Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shatterblog!: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 Review

Today is a big day for movie releases. First off, the absurdly popular (deservedly so) The Avengers hit shelves today, much to the joy of everyone that doesn't hate good movies. The slightly less hyped James Bond Collection was also released, an essential collection for the 007 enthusiast. When I went to the local Best Buy today, I did not purchase either of those movies. I went for the sole purpose of picking up The Dark Knight Returns, Part One. I think I chose the right movie.
As all of you most likely know, I love just about everything Batman. Some of our longtime viewers will recognize The Dark Knight Returns as the number 3 on my Top Ten Batman Stories list. Therefore nobody will be surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.
The movie follows the same premise of the comic, obviously, and it will be somewhat familiar to anyone who saw The Dark Knight Rises, which was based on The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and No Man's Land. Batman has been retired for ten years when the movie opens, but the return of an old enemy and a new threat in the form of a deadly gang called the mutants force Batman (SPOILER ALERT: In The Dark Knight Returns, the Dark Knight does in fact return.) out of retirement. The only major disappointment in terms of following source material was the opening. The graphic novel is known for the opening lines "This would be a good death. But not good enough." and they were left out of the movie entirely. However, it's all uphill from there. It follows the source very well, so naturally the story is fantastic. Frank Miller is easily one of my favorite Batman scribes, and this story remains absolutely fantastic. There's a good amount of action, and Part One ends at a natural breaking point. The story so far is wrapped up properly, but you're left with no doubt as to where this is going next.
The animation was impressive, with quality very consistent throughout. Anyone who has read The Dark Knight Returns knows how unique the art style is, and while the movie didn't perfectly mimic it, it did an excellent job of honoring the original without being quite as inconsistent. In my opinion the more realistic art made the movie more watchable, as some of the more absurd panels would probably not have translated quite as well to film.
A huge concern to me is always the voice acting. I'm definitely a Batman purist, to the point that I won't watch any Batman not voiced by Kevin Conroy (Under the Red Hood is an exception). However, since Batman is around sixty or seventy years old, a different voice actor was certainly needed. Peter Wellers does an absolutely fantastic job. We can all agree now that he is the voice of elderly Batman. I intend to reread The Dark Knight Returns and Strikes Again this week and I will do so in his voice. Ariel Winter does a really good job of capturing Carrie Kelly's energy, but one of my favorite performances can't be credited to a person. All the voices of the Mutant gang members were fantastic. Every voice actor for those parts sounded absolutely natural using the strange slang of the mutant gang members. The only time it sounded out of place was when Carrie used it. I wasn't as big a fan of David Selby's performance as Gordon, but it was in no way awful. (NOTE: After watching the bonus feature sneak peak of Part Two, I can say with confidence that the Joker will also be fantastic. While nobody will ever top Conroy and Hamill as the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime, The Dark Knight Returns will not disappoint).
I'd like to say that in other reviews I read, it was noted that the frequent news broadcasts, which were integral to the book, were mildly annoying in the movie. I strongly disagree. While they do break up the action a bit, I think they're every bit as good in the movie as in the comics. The psychologist who speaks against Batman is still extremely irritating, but that just means it translated well.
Overall The Dark Knight Returns, Part One is a successful adaptation of one of the better Batman graphic novels. Breaking it into two parts was an excellent decision, and I for one am thoroughly hyped for the second half to be released. Easily a 9/10.

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