giving her charm, and spunk, but not to an annoying level. The new additions to the cast are Mark Valley (“Human Target”) as Superman, and Michael Emerson (“Person of Interest,” “Lost”) as the Joker. Valley was perfectly cast and definitely gives some heart to a version of the character that pretty much goes against how the character has been portrayed in the past. A funny note, at NY Comic-Con Andrea Romano who voice casts these films said that Valley actually took his glasses on and off to play the part of Superman/Clark Kent.
But the voice that stood out was definitely Emerson as the Joker. If you took the Ceasar Romero version from the 60’s, and mixed it with Heath Ledger’s version and threw in a bit of Jack Nicholson’s Joker from Burton’s Batman, you’d be pretty close to where he took the character. 100% maniacal and brutally sadistic, this is a Joker that truly embodies chaos and evil. The confrontation in the book is great, but seeing it played out on screen gave me chills. There’s also a cameo by Conan O’Brien voicing talk show host Dave Endochrine who was modeled after David Letterman in the original comic, but Conan is the “it” guy now so it’s updated a little bit.
There really isn’t anything else to say about this amazing feature. If you saw Part 1 and were waiting for this, then it was truly worth it, as the film is even better than Part 1. If you’ve never seen Part 1 or read the comic, then go out and buy them both ASAP, you won’t be disappointed! This is the ultimate Batman story for any Batman fan, or fan of good action in general.
Jay Oliva (director) / Bob Goodman (screenplay), Frank Miller (comic book)
CAST: Peter Weller … Batman / Bruce Wayne (voice)
Ariel Winter … Robin / Carrie Kelley (voice)
Michael Emerson … Joker (voice)
David Selby … Commissioner Gordon (voice)
Mark Valley … Superman / Clark Kent (voice)
Paget Brewster … Lana Lang (voice)
Maria Canals-Barrera … Ellen Yindel (voice)