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Jay Oliva
Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Michael Emerson, Michael McKean, Wade Williams, Gary Anthony Williams, Rob Paulsen, David Selby
Writing Credits:
Bob Goodman, Bob Kane (characters), Frank Miller (comic book)

The last fight begins.

It is ten years after an aging Batman has retired, and Gotham City has sunk deeper into decadence and lawlessness. Now, when his city needs him most, the Dark Knight returns in a blaze of glory. Joined by Carrie Kelly, a teenage female Robin, Batman takes to the streets to end the threat of the mutant gangs that have overrun the city. And after facing off against his two greatest enemies, the Joker and Two-Face, for the final time, Batman finds himself in mortal combat with his former ally, Superman, in a battle that only one of them will survive.

Box Office:
$3.5 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Castilian Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Castilian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 9/25/2012

• “A Sneak Peek at The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2” Featurette
• “A Sneak Peek at Superman/Batman: Public Enemies” Featurette
• “Her Name Is Carrie… Her Role Is Robin” Featurette
• “Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story” Featurette
• Two Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series
• Digital Comic
• Trailers
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 1 [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 19, 2012)

Without 1986’s four-part graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, would Batman enjoy the level of prominence and popularity currently realized by the character? I doubt it. Returns completely revitalized Batman and gave the franchise real juice. It helped push Tim Burton’s 1989 film to the big screens and continues to make its presence felt 26 years later; one look at the hugely successful Christopher Nolan series shows the ongoing influence of Frank Miller’s 1986 work.

Though I suspect the studio must’ve considered adapting Returns as a feature film, that never happened. After all these years, we finally get a movie rendition of it via this 2012 animated take, half of which comes to us as The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1.

Returns presents Bruce Wayne (voiced by Peter Weller) in his mid-fifties. Though still a thrill-seeker, he let Batman go 10 years earlier – and Commissioner Jim Gordon (David Selby) will soon join the Caped Crusader in retirement.

Wayne returns to the ways of the cowl when he sees the continued disintegration of Gotham City, largely due to two factors. First, an allegedly rehabilitated Harvey “Two Face” Dent (Wade Williams) returns to society – and immediately goes back to his old tricks. Second, a gang called the Mutants runs roughshod over town, and Batman needs to halt their leader (Gary Anthony Williams). Along the way, Batman picks up a new Robin in the form of teen girl Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter).

After 26 years of anticipation, I would think it’d be next to impossible for Returns to live up to expectations. The Frank Miller comic could arguably lay claim to the title as the greatest graphic novel of all-time, so how could a direct-to-video cartoon do it justice?

It can’t. While I think this version of Returns offers entertainment and has its high spots, it doesn’t give fans the dramatization they’ve wanted to see for so long.

On the positive side, the movie looks quite good, and it pulls off some dramatic moments. In particular, the sequence in which Batman returns to the streets to fight crime fares very well; that easily turns into the high point of Part 1.

Otherwise, unfortunately, Returns manages to be enjoyable but not especially impactful. Note that while it usually acts as a faithful adaptation of the first two issues of the graphic novel, the movie makes some significant changes to the source. It leaves out the brief nod to Superman and eliminates references to the unstable international geopolitical climate. Based on this disc’s preview, Supes – and apparently the comic’s Ronald Reagan-style president – will show up in Part 2, but it seems odd that Part 1 omits the effective teaser in the original.

Part 1 also gives the Two Face story the short shrift. That tale takes us a lot of the graphic novel’s first issue, but here it feels like an afterthought. I suspect this occurs because the climax of the Two Face saga takes place on Gotham’s version of the World Trade Center twin towers and the filmmakers didn’t want to show those. Nonetheless, the whole Two Face part of the movie doesn’t work; without a real finish, it feels tepid and gratuitous.

The term “tepid” leads me to my main criticism of Returns: it’s “PG-13”. To accurately retell Frank Miller’s work, any film needs to be “R”-rated; “PG-13” simply softens the material too much. While this version does essentially include all of the same events, it tames them too much; there’s just not the same bite, and we don’t get the same sense of brutality and mayhem.

The voice acting also tends to make things seem a little too perky. The performance style on display usually works fine for these animated superhero offerings, but in this case, the acting seems too light and peppy. Maybe I’ve just heard the character voices in my head too many times over the last 26 years, but I can’t buy into the performances. Some fare better than others – Weller makes a pretty good Bruce/Batman – but the overall impact mars the product.

I don’t want to come down too hard on Returns, as it’s an entertaining film and I look forward to Part 2. However, it’s just not a great representation of the source material. As a big fan of the original graphic novel, I can’t help but view it as a disappointment.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. No issues emerged across this appealing transfer.

Sharpness excelled. The movie always came across as tight and well-defined, so don’t expect any signs of softness. Jaggies and moiré effects also remained absent, and the image lacked edge haloes or artifacts. In addition, print flaws were a non-factor and didn’t appear at any point.

In terms of colors, Returns went with a dark palette that favored blues and subdued hues. The tones looked solid, as they showed positive richness and vivacity. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed nice clarity. Across the board, the image worked well.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Returns opened up the comic book material well. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material, but the entire package added a lot to the movie. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended smoothly.

The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B+”.

When we shift to extras, we start with a few promotional pieces. A First Look at Superman/Batman: Public Enemies fills seven minutes, 52 seconds and provides notes from DC Comics Senior VP/Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, casting director Andrea Romano, executive producer Bruce Timm, script writer Stan Berkowitz, director Sam Liu, and actors Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Xander Berkeley, LeVar Burton, John C. McGinley and Clancy Brown. They tell us a little about the production and performances, but mostly they just tell us about the story and how great it’ll be. This program remains nothing more than promotional material.

We also take A Sneak Peek at The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. It lasts six minutes, 53 seconds and delivers info from Timm, Romano, director Jay Oliva, screenwriter Bob Goodman, co-producer Alan Burnett, DC Entertainment Animation Creative Director Mike Carlin, and actors Michael Emerson and Mark Valley. We get notes about story and characters as well as cast and performances. It’s basic advertisement and not much more.

Two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series appear. Taken from 1992’s Season One, we get “Two-Face, Part 1” (22:26) and “Two-Face, Part 2” (22:25). The shows presented a good introduction to this major villain. They also remind us how well the series did darkness. From the extremely moody visuals to the startling vision in Bruce’s dream, this sure didn’t feel like the standard kiddie cartoon.

Two programs follow. Her Name Is Carrie… Her Role Is Robin runs 12 minutes, 23 seconds and includes Timm, Goodman, Carlin, Dark Knight Rises executive producer Michael Uslan, comic book writer Grant Morrison, and UCLA Department of Classics lecturer Richard Rader. The piece looks at the status of comics in the mid-1980s as well as elements of the Carrie/Robin character. We get a decent overview of relevant topics here in which the glimpses of Carrie’s antecedents work best.

Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story goes for 38 minutes, 26 seconds and offers notes from Uslan, Batman and Me author Tom Andrae, Batman artist Jerry Robinson, Kane’s widow Elizabeth, photographer/friend Jonathan Exley, comic book legend Stan Lee, DC Comics president/publisher Paul Levitz, friend Dr. Myron Shapiro, and actor Mark Hamill. We also get archival comments from Kane, who died in 1998. “Story” tells us of Kane’s life story, with an emphasis on his connection to Batman.

“Story” certainly isn’t “warts and all”, but it offers a less shiny portrayal of its subject than expected. No, it doesn’t really challenge the notion that Kane was the sole creator of Batman – Bill Finger seems to deserve a lot of credit – but it doesn’t stick with the standard fluffy tone, either; honestly, the show makes Kane sound like an arrogant self-promoter. “Story” can be more superficial than I’d like, but it’s still an interesting look at Kane.

We get a digital comic for Dark Knight Returns - or at least part of it. When these “digital comics” appear on DVDs or Blu-rays, they’re always severely abbreviated, and that’s the case here.

The disc opens with ads for H+: The Digital Series and various DC Comics animated series. We also get trailers for DCU Application, Thundercats, The Dark Knight Rises and Before Watchmen.

A second disc delivers a DVD Copy of Returns. This provides a standard issue of the film along with a few extras.

After 26 years, Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns finally gets a cinematic adaptation. Unfortunately, it suffers from some poor choices and lacks the depth/darkness to make it really succeed. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals along with very good audio and a generally useful set of supplements. While I look forward to seeing if Part 2 improves on this one, Part 1 creates a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.625 Stars Number of Votes: 8
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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