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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jay Oliva
Cast:
Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Carlos Alazraqui, Dee Bradley Baker, Paget Brewster, Michael McKean, David Selby
Writing Credits:
Bob Goodman, Bob Kane (characters), Frank Miller (comic book)

Tagline:
Justice Returns ... Vengeance Returns ... Redemption Comes to Gotham.

Synopsis:
The Dark Knight along with new sidekick Robin have finally reclaimed Gotham City and allowed a ray of hope to penetrate the reign of terror that The Mutants had cast upon his city. With Batman back in the spotlight the extended media coverage has awoken a far worse evil at Arkham Asylum The Joker! Forever destined to be mortal enemies The Joker has a diabolical scheme that may pull Batman down to the darkest levels of insanity. While on the horizon a global catastrophe races towards Gotham and with it comes a familiar face The Man of Steel though this time he has Batman in his sights. Witness as the aging Dark Knight wages a tireless war against crime while proving that courage and will are indeed timeless.

Box Office:
Budget
$3.5 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
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
Subtitles:
English
French
German
Castilian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
German
Castilian
Portuguese

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 1/29/2013

Bonus:
• “Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide” Short Feature
• “The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death” Short Feature
• “From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Oliva” Featurette
• Two Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series
• One Episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold
• Digital Comic Excerpt
• Trailers
• DVD Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 2 [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 26, 2013)

As one might expect, 2013’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 offers the second half of the story launched with 2012’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Based on the legendary 1986 Frank Miller comic mini-series, Part 1 brought back an older Batman (voiced by Peter Weller) from retirement and introduced a new Robin (Ariel Winter).

Their adventures continue here. In Part 2, we see how Batman’s return reawakens the long-dormant evil genius of the Joker (Michael Emerson) and the sparring between those two. We also witness conflicts between Batman and state-sponsored hero Superman (Mark Valley) as the Dark Knight’s return comes to a form of closure.

Going into Part 2, I feared that I’d simply want to cut and paste my comments about Part 1. After all, it’s a continuation of the earlier project and made by the same people, so how different could my feelings toward it be?

As it turns out, I do feel differently about Part 2 - not radically so, but to a moderate degree, at least. I thought Part 1 was watchable but not an especially impressive adaptation of an excellent graphic novel, whereas Part 2 better lives up to expectations – it might not equal them, but it comes closer.

Some of the same criticisms remain, mainly related to the voice actors. Weller still seems like a good but not great Batman, and a few of the others are fine. However, too many of the voices just seem a little “TV cartoon” to me; the actors have talent but they can’t muster the depth necessary for a drama of this one’s potential impact.

Emerson’s Joker probably stands as my least favorite of the movie’s cast. He lacks any of the character’s needed menace and seems too light and glib. Rather than come across as a crazed super-villain, Emerson sounds like Charles Nelson Reilly on an episode of Match Game.

Other than my continued qualms about some of the voice acting, Part 2 provides a pretty satisfying improvement on Part 1. While I felt the latter wasn’t violent and brutal enough to match the world Frank Miller created in 1986, Part 2 proves to be substantially closer to the source. I think it’s more graphic than Part 1 - so much so that I’m surprised it maintained a “PG-13” rating.

We see so much nastiness and blood that I don’t know how it avoided an “R”; maybe the fact it’s animated saved it, but I feel sure that if it’d been live-action with this content, it would’ve gone “R”. While I’m not one to advocate movie violence for it’s own sake, I do think the source material can’t accurately be adapted without a fairly graphic effort, so the increased violence and intensity of Part 2 help make it more satisfying. This becomes a tale that better approximates the brutal impact of the comic book.

It also offers some strong animated moments of its own. Our introduction to Superman works awfully well, and the Joker’s appearance on the TV talk show delivers a bloody, chilling sequence that might actually fare better than it did in the graphic novel. (Horrors – blasphemy!) Unlike Part 1, this half of the movie manages a general sense of direction and intensity that give it more power.

Granted, some of that comes from the nature of the source. I love all four chapters of Miller’s graphic novel, but I think the last two are the most impressive, as they pack the most dynamic action and drama. Watching Batman battle Two Face and a new-to-us street gang or Bats vs. Joker and Superman? Not really a contest, is it?

That said, the filmmakers could’ve botched the job, which I must admit I expected. While I didn’t dislike Part 1, I really did think it lost the power and epic feel of the comic. Even though it touched on the two strongest chapters of the book, I saw no reason to believe the same folks could elevate their game for Part 2.

But they do. Make no mistake: Frank Miller’s novel will always remain the best way to experience this story, and the relative weakness of Part 1 will always be a nagging problem. Nonetheless,Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 offers a satisfying second half of the tale and works much better than I expected.


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. Is there any reason to expect the visuals and audio of Part 2 to differ from those of Part 1? None whatsoever, so enjoy the following cut and paste comments!

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 well.

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+”.

As we move to the set’s extras, we launch with two short features. We find “Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide” (9:24) and “The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death” (14:05). The first includes comments from screenwriter Bob Goodman, executive producers Bruce Timm and Michael Uslan, DC Entertainment animation creative director Mike Carlin, editor Denny O’Neil, UCLA Department of Classics lecturer Richard Rader, comic writer Grant Morrison, while the second features Timm, Morrison, Rader, O’Neil, Uslan, Goodman, writer/artist Jerry Robinson, and actor Michael Emerson.

Both look at the nature and mythological connections of the Batman, Superman and the Joker, with some emphasis on their use in Returns. The featurettes offer interesting observations, though “Death” works better just because it involves Robinson, the character’s creator.

Another program called From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Oliva fills 43 minutes, 30 seconds and provides a kind of commentary from the film’s director. We see a mix of storyboards, final movie footage and graphic novel panels as Oliva talks about adaptation issues, animation and stylistic choices. I’d have preferred a traditional commentary along with the whole flick, but Oliva provides a good collection of thoughts here.

Next we find three bonus cartoons. We locate two episodes from Batman: The Animated Series and also get one program from Batman: The Brave and the Bold. These include “The Last Laugh” (22:20), “The Man Who Killed Batman” (22:19) and “Battle of the Superheroes!” (22:57).

In “Laugh”, the Joker uses a gas to turn the citizens of Gotham into laughing idiots. Batman escapes this, but it gets to his butler Alfred (Efram Zimbalist). That wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, but extended exposure to the gas leads to madness, so Batman needs to stop the Joker before it’s too late. “Laugh” boasts decent entertainment value, and I like the focus on Alfred, but it falls short of greatness.

With “Killed”, a low-level hood gets unwanted fame when he apparently offs the Dark Knight. Obviously, we know that Bats will eventually turn up alive, but “Killed” provides a fun tale nonetheless. It’s a cool look at the notoriety that a nobody gets for events not in his control, and it becomes quite interesting as the noose tightens. Some of the most entertaining moments occur as the Joker deals with his sense of emptiness without Bats to kick around any longer.

Finally, “Battle” shows how Red Kryptonite necklaces turn Superman into a Superjerk; Batman works to bring his pal back to normalcy. I’d not seen much Brave and the Bold so I didn’t realize it went with a much more comedic tone than Animated Series. Indeed, it can feel like a 21st century update on the Adam West 1960s Batman, as it veers toward camp and silliness.

That means I should hate it, but darned if Brave isn’t pretty entertaining – at least for this one episode. The second half drags a bit, but the show still moves at a brisk pace and throws out some self-referential wackiness. “Bad Superman” is always a hoot – even in the awful Superman III, the sight of selfish Supes amused – and “Battle” gives us a fairly fun episode.

We get a digital comic excerpt for Dark Knight Returns. When these “digital comics” appear on DVDs or Blu-rays, they’re always severely abbreviated, and that’s the case here. At least this one admits up front it’s an “excerpt”; past digital comics didn’t let us know that in advance.

The disc opens with ads for Man of Steel and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Under trailers, we get “sneak peeks” at Superman: Unbound and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 as well as promos for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the DCU app, “More from DC Comics” and Before Watchmen.

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

While I admit I wasn’t wild about the first half of the story, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 offers a pretty solid conclusion to the tale. It seems truer to the tone of the source comic and provides a good punch. The Blu-ray brings us terrific visuals as well as engaging audio and a decent roster of bonus materials. It might not compare to the graphic novel, but Returns works well in its own right.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main