The Dark Knight Returns is a two-part animated movie by DC, based off of Frank Miller's acclaimed graphic novel. And before I start reviewing these movies in this post I’d just like to point out that I am very happy they split this into two movies. As opposed to The Hobbit, where splitting such a small book into three six hour movies makes no sense. But anyway... On to the review.
You know the story, Bruce Wayne retired the ol' cape and cowl for a decade but decides to come back. On his first night back out a few cops see him ("You're in for a show tonight") and CRACK!!! His back gets broken. Oh wait, wrong movie. In this one Batman returns because a techno-punk gang called the mutants has more or less gained control of the city and need to be stopped. Meanwhile, outside of Gotham, President Reagan (did I mention this movie takes place in the eighties? And that I love parentheses) has Superman on his payroll and has ordered him to intervene in a conflict between Russia and the fictional country Corto Maltese (Kim Basinger took pictures of dead bodies there and Jack Nicholson fell in love with her for it!!! Wrong movie again.) which might result in a nuclear war.
Both heroes succeed in their missions with different results, Batman defeats the mutants and creates a small army (Who don't wear hockey pads) but in the result of that The Joker comes out of a catatonic state and kills literally everybody he comes across in this movie. And Superman has an atom bomb blow up in his face which gives him a thigh gap, if only for a few minutes. The resulting nuclear explosion sends out an EMP which takes out the power in most of the country. Batman uses his new found gang to make Gotham the only city in the U.S. safe-ish and under control. This upsets the government and makes them seem incompetent (who knew?) So President Reagan sends Superman to stop Batman which results in a very fun fight scene. Bruce "dies" of a heart attack, Alfred has a stroke, Green Arrow lost an arm. We all live a good life. Good Enough.
Now for my thoughts. Don't let my jokey synopsis fool you, I actually really like these movies. They're a very good adaptation of the graphic novel; I love how they keep the spirit of the eighties in it by making the music very techno, the scene where Batman is mowing down mutants in his Batmobile towards the climax of Part One has a very Terminator future war feel to it. The fight between Batman and Superman is a blast to watch in motion, and lasts a good while as opposed to in the graphic novel where it lasted mostly a page. And The Joker in this is one of my favorite versions of him, he actually kills people on screen!!! Including Conan O'brien. They tweaked it here and there for the movies. For instance Superman is in it a bit more, and they leave a few scenes out for time reasons but they're small scenes, forgivable for being omitted.
There were some things I didn't like about it. For starters Peter Weller as Batman wasn't as great as I had originally thought when I heard he was lending his voice to the film. It's okay when he's just talking, but when he's yelling to a crowd (this happens a few times) his voice isn't really that different tone wise, and because of that I feel like those particular scenes lost a lot of depth. And the animation style wasn't my favorite as well, I know DC was using Frank Miller's art style in the graphic novel as inspiration. As they've done with all of their animated features. But Frank Miller draws his main characters way too big. It makes Bats, Supes, Joker, and Gordon all look fat. It just doesn't adapt well to animation and is just a bit off putting. But my biggest beef with the movie is the music and sound effects during action scenes, it becomes way too loud and makes it hard to hear Batman and Joker during dialogue. I actually had to resort to subtitles the first time I watched both movies because I couldn't hear what they were saying. Other than that it's definitely worth checking out.
Final Thoughts: I think these two movies are some of DC's better animated adaptations, still waiting on The Killing Joke (Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy please, guys?) and I highly recommend giving them a watch. Lots of action and a good story. And no Robin John Blake, or Chris O'Donnell, or Arnold Schwarzenegger for that matter.
Final Score: 8.5/10