3 Dec 2012

BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS - PART ONE

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  07:30   MOVIES

The Dark Knight Returns Cover Don't you find the older generation to be one of the most fascinating bunch of homo-sapiens living on this planet? They're wise. They're knowledgeable. They're well kept. And they're able to beat the living sh*t out of whoever pisses them off. Yeah. Seriously. I saw it in this rather brooding 75 minute animated adventure made in 2012. It's Bat-a-ri-fic!!!


The Dark Knight Returns: The Film - The Graphic Novel


THE STORY:
Holy Toledo! Isn't Gotham City a very different place to live, ten years in the future! Well, Commissioner Gordon is getting ready to retire. The Joker is in a catatonic state. Harvey Dent is a changed man. And the streets are ruled by a nefarious gang called 'The Mutants'.

Oh! Wait a minute! I almost forgot to mention someone. Bruce Wayne isn't Batman anymore. Yeah. I kid you not. The Dark Knight has been relegated to urban legend in this media-driven lo-cal, and is nowhere to be seen.

However, after a flash of lightning -- THOOM! -- a mugging on the street -- SLICK! -- and an omen from the sky -- CRASH! -- a legend is reborn.

Yes-sir-re-Bob. Old pointy-ear's has returned. This time though, he tougher, gruffer, meaner, plus primed and ready to 'take back the night' from all those evil 'b*stards' who want to turn Gotham into guacamole.  

Hey! Do you know who else has come-back to Gotham recently? No?!?! Are you sure you don't know, pal? OK then. I'll give you some clues. Firstly, this person has instigated a plan to kidnap a couple of children and blow up Gotham Tower. Secondly, he has a mad fixation about the number two. And thirdly, I did tell you about him before. 

A-ha! That's correct, dear reader. Two-Face isn't in the nut-house anymore -- he's free as a bird -- and most probably one of the main reasons why what next transpires begins when an old foe falls and a hero gets beaten up by the Mutant leader. As Robin comes to the rescue - Batman turns into Ceausescu - a change is as fresh as mountain dew - and get ready one and all for the 'Dark Knight Returns: Part Two'.

Darling.




THE REVIEW:
When I first got into comic books during the mid-nineteen-nineties, there came a point in time when I began to ponder if this fledgling hobby was going to be more than it actually was. Now Barry -- my friendly comic shop clerk -- could sense this dichotomy within me, and advised me to pick up a re-printed graphic novel that would 'change my world' forever more.

Of course, me being a somewhat shrewd chap that I am, I wouldn't grab 'The Dark Knight Returns' without some caution first. So I asked my older brother to go fifty-fifty with this purchase, just in case it was sh*t.

No -- it wasn't sh*t. Yes -- it did 'change my world'. And all in all -- this gritty opus perfectly illustrated how the world of cinema can work on the printed page, whilst adhering to pathos, character, and satire, which I will always admire.


Batman in The Dark Knight Returns


As for it's cartoon counterpart on the other hand? Well? It's a mixture of the good, the facts, and the nit-picky. Here, check this out for the full 411...

THE GOOD:
(1) Whoever made the decision to divide the novel in two should get a well deserved pat on the back -- it was this cartoons most saving graces. Good on you, DC. There's no way in hell anybody could have made the original story into a 75-minute flick. (2) As much as I wasn't one hundred percent sure about the violence conveyed in this adventure, in the same breath, I perfectly understood why this was done in this diluted manner. Please note, when I say 'diluted', of course I do mean this in the best possible way. Punches felt like punches. Stabs felt like stabs. And the Batman / Mutant Leader battles were really nicely choreographed to boot. (3) Just like the live-action comic book movie -- 'Sin City' -- 'The Dark Knight Returns' really does come to life, pulling off a very faithful and bold adaptation by default. Class. Class in a comic and a cartoon all in one. (4) Another aspect I'm not one hundred percent sure about myself -- yet understood why it was omitted -- was that originally this 'future world' was an 'alternate world', perverted because Ronald Regan spent an extra year in office. You see, from a story perspective, this was one of the plot-strands that substantiated Frank Millar's harder political edge -- yet -- wasn't really needed within the confines of this more 'friendlier' version. 


Butler and the Bat in The Dark Knight Returns


THE NIT-PICKY:
(1) One of aspects this animated adaptation was sorely lacking, was Bruce Wayne's internal monologue scattered throughout the original book. To me, this gave the overall narrative that extra added incite into what 'Bruce' thought about his past and his present -- especially his interpersonal relationships with Dick Grayson and the loss of Jason Todd. (2) I wonder why this animated-adventure didn't conform to Lynn Varley's original color pallet! Personally speaking, I loved her muted hues and photo-realistic renderings, because it gave the story that much more depth and flavor in tone. In this case though -- err -- not sure -- the colors were too conventional for this un-conventional story-line. (3) Now is it me, or is there a slight pacing issue at the end of this flick? In execution, it felt that there wasn't much of a gap between Batman getting beaten up by the Mutant Leader and him finally vanquishing him. Granted, the makers of this piece did try their best to fill this hiatus here and here. Nonetheless, in this case, less is less -- not more where timing is concerned.


Mutant Leader in The Dark Knight Returns


THE FACTS:
(1) This story was originally a four issue prestige format mini-series published between February and June, 1986. Each book was denoted with the following chapter heading: [1] The Dark Knight Returns. [2] The Dark Knight Triumphant. [3] Hunt The Dark Knight. And [4] The Dark Knight Falls. (2) Frank Millar was inspired to come-up with the concept behind this tale after watching the 1983 Clint Eastwood 'Dirty Harry' movie, 'Deep Impact'. (3) Throughout the early stages of the novels development, the then newly appointed Batman Group Editor, Dick Giordano, helped Frank devise the overall though-line of this story. He dropped out after the fifth draft though, because Frank wanted to 'take his time' and 'get the job done'. (4) In the past, Frank Miller has stated that he based this version of Bruce Wayne on Dirty Harry -- and many other Clint Eastwood type roles. Moreover, he also channeled this archetype through-out his work, lavishing it upon Marv, from 'Sin City', and Leonidas, from '300'. (5) The colorist on the original mini-series, Lynn Varley, was Frank Millers long time artistic collaborator. In fact, she was with Frank so long, she ended up marrying him and divorcing him too. (6) Apart from many other projects I care not to mention, Frank Miller was involved with the development of 'Robocop 2', a film that coincidentally starred the actor who played Bruce Wayne / Batman in this piece, Peter Weller. (7) If you look very closely at the beginning of the infamous Mutant attack on James Gordon, you'll notice four comic books predominantly displayed on the racks in the convenience store -- Alan Moore's 'V for Vendetta', 'Watchman', and 'Swamp Thing', plus Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman'. When 'The Dark Knight' first came out, these were the other more notable publications published during this period.  (8) According to modern day continuity, the events which transpired in this story took place on Earth-31 -- within the DC's Multiverse mythology.


Robin in The Dark Knight Returns


Overall, 'The Dark Knight Returns' is a really great cartoon; and is right up there with the likes of 'Under The Red Hood', 'Sin City', and 'Watchman'. Honest to God, I can't wait for part two to come out; because I have a feeling that it will be on par with this gargantuan geo-political animated-adventure. Agreed, DC Comics?




THE RATING: A+

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