Even though this film is not yet available on DVD, Warner Brothers released the film for digital download on Amazon.com, and being the crazy fanboy I am, I had to get it. Boy am I glad I did. I don’t think I could have waited another few weeks for the Blu-Ray release. This, along with Part One, has to be the seminal Batman film, live action or animated and that’s saying a lot.
The movie begins where the second movie ended, with Joker coming out of his catatonic state. His psychiatrist arranges him to appear on The Dave Endochrine Show (a play on David Letterman). Of course neither Batman nor the police trust him so they plan a stakeout outside of the studio just in case. Meanwhile, the president of the United States (it never specifies which one but he bears a striking resemblance to Ronald Reagan) has recruited Superman to talk to Batman and if need be, take him down. However. the first time we see Batman, he is chasing down the gang leader “Bruno”, this universe’s equivalent of Harley Quinn. I was actually very surprised that they kept her design intact. I thought they would tone it down to get a PG-13 rating, but no, there she is with swastika tattoos on her breasts. Also included are the epically brutal battles Batman has with both Joker and Superman. Once again, director Jay Oliva added his own little touch to it making the film feel as close to Frank Miller’s original work as you can get while showing us something new.
Frank Miller’s artwork is honored in this film. They’re cleaned up a bit, but they still kept the original designs from the comic book, no matter how goofy they may have been. I think it’s a courageous move, especially considering these films also try to appeal to the mainstream audience as well. A big improvement over Part One is that the crappy looking CGI cars are almost completely missing. There might be a scene or two where they make a slight appearance, but it was not as glaring this time around. The animation on the Joker and his victims are, in my opinion, the scariest the Joker has been on film. The absolute brutality portrayed in the film is almost cringe worthy, but you understand why it is needed. Gotham is now a place of no remorse, the criminals have driven the cops to the brink of sanity and Batman has done the same to the criminals. Batman realizes there may be only one way to finally bring to peace to Gotham, and it isn’t through peaceful diplomacy.
The acting blew me away, as usual. Michael Emerson played the Joker so perfectly that I feel he is the perfect replacement for Mark Hamill, and as much as I would have loved to have heard Hamill in this role, I think that Emerson was so creepy and terrifying that I can look past the fact that he isn’t the Joker I grew up with. Peter Weller returns as Batman and once again it takes a few views for his portrayal of Batman to really sink in. He plays him as almost emotionless, which makes sense. Batman rarely shows true emotion unless he is alone, and even then it’s rare. Mark Valley as Superman is probably one of the greatest casting choices ever. Seriously. When I first read “The Dark Knight Returns”, Superman always came off as a jerk. He felt cold and like he barely cared for Batman or anyone else. That is of course because there was no way to hear the emotion in the voice. However, Mark Valley makes Superman feel sympathetic. He feels like he is just a guy doing his job, he doesn’t want to have to hurt Batman, but he needs to because he is too loyal to the country to disobey it.
The music in this film kicks things up a notch or twelve. Christopher Drake, who has scored the last eight DC animated features, pumps you up with his action packed music. As I said in the review for Part One, this feels like a mix between Zimmer and something out of a kickass 80’s action film, and I think that is what Drake was trying to do. Normally I barely notice the score for these films, because they don’t really stand out and sound like your typical superhero inspiration music. This, on the other hand, is dark, brooding and filled with more eff-yeah moments than you can count.
I have praised this movie over and over again, however I think its biggest accomplishment is the fact that I really think this could be a live action film. I don’t just mean the story or the music or things of that sort; I mean the way the film is put together, the detail given to each and every scene in the flick. The characters move so realistically, even when they perform physics-defying feats. Everything about this film screams live action, which makes me wonder, why the hell is this not a live action film yet? Perhaps this interpretation of the book will be looked at years from now and people will see how easy it would to make this a live action film, and hopefully they do it with as much precision and dedication as everyone on this version had.
Overall this film is dark, fun, exciting and political, without really pushing you to the left or the right. It has a wonderful cast, spectacular animation and a brooding score. This is one of if not THE best adaption of a comic book I have seen in a long time. It is very rare to find and adaptation that is both extremely faithful while still being a directors own interpretation of the source material. Keep a lookout for it when it hits shelves on January 29th! We give Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two 10 out of 10 Batarangs.