I’m back again to give you another break-down of a DC Animated feature, the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. For all my thoughts on Part 1, just click here. I’ll be starting out this article with a brief spoiler-free overview so that the majority of you good folks get the gist of what I have to say and then can get back to your day. As for the more hardcore bat-crowd, I’ll continue the article with a far more in-depth look at the performances, the bonus material, and, most importantly, the similarities and differences between the film and the source material. That section will be in list format made up of all the notes I made (I wrote 2,000+ words worth of them while watching the movie and turning all of that into a full article might very well be insane). As always, I won’t break my musings up into multiple pages that you have to click through. I hate reading online articles like that myself so why would I make one of my own? If a webpage can scroll down infinitely, there’s no reason for me to move you to another page other than greed over that sweet, sweet ad revenue. So without further ado, let’s get scrolling!
I gave Part 1 an 8.5/10 as a Batman film but I’ll tell you right now that I enjoyed Part 2 more. I can say this with certainty because I’ve watched it 3 times in the past week and that’s saying a lot. I’m the kind of movie viewer who usually doesn’t see the same movie twice and that goes for quite a few of these animated DC films as well. Part 1 was a really faithful adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Triumphant, however, the slow pace, absence of the much beloved inner monologue, and the weird changes to Two-Face’s bomb plot among a few other flaws brought the flick down some in my eyes. Still good enough to earn an 8.5 though, which is quite high. Part 2, however, is a completely different animal.
No Monologue, No Problem
Anyone who has read the books its based on (Hunt the Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Falls) knows that these two stories are more fast-paced and action oriented, which makes them more naturally cinematic. And with so much adrenaline pumping going on, having an inner monologue play over it all would be awkward, slow down the film’s momentum, and ruin some really breathtaking fight sequences. These same fights in the book were utterly silent except for the narration. That technique works in literature fine but not so well for a movie. Especially one where the fight at hand is so monumental. Would you want to watch a fight to the death between Batman and the Joker in which Joker doesn’t say a word? I know I wouldn’t. It’s not very captivating in a fight with someone who’s not well known as physical threat and it wouldn’t be true to his wise-cracking persona either. That’s why Bob Goodman’s monologue-less approach is a total success in this half of Miller’s epic. You’re so enthralled with the spectacle that you don’t need Batman’s calculated insights to support it all. Plus, let’s face it, all the best lines are in Part 1.
Arc vs. Action
Part 1 was a personal tale with a very strong arc both for Bruce and Gotham City itself. Bruce starts out downright miserable, alone, and without any sense of purpose in this world. It was even stuffed with a few extra flashback scenes of writer Bob Goodman’s own creation to reinforce the deep psychological elements at play. It also had to have some of the fight scenes greatly extended to keep the audience involved! By the end of the movie Bruce had reclaimed the night as Batman, gained a friend, and inspired a city. It’s a more character driven movie with a richer story to tell than Part 2, but is it as fun? Is it as re-watchable as Part 2? Absolutely not. Whereas Part 1 has a greater over-arcing story, Part 2 is built around two powerful scenes. Neither movie is particularly well structured though since it’s technically 4 stories crammed into 2 parts. Honestly, the Two-Face segment is the most unnecessary and if they ever make a live action film I can see that part being cut out entirely for a more natural escalation from street crime to super villain to Superman, but I digress. Part 1 built this world in which Batman could be reborn and now in Part 2 we get to watch him go to work. It’s why most superhero sequels are better than the original, with the origin out of the way we can finally play! What would it be like if grizzled, out-of-retirement Batman fought Joker one last time? Awesome. Now, what’s bigger than fighting the Joker? Let’s see him fight Superman! After those moments have passed you’re exhausted and satisfied. Of course it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without the groundwork that Part 1 laid, but once you have that information in your brain you can pop in this Blu-ray anytime you want and have a thrilling hour and half that really flies by. There’s even an opening segment that does a fairly good job of summing up the events of Part 1.
Everything set up in Part 1 pays off in Part 2. It’s a fun but brutal adaptation that captures the source material even better than the first half did. The animation is sleeker, the colors more vibrant, and the villains more interesting. I really don’t see how a Batman fan could watch this movie and not find something to get excited about! What was so captivating about TDKR back in 1986 still holds up here. It’s not how dark and mature the material was handled, it was that it gave us a glimpse at something ongoing stories like Batman never have– an ending. And whereas The Dark Knight Rises gave us an ending for those who believe in Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight Returns gives an end for the other brand of Bat-fan, those who believe Bruce died with his parents. Your Blu-ray also comes with better bonus features than the previous installment to give you plenty of bang for your buck. You’ll enjoy a 45 minute commentary by director Jay Oliva, a couple of featurettes starring the film’s producers and several notable comic creators, and there are 2 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and a hysterically funny Batman: The Brave & The Bold.
And so the beat drops in the Harlem Shake of our review and we smash cut to the HARD CORE SECTION!!!!! (P.S. If you are reading this review after…let’s say March and everyone’s forgotten what the Harlem Shake is, just don’t worry about it. It was a thing that got old pretty fast in early 2013)
The score is basically the same as it was in the previous film, which is quite good. I even found myself listening to a clip of it on YouTube the other day while I was working on another project (look for a full soundtrack to go on sale in the coming months). It’s a solid Batman theme that’s reminiscent of Hanz Zimmer with some David Julyan and a hint of 80’s synthesizer. The best of the new material by Christopher Drake comes from the Joker’s scenes, which have a carnival quality to them. Listen closely to the rhythm during the tunnel of love fight.
Obviously I can’t talk about every single voice performance in the film, but these are the ones that most need to be addressed.
Peter Weller as Batman: The same problem remains as in part one only it’s worse this time around. Part 1 was a slower film and it had far more brooding Bruce moments. Quiet scenes like that are what Weller does well. His deep, resonating tone makes for a great, angry old Bruce. However, the actor doesn’t have more of an emotional range than that. No major inflections or signs of energy. It doesn’t work very well for Part 2 because Part 2 is fast-paced and action oriented with moments where Batman must rally the city. Batman delivers a “Braveheart” style speech at one point in the film but sounds monotone and uninspiring. And when he rides in, mocking the people fighting each other, there’s no gruff sarcasm as Batman talks about “community spirit” or how they all must surely be “eager to help.” Weller is flat and detached in his delivery of great lines when more is required of him than a low grumble.
Michael Emerson as The Joker: Just like how fans groaned when Kevin Conroy wasn’t cast as Batman, fans were equally dismayed to learn that Mark Hamill wasn’t reprising his role as The Joker. When I heard about it I wasn’t so much dismayed as I was very surprised by the choice. I was curious to see how it would pan out. Well, I’m happy to report that Emerson delivers one of, if not the best performances of the movie. If you’ve ever seen the show “LOST” then you’ll be familiar with Emerson’s voice. The change in his speech is quite subtle, the guy already has a naturally creepy vibe and it works well with this incarnation of the Joker. His voice is high pitched, quiet at times, and he absolutely nailed the laugh. He also added a bit of an excited tremble to it at times as if Joker was quivering with anticipation for Batman to draw near. It’s the opposite of Peter Weller’s voice, really. Hamill’s Blue Meanie inspired Joker isn’t the same character as the one Frank Miller created. Frank Miller’s Joker is basically a serial killer who just so happens to have green hair. When you watch The Dark Knight or Batman 1989 or any episode of Batman: The Animated Series a part of you looks forward to seeing the Joker. You want to see him create chaos because even though we acknowledge that he’s bad, he’s exciting, funny, and unpredictable and that makes for great entertainment. Miller’s Joker isn’t a villain we love to hate, he’s just a villain we hate. Sure he’s slightly more likeable in this because Bob Goodman added a few more one-liners but besides that there’s no whimsy to him. There’s no Harley Quinn at his side, no humorous walk in a nurses outfit as he clumsily tries to detonate a bomb– this villain simply shoots person after person. You want Batman to bring this guy down quick because he’s a perverted psychopath and nothing more. And really that’s the way the Joker needs to be presented in a final confrontation. Batman’s the hero after all and in this moment we need to finally have our fill of the bad guy.
Mark Valley as Superman: This actor made a great Superman. Valley’s performance didn’t just meet my expectations, but he improved upon the source material by humanizing Superman by delivering the lines as naturally as possible. The part could’ve easily been delivered in a cold, uncaring tone but that wouldn’t be true to the character of Superman. Valley was able to make Superman sound like a hero while playing the part of the villain, and yet I still empathized with him slightly because he wasn’t so much a bad guy as he was hero that’s too good to realize when the thing he fights for is no longer on the right side of things. Today’s comics and films have an international Superman who doesn’t fight for The American Way, he fights for every person on the globe no matter what their nationality may be. Frank Miller’s Superman, however, is still that same patriotic Superman but this time he’s thrust into a scenario in which the Government has grown too big and its authority is no longer in the best interests of its people. Valley brought great emotional depth to the part and gave one of the best performances.
David Selby as Gordon: Commissioner Gordon plays an even smaller role in this film, but I can’t help but think that those scenes would’ve carried more weight if the voice was right. To me, Selby remains the weakest casting decision not because he does a poor job but because his voice simply isn’t the right fit for Gordon. His voice sounds quite frail and doesn’t command attention. And although Gordon has less screen time in part 2, his most important scene is one where he literally has to command everyone’s attention as Gotham burns to the ground.
Ariel Winters as Robin: No complaints at all on this one. She did a fine job, but like Gordon she also had less screen time but what little she was in the movie she was spot-on.
Robin Atkin Downes as Oliver Queen: Just because not enough people have given this guy any credit. Green Arrow is an integral part of The Dark Knight Returns both in the book and the film, yet if you’re like me you ALWAYS forgot that he was in the book until the very end. I don’t know what it is but one-armed Ollie always escapes my memory. Well, Downes did a heck of a job bringing this character to life in the movie and made Arrow more memorable.
The Blu-ray is the best deal for this film and it includes the most bonus features. You get a coupon for $5 off the purchase of Part 1, which is great if you don’t already own that. Then there’s the DVD and Ultra-Violet copies that come with your Blu-ray as well so you’re getting quite a few different versions for your phone, laptop, iPad, etc. etc.
But let’s talk about the real supplemental material on this thing from least interesting to most.
- Digital Comic Excerpt from the Graphic Novel: It’s really not worth your time. Using your remote to cycle through a few magnified images on your TV isn’t exactly the way this epic was intended to be enjoyed.
- Preview of Superman: Unbound: The Dark Knight Returns is a tough act for any DC Animated film to follow but Superman: Unbound didn’t really hook me. This in-depth look was actually quite lengthy so if you’re excited about that story being adapted to film you’ll be pleased by this bonus. For me though, it looks like pretty much every other animated Superman movie I’ve seen.
- Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide: This 9 minute featurette has all the producers, writer, and a few comic book creators (such as Grant Morrison and Denny O’Neil) chatting about Batman and Superman and how their depictions were changed by Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. They also give their own take on who would win in a Batman vs. Superman fight. It’s an alright 9 minute bonus except for one guy who really didn’t belong. I want to hear from the makers of the film and the creative folks behind the comic books but to add more legitimacy to the documentary they also brought in a lecturer of classics from UCLA who compare Batman to Prometheus and it doesn’t really work. The guy doesn’t seem to know much about Batman or Superman and I found him kind of annoying.
- The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death: Runs for about 15 minutes. This featurette is about the Joker, how the character came to be and how he’s evolved over time. One of the most interesting segments is a one-on-one interview with the character’s creator, Jerry Robinson. The producers and various other comic creators pipe-in as well, but just like with Superman vs. Batman that damn scholarly fellow shows up to talk about how much Joker is based on the mythological figure Loki and how Batman needs Joker just as much as Joker needs Batman and I don’t agree with that either. He really had no business in this feature, but luckily the Denny O’Neil and Jerry Robinson insights are very rich. It was weird that they showed an image from a death in The Long Halloween to end off the short when that murder had nothing to do with Joker in the book.
- Additional Episodes: There are three bonus cartoons on the Blu-Ray. Two of them are Joker episodes from Batman: The Animated Series. Classics, and they have been transferred better to the Blu-Ray format than those Two-Face episodes included with Part 1. The real highlight though is the episode of Batman: Brave & The Bold that features Superman vs. Batman. I don’t call it the highlight because I think it’s better than the Joker episodes, but because I think it’s a great opportunity to show fans who never watched this show what they’ve been missing. I’m sure everyone who buys this movie will have already seen every episode of Batman: The Animated Series several times over, but they probably dismissed Brave & the Bold as being childish. In fact, the show was an incredibly fun homage to the silver age comics and the Superman episode included here is one of the funniest you’ll see. Here’s hoping it makes a few new fans with this nifty bonus feature.
- From Sketch to Screen: This was fantastic. It’s as close to an audio commentary as either Blu-Ray has and you’ll wish they had given Part 1 the same treatment. Director Jay Oliva talks in great detail about the making of several of The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2’s most integral scenes. You see comparisons to the comic and original storyboard designs. This feature is 45 minutes long, dwarfing every other bonus on the disc. I say it’s required viewing.
Why I could be Going Easier on This One
A 9/10? Could it be that I’m going easier on this one? Definitely. Let’s face it, all the scrutiny was on Part 1. No Kevin Conroy as Batman? No inner monologue? They’re breaking the story in half?! I know I was pretty skeptical about that movie and I’m sure all of you were too. But that was back in September and by now I’ve accepted this vision of Frank Miller’s world and now that I’m used to this different environment I’m probably not going to notice as many of the little changes. And if I do, I’ll be okay with them.
All of My Notes
Just like with part 1 there were some liberties taken, but rather than that odd Batman-in-a-coffin scene,the majority of the new additions to Part 2 excel. Here’s a list of my notes from watching The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 copied and pasted for your pleasure because writing them all out into one big essay was too daunting of a task. In them you’ll find segments that I thought improved on the source material, others that didn’t, and my surprise at how faithful some of the comic’s most questionable scenes were adapted to film.
- Nazi boobs! They kept the swastikas on Bruno’s breasts in the movie. I was really, really surprised by this. Oddly enough though, they didn’t let her keep the ass-less pants with swastikas on the cheeks.
- Why hasn’t Bruno been used more in the comics? Is it the design more than anything? She’s only ever appeared in TDKR and Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder (which isn’t good). I’m still not clear on whether or not Bruno is supposed to be transgender or not.
- The jerk in the subway doesn’t push a man with crutches onto the tracks. Rather than do something so heinous, he instead trips on a water bottle and accidentally nudges a blind man onto the tracks. Odd change.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce had to wear a mechanical leg brace. In The Dark Knight Returns, he wears a mechanical arm brace.
- Very smart of Jay Oliva and Bob Goodman to move the story ahead in time a few months. In the graphic novel, these events happen immediately after Dark Knight Triumphant. But by setting the story in the winter it gives time for Carrie to train and her actions to be more believable. It also makes more sense for the government to be getting so fed up with Batman’s revolution. HOWEVER, by moving ahead so far in time it makes less sense for Gordon to be having a retirement dinner now. He retired at the end of the last movie and they are only now having a formal occasion in which Yindel’s new job title is made official?
- Just like in the comics, Yindel’s switch to accepting Batman’s role in Gotham happens a bit too easily. Though it’s harder to buy in the movie because we actually see how many shots she fires at Batman. She comes off as almost psychotic in the movie.
- Relies on you knowing full well who Joker and Superman are, but honestly that shouldn’t be a problem for any viewers. Not even those who have never read a comic book in their life. These characters are big enough that everyone knows the basics, especially anyone who was willing to sit down to watch an animated Batman movie. But with the first movie anyone could’ve gone in cold. Someone who’s never seen a movie in their life or heard of what a comic book is could’ve followed that.
- In the movie there’s an eagle that swoops down and perches on Superman’s arm. It’s ridiculous and sends an already intentionally corny shot of Superman over the top. I thought it was funny, but I understand some might hate it. But that’s not the thing I thought was improved by this scene the most. What I liked was that Bruce and Superman talked about Ollie. In the novel, Green Arrow just shows up at the end of the tail end of the book wanting a piece of Superman in the upcoming fight. By alluding to him here there’s more of a payoff later on.
- There should have been greater emphasis on the rise of the Sons of Batman and the idea of the citizen taking control of their lives away from authority figures and finding success. This is at the very heart of Part 2’s anti-authority message.
- Humpty Dumpty’s scenes are all moved to this film which works better for this movie but really we all know that the folks who watch this flick are going to watch both movies back-to-back. Having included Humpty and more Joker in the first movie would’ve solved the Two-Face problem for sure. For more of what I’m talking about there, check out the review of Part 1.
- Joker’s hair is less green than it was in the books. My friend tried to say that it wasn’t green at all but grey. The Joker also wears the same white suit from the Tunnel of Love scene throughout the film. In the book he changes into 3 different suits but never dawns the trademark purple.
- Did you know that Sarah Essen was first introduced to the comics in The Dark Knight Returns? Many of you will disagree with that and flee to Wikipedia to double check that statement. That’s fine, I’ll wait. It’s easy to forget that Batman: Year One, Essen’s first PHYSICAL appearance, was written after TDKR. So Miller introduced her as Gordon’s wife in TDKR first and then fleshed her out as the “other woman” in Batman: Year One. In the movie though, we actually see Sarah a couple of times and she has lines.
- There are fewer talking-heads news scenes spliced into the film. Part 2 is more anti-government than it is anti-media.
- Joker makes a few more jokes in the movie. He’s still more of an un-likeable serial killer than he is in pretty much every other incarnation and holds true to the Miller version entirely but it was good to see Joker crack wise a bit more often. Miller’s take was a very serious departure from the character’s usual depiction.
- As Batman swoops in, Yindel shouts “Nobody can fly!” (same thing happens in the book) but we’re telling a story in a world which Superman clearly exists, lady.
- Doctor Wolper dies in the book when one of those weird baby-robots cracks his neck. I hate those robots, but I’ll get to that later. The creators of the film dropped that death and replaced it with a much cooler “pencil-trick” scene in which Joker smashes a mug on the TV show host’s desk and uses the remaining jagged ceramic of the handle to rip open Wolper’s throat. It’s one of the first “Oh shit!” moments I’ve had in a DC Animated film.
- Dr. Ruth is mentioned, but not shown as a guest in the movie. I’m fine with this because the coffee mug kill is a much cooler way to kick off the Joker’s massacre than the Smile-X kiss to Dr. Ruth.
- I’m grateful that the movie decided to stick with the 80s look and feel. I talked about it in the Part 1 review. But even so I was still surrpised to see that they kept Ronald Reagan in the movie. So glad they did! Surprisingly, even though Reagan remains, they cut out David Letterman who was still called by a different name in the book, but it was obviously Letterman. Rather than cast David Letterman in the part, they hired (the much funnier if you ask me) Conan O’Brien. Interesting choice, right? Would they make the character look like Conan? No. Instead it’s a very generic handsome man with brown hair and suit. Odd since the head of the Late Show’s band still looks quite a bit like Paul Shaffer!
- Conan did a fantastic job and according to the panel discussion for the film at LA’s Paley Center, he was able to pull off a very good Joker toxin-induced laugh in a single take.
- Wolper doesn’t wear his Superman “S” T-shirt. I don’t understand why. If they can use the S on Superman’s uniform, why couldn’t they put it on Wolper’s shirt?
- Just like the book, but unlike the ongoing comics, Joker doesn’t have a natural immunity to the Smile-X gas. Miller’s Joker must use nose plugs to survive the poison. It works better, really. Otherwise there would have to be some dialogue to explain that Joker is unharmed by his own poisons, a fact that’s not as well known as “green rocks hurt Superman”
- Corto Maltese isn’t a real place?! Listen, this is one of the best examples of how my love of Batman has screwed with my head. I’m pretty good with geography. I can take the Sporcle.com “Name the Countries” quiz and get at least 90% of those right, but I have never once suspected that Corto Maltese wasn’t a real island off the coast of South America.
- If you’re wondering why I’d think that, it was driven into my head at an early age. Not because I read TDKR as a child, but because Corto Maltese was also referenced in Tim Burton’s Batman, which I watched repeatedly.
- It’s so interesting to me how Superman kills more people than the Joker in this story.
- I was really surprised that they kept the robots Mary and Bobbie. I hate those robots! Always have, always will. I’m fine with Superman flying, a bat tank, and mind-control lipstick, but for a weak character like Humpty Dumpty to be able to create the most high tech flying robots known to man? I can’t swallow that. And why program them with such awful attitudes? They treat you terribly, Humpty! This is such a frightening scene, but it comes off ridiculous in the end because of these bots. However, I’m sure that many would’ve been upset to see them cut so really you have to be in awe of how true the creators of this film were to the book. Even to the movie’s detriment they stayed as faithful as possible.
- The most confusing scene of the movie is Congressman Noche’s death. Jay Oliva described it as Joker starting World War III, but I’m not picking up on that at all. At best I see Joker’s plan to poison the minds of the congressman and the mayor as a distraction while he set into motion the attack on the fairgrounds AND as a means of harming someone close to Batman (Selina) while leaving a clue (the cotton candy) as to where their next showdown would occur. The government wouldn’t decide to fire nukes just because one naked congressman raved about it on a roof before falling to his death. That doesn’t add up.
- I was surprised and pleased to see that Joker still dresses up Selina as Wonder Woman before tying her up. It’s not as heavily alluded to that Joker raped her, however.
- At the carnival, Joker wears a clown mask to hide his identity as he distributes cotton candy to the children. This makes a lot more sense than it does in the book. I mean, of course people would recognize the Joker. Especially here, where he’s wearing the same suit he had on at the evening talk show massacre.
- In the book, Joker gives out cotton candy to the kids, right? It’s poisoned. We cut back to the fairgrounds and find them littered with the bodies of dead children. After the events of Sandy Hook, a scene like that would be too much to bear so thankfully it wasn’t adapted to film. However, without that overwhelming act of evil by the Joker what we end up with is him…basically not being that bad of a guy! He’s just giving out free cotton candy. Of course, you could watch the movie and pretend that “Yeah, those kids all died off-screen” or your could just say that it was Joker’s one last good deed before exiting this world! It’s a choice I leave to you.
- While Joker didn’t exactly poison hundreds of innocent children, the film more than makes up for things in the brutality department. When Joker runs to the Tunnel of Love, he fires away at every. Single. Person. Everyone he passes gets a bullet. In the book? Only 3 people are shot by the Joker on his way to the tunnel. The killing spree is so intense that my friend and I couldn’t help but laugh and pathetically shout at the TV, “Stop it! STOP!” Seriously, he kills a lot of people. No traditional Joker pageantry to it either. It’s a chilling massacre.
- No “Watch your language, son.” to the little kid from Batman after the boy curses. I always liked that. In fact, I’d like to see Batman call other people “son” more often. Makes him seem bigger, more mature. Emphasizes the MAN in Batman. Instead the comics are always trying to make him seem younger and it leads to problems now that most of his sidekicks kept growing up.
- Humpty Dumpty’s death in the movie is more gruesome. Way more gruesome. It’s better too because in the book I can hardly tell what happens to him. Miller’s drawings get rather crude here toward the end.
- The fight in the Tunnel of Love is now one of my favorite moments in any Batman movie. This was so incredibly well done! Jay Oliva talks at length about it in the bonus features and it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into every detail here. From the coloring to the details of Batman and Joker’s faces, everything is richer. And most importantly: the characters talk! In the book it is nothing more than inner monologue played over a fight scene. Granted, I still miss the line “Whatever’s in him rustles as it leaves.” but really it’s so much better to see these two talk during their final fight. Looking back at the comic, yes the narration is great, but outside of Batman’s head the battle is almost entirely silent! Go check if you don’t believe me. Batman tells Joker to “put the boy down.” and Joker says “This is too weird.” and that’s it! That’s it until the fight is over and done with.
- I didn’t know I would need the Batman spitting in Joker’s face scene so much until I watched the movie. Suddenly I just started shouting “Spit in his face!” and my buddy, who was watching it with me, was like “I don’t even remember that part.” but I apparently did and I NEEDED IT. And guess what, they kept it in the film!
- When I was done watching the film for the first time, my friend and I actually skipped back to the Tunnel of Love scene and watched it all over again. It’s that perfectly executed.
- The escape from the tunnel of love is extended, making for a more intense scene.
- CGI backgrounds of Gotham and in the missile wrestling scene where Superman is trying to prevent a nuclear blast don’t blend very well with the traditional animation.
- After the EMP blast there are cars shown on the street in about one scene, but for the rest of the movie all the streets are empty. Swept clean. Even the book had dead cars cramming the streets. The Dark Knight Rises was missing people on the streets, The Dark Knight Returns is missing cars.
- Gordon fires warning shot and gives a lovely motivational speech rather than shoving the gun into someone’s face as he does in the comic.
- 89 Batmobile was a nice nod even if it didn’t make much sense in the continuity of DKR but then again even Frank Miller gave Batman a different Batmobile in All-Star Batman & Robin.
- Made the Superman vs. Batman fight an even bigger event than it already was by adding enhanced strength to Batman’s special armor (the source material had super strength too but not until Batman charged it by using every watt of the city’s power supply). Still, even though they added the enhanced strength so they could expand on the fight and make it as big as possible they kept the original design for the armor intact. It looks exactly the same as it did in the comic which is cool…but at the same time the nitpicky side of me raises his hand and says “Why wouldn’t Batman protect his mouth?” If he’s going to up the strength for an all out brawl with Superman wouldn’t it make sense to put some armor over his mouth? In the comic he got in one or two good hits after some tricks and traps that stunned the Man of Steel but here he’s expecting a fist fight, one that comes to fruition in a highly choreographed spectacle that goes beyond Crime Alley. Not that it matters since Superman just rips the helmet off anyway like it was made out of tissue paper. By doing that the fight before doesn’t make as much sense, Superman should’ve put a stop to Batman in one blow, but who cares? It was awesome to see. And kudos again to Mark Valley for making it clear in the performance that Superman wasn’t really into the fight to begin with. He really didn’t want to kill Batman.
- You really have to ignore how much damage Superman is capable of dealing to the armor and if Batman really could put a dent in Superman at all. It’s what you have to do in every Superman story because the man is always as strong as the writers need him to be at that time.
- Ollie’s race across the rooftops is given more emphasis, as it should be because a race-against-the-clock moment is perfect for film.
- On the scale of fictional character marksmanship: 1 being a Star Wars Storm Trooper and 10 being a survivor on the Walking Dead TV show, I would have to put all the cops and military personnel of The Dark Knight Returns at about a 3. Batman is as broad as a barn and he doesn’t move quickly, yet in the Yindel rooftop fight they either don’t shoot or only aim for his feet. And then when Oliver is running across rooftops in this scene, the military can’t seem to hit him either. I mean, come on! At one point, this old man is hanging upside down from a fire escape and the soldiers still can’t hit anywhere close to him. It’s as if Joker and Joe Chill were the last good shots in Gotham.
- The sound-wave gun used by Batman is almost identical to the EMP gun used in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
- Farewell, Alfred! A new scene is added in which Alfred looks at photo albums of the Waynes. It’s nice, but at the same time I’ve always been bothered that he and Bruce never shared a last moment together.
- I gotta say, I liked the treatment of Wayne Manor far better in Nolan’s universe. For me, the idea of turning the mansion into an orphanage was the most brilliant idea that that movie had. No doubt about it. Beautiful. But what about Miller’s Batman? The guy who seems to hate people and distrust government, is he going to hand over his assets to someone else? Hell, no! He’s gonna blow it up! Explosives are set throughout the foundation of the building and that’s all fine and good but something goofy happened in the animation process OR Alfred had some extra bombs left over and got creative. Pay close attention to this scene and witness how Alfred planted charges inside Bruce’s mattress– just in case!
- My absolute least favorite moment of any of these movies is the graveyard scene. This was done wonderfully in the book where Selina runs up to Clark and smacks him a few times saying “I know who killed him!” over Bruce’s grave before Gordon pulls her away and says “Selina, this is no good.” and pulls her away. That was good. It showed that they both knew Clark was Superman and they were angry with him for having been responsible for Bruce’s death. What’s done in the movie is ridiculous. Gordon then turns around and asks Clark “Were you a friend?” –So Gordon doesn’t know that this is Superman? The 6’5 guy with the curl in his hair just like Superman? The guy who looks like he just got the crap beat out of him? The one who is standing over Bruce’s grave as Selina cries out “I know who killed him!”, Gordon you can’t piece together this puzzle? It’s bad enough that the Gordon in the Nolan trilogy looked dense for being the last one to know Bruce is Batman, but now we have to put up with this? It drives home the point that Superman didn’t truly hate Batman, but I feel like that was unnecessary. Valley’s performance made it clear enough that Superman wasn’t a complete asshole. All this does is make Jim Gordon look like an idiot who abandoned the mourning Selina to have some quick small-talk with the man who upset her in the first place.
- Superman’s nice enough to wink and let Bruce and Carrie do their thing, but it would’ve been nice if he lent a hand in the digging up process. I know it would’ve disrupted the pace of the film, but really? That girl is like 13 years old, Bruce is under 6ft of dirt, and you know it’s cold out there! And since when do we have funerals in which the coffin has already been lowered into the ground and buried?
- Cave ending is perfect. Matched the comic almost frame for frame.
There are a couple different schools of thought with Batman. You have the crowd that believes that Bruce died with his parents and that all that is left is vengeance and you have the more hopeful fans who find Bruce to be a desperate man who will reclaim the life of happiness he deserves once he is done revitalizing his city. If you believe that Bruce Wayne uses Batman as an instrument of justice and that he indeed can heal, The Dark Knight Rises may very well be your ideal ending for the mythology. But for those who believe that Batman is all that remains and the Caped Crusader could never truly retire, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is the conclusion for you.
For more of my thoughts on Batman, check out the Comics section or follow me on Twitter.