It’s not every day that I get nice things. That changed when my friend won VIP tickets to an advanced screening at the Paley Center in NYC last Thursday. Warner Animation and DC have been doing this lately with their animated showings to get the hype going. And for me to see the 16th in DC’s collection of great animated movies and the most anticipated of the batch is the greatest honor.
For us Batfans, we all know how this goes. This is re-telling the Frank Miller story that not only changed the direction of a famed character to a more darker setting, but helped set that same mood and tone for future stories and characters to come. You can say that DC is still trying to relive that aura with all of their books in the New 52 (almost to a fault perhaps), but the industry itself has been greatly affected by what Dark Knights Returns was able to achieve.
Part 1 gave us the first two books in the saga with Bruce Wayne making his way back to the cowl to face the threat of Two-Face and the Mutants. He picked up a new Robin along the way. Saw the Commissioner hang it up. And Joker woke up.
No question that this was the one long-time fans wanted to see. Joker returning to his sadistic roots and the government lackey Superman will do that for you. What really set this adaptation going was that same mood and tone we got from the comic. This just went to darker places that even I didn’t think DC and Warner would have the guts to do even given the material they were working with. You felt it particularly with Joker’s appearances, which should be no surprise to anybody especially if you’re been reading Scott Snyder’s recent take on the character. I’m surprised the R rating wasn’t considered – guess I’ll see when my Blu-Ray copy arrives.
Speaking of the Clown Prince, give it up for Michael Emerson for giving me terrible nightmares. Something about the character just makes the actor playing him – to borrow a line from the flick – “lose control”. Anybody who’s seen Emerson play Ben on “Lost” can see that manipulative and sadistic side that works well with this character. It’s basically “Dark Knight” Joker times 11 – if that is even possible.
And then we have Mark Valley, fresh off a shortened stint on Human Target, taking on the Lackey of Steel. A fine performance where you didn’t expect much of the character to do much other than be the foil for Bruce that represents what he isn’t. He’s not likable here but yet wants to be because of the choices he made. Even though we know the outcome, it makes the final battle between these long-time friends/adversaries all the more sweeter.
Let’s not forget our regulars from the first showing – Peter Weller keeps the gritty going with a man who knows he’s coming to his end soon. I felt he brought a lot more to this than what was complained about in part 1 regarding his monotone interpretation of his lines. I could have used more “oomph” from his rally speech midway through the film, but it gets the job done. Ariel Winter kept providing some spunk to her Robin character, which was a nice contrast to the grim and gritty mentor she followed.
Sixteen movies done with these adaptations and DC and Warner seem to keep getting better when it comes to animation and fight sequences. They somehow have managed to master the pacing of the 75-minute movie and made it feel like it was more. Say what you will about a Batman in his 50s moving as fast as he does, but it sure makes for some well-choreographed battles.
I’m still conflicted on this and Under the Red Hood as my favorites of the batch. The latter still stays close to me because of how it unhinged itself from the source material (Infinite Crisis was prominent during the comic’s run) and made the story arc even better. But this is the granddaddy that the tone of all Bat books is based off for the last 25 years. It’d be hard not to celebrate it as one of the best. I’ll leave it open and say kudos to DC for once again reminding us for why we became fans.
September 25th is going to be an awesome day. At last, MTV Geek reveals the trailer for DC’s next animated DVD/Blu-Ray offering with the first part of Frank Miller’s revered comic, The Dark Knight Returns:
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Holy freaking cow…
The animation is spot on, with some scenes completely taken out of the book, and Peter Weller seems to bring a great grizzled representation of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Ariel Winter looks like she’s going to bring a lot of spunk to Robin as well.
The cover image for the movie, while it doesn’t evoke Frank Miller imagery, still looks fantastic:
This is the holy grail of Batman comics come to life, people. Look for it on September 25th with part 2 coming out in early 2013.
Re-boots seems to be all the craze nowadays in movies. Batman was brought back to audiences four years ago and showed what the character and his universe was really made of (Heath Ledger would have something to do with that in the sequel). I also recently saw Star Trek, which refreshed a franchise in dire need of new direction and yet still honored the spirit of the franchise.
It’s only fitting then that I start off my blog series about relevant comic books with a re-boot that brought the Batman of the comic books out of the campy terrain:
Before this book hit the stands, Batman was all about Adam West and the Bat-Tusi in the 60′s. The campy nature of the show became a hit, but at the same time, it made the character one not to be taken too seriously in the books. Rotating writers in the 70′s and early 80′s made efforts to bring the character back to his dark roots, but it was 1986 that saw Frank Miller put Batman back on top of the food chain.
Comic book enthusiasts know Miller well from bringing a similar darker edge back to Daredevil and Wolverine around the same time frame. His independent work on Sin City and 300 would become feature films as well. This dark, edgy style was the kind of boost Batman needed and would help remind us who he is and why he is the way he is.
Dark Knight Returns gives us a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne long retired from the crime-fighting business, but seeing his city still crumbling under the might of old and new villains. Not one able to enjoy retirement for too long, he dons the cowl once more and revamps his tactics to take on this new, violent society. The book is renowned for helping to bring more adult-oriented storytelling to the books and put characters in new lights (a female Robin, a government puppet in Superman, Joker just an unfunny psycho, etc.). It also (like Watchmen) spoke of a society in the Cold War going to actual war and what its characters’ values spoke of those events.
I also take personal satisfaction in the last issue when Batman must confront a Superman that has to bring him in. Say what you want about all the help he needed; the sight of Batman kicking the Man of Steel to the floor is a sight that won’t leave me.
What’s interesting about this book is that it speaks volumes as to what Mike and I spoke about in our last podcast regarding Neil Gaiman’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?‘. Batman is a character that is relentless in his quest to put fear into the criminal element. The only way he can ever see himself out of the game is if he was dead. No amount of golf or emptying the family wine coolers would bring satisfaction. It’s a sad story to see, but it brings the kind of depth to a character that can be difficult to replicate at times.
This darker edge has resulted in many superb stories from The Killing Joke to Knightfall. It transferred over into the animated and movie realms and the rest is history. Read Dark Knight Returns and tell us what you think.
Show runs about 40 minutes.
Lots of Green Lantern talk this time around, Secret Ninja powers, Comic book vs. waiting for the collected story lines in a graphic novel. A look at the DC catalog they slipped in my comic bag. Ideas for what to read after you watch Watchmen. Some of the bad Alan Moore movie adaptations, and no wonder he wants his name removed. A little bit about the Joker graphic novels out there. Ex Machina, which is written by Brian K. Vaughan (LOST), who also wrote Y The Last Man. Marvel also slipped a history of Wolverine into the bag so we get into Old Man Logan which looks like I’ll pick up.