Length: 76 minutes
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Genre: Animation / Action
Children everywhere grew up loving the Batman cartoons of the 1980s and 1990s, but “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” takes the superhero to a new level in this PG-13 adventure featuring plenty of action, a complex plot and stunning animation. In a dystopian future, Batman has retired from his vigilante duties, and Gotham is run amok by criminals. When a group known as the Mutants becomes a dangerous threat, Bruce Wayne must choose to once again don the cape and cowl for the good of mankind.
In the beginning of the film, viewers learn that a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne retired as Batman when his sidekick Jason Todd, who became the second Robin, died tragically. Bruce is now living as a recluse, although he still keeps in contact with Commissioner Gordon, who knows that Bruce was once Batman. When a gang known only as the Mutants terrorizes the city, increasing in their brutality, Bruce Wayne decides to once again become Batman, the Dark Knight. Not all citizens of Gotham are happy with his return, however, as many question his methods. In particular, the Mayor of Gotham City and the lead psychiatrist of Arkham Asylum question the vigilante’s motives.
As Batman attempts to clean up the city, he must face numerous challenges. His once-ally Harvey Dent finally repairs his deformed face through plastic surgery, and the villain attempts to hold the city ransom under the threat of a bomb. Batman must confront his old enemy before moving onto his new nemesis, the ruthless and powerful Mutants.
Upon laying siege to a hideout where the gang is meeting, taking down members with rubber bullets, Batman is soon overpowered when he must face the leader in hand-to-hand combat. He receives unexpected help in the form of a girl named Carrie Kelley, who distracts the mutant leader so Batman can temporarily subdue him and escape. Upon seeing Carrie’s devotion and desire for justice, he decides to appoint her as the new Robin. Batman and Carrie must work together to defeat the Mutants, but defeating the mutant leader for good will not be easy.
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” offers an interesting plot and works well as a stand-alone film. However, one scene at the end of the film hints at the upcoming Part 2, setting the stage for another action-packed adventure. Batman fans who cautiously approach this straight-to-DVD release will be pleasantly surprised with the well-paced plot and attention to detail that went into the story. The film carries the same dark, thoughtful tone that is characteristic of the Batman world while expertly weaving a plot that keeps viewers at the edge of their seats.
Featuring carefully drawn connections to the comics, this film is especially pleasing to dedicated fans. The film is based on a 1986 graphic novel miniseries, and the adaptation is nearly perfect in terms of story, characters and dialogue. The same comic series provided inspirations for Tim Burton’s “Batman” films and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, so fans of the live-action films are sure to notice similarities in tone and style. The film is topped off with an epic musical score by Christopher Drake, creating the perfect atmosphere for this dark action film.
Jay Oliva’s work has clearly spelled good fortune for the film, but the animation crew deserves recognition as well. “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” features flowing animation that works perfectly for basic character interactions and action scenes. The film is further aided by talented voice actors who lend their passion and emotion to their respective characters. Fans of the Batman cartoons may be disappointed that Bruce Wayne is not voiced by Kevin Convoy, but Peter Weller portrays the aging hero accurately. Even the most dedicated fans are sure to find the new voice growing on them. Ariel Winter is the perfect match for Carrie Kelley, and David Selby lends plenty of emotion to Commissioner Gordon. This casting of fitting voice actors puts this animated film on par with some of the best real-life Batman films.
For fans of the franchise, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” is the animated film adaptation they have been waiting for, featuring the winning combination of an exciting plot, complex characters, connection to the comics and superior voice acting. Director Jay Oliva does not skim over a single detail, resulting in a film that integrates seamlessly into the DC Comics universe. For all its strong points, this well-made film is sure to become a treasured piece of every Batman movie collection.
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