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Old 09-28-2012, 01:42 AM   #19
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Default Re: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I Review

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
My review...

It probably should be considered sacrilege to be a Batman fan and not be absolutely gaga over The Dark Knight Returns, but, strangely, I never was a giant fan of Fran Miller's grim take on Batman's future. Don't get me wrong, it's a good story, and one of the better Batman tales out there, but I never quite regarded it as definitive or superior to the many other worthwhile takes on Batman. Amazingly however, TDKR Part 1 did what very few film adaptations are ever able to do and - in many ways - improved upon and surpassed it's source material.
I have always felt the same way. I think, what this may be, is a product of when we were born. (Ironically on the same day, lol). To us, Batman was never the Adam West/50's-60's silly Batman. Sure, I grew up watching re-runs of the camp show and old episodes of Super-Friends and these were my first experiences with Batman, but my first "real" experiences (comics, movies, Batman: The Animated Series) were all "post-The Dark Knight Returns." Miller had already changed the game. So it is harder for someone my age to fully grasp the "after" if I never truly lived in the "before."

Still, I never revered the story as this amazing "bible" to Bat-greatness. I find it a solid story, but not the holy grail of comics that some fans find it to be. I own it. As a fan of the character and someone who appreciates the impact it's had on the character it was a must have, but I rarely find my nose in it -- something I can't say about the rest of my collection.

Despite not gushing over the story I, as I'm sure you have, try to put it into perspective. I try to imagine "what if" my first and only true experiences of the Batman were the silly, fantastic and the camp? Then I look at what Miller accomplished in The Dark Knight Returns and I'm able to appreciate it more than I did upon first reading it. I can see, if I block all prior knowledge of a "dark" Batman out, as best I can what they saw in the late 80's when this first hit shelves...

Still, I find much of it's impact for being the first "dark" take on Batman to be hyperbole. Neal Adams and Denny O'neil weren't exactly writing bright and cheery Batman stories in the late 70's and early 80's -- Miller simply took what they were doing to another level.

But like you, I feel not only did this film elevate the material, it made me enjoy the story more than I did in the comic...

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
The changes are immediately apparent. While the film opens in the exact same way as the comic, gone is the hard boiled noir inner monologues that gave the original comic it's Sin City-esque tone, gone is the constant drone of newscasters and polipsy babbling, and in its stead is little more than the grim, dark adrenaline of Bruce Wayne pushing its racer to its limit, as a musical score that blends Hans Zimmer with John Carpenter plays quietly in the background.
The music in this film is fantastic. It's very 1980's and very apropos. I loved that they did retain most of the "talking-heads" from the comic, but I also felt that most of the "side-stories" in the comic took me out of the main narrative. I understand what Miller was trying to do, showing these random acts of crime in this hopeless city, but some of it could have been trimmed. And Timm and Co. have done that masterfully...

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
The newscasters pop up soon enough - make no mistake, no story beats are missed or forgotten about - but the subtle tweaks in its presentation turns the film from a definitively noir, comic booky experience, into something even more sinister and brutal. It's still unmistakably Batman, but with it, comes the slick and eery overtones of 80s sci-fi and the ultra-violent twinge of the 80s actioneer. Being an animated film with a running time of scarcely 76 minutes, it's obviously not quite up to par with Blade Runner, and RoboCop, and the original Terminator, but it without question borrows heavily from those pieces to create a strangely iconic, strangely unique 80s futurist vision of Batman.

Which, if you've read the comic, I'm sure you'll say it's what it always has been. The source material definitely lends itself to that sub-genre that was burgeoning in Hollywood when Frank Miller first penned the comic back in 1986, but again, it's only enhanced and improved by the film crew's creative decisions and direction.
It captures Miller's artwork just enough. It cleans up his designs (Miller is great at drawing atmosphere, not really at drawing) and adds the perfect amount of 80's to make it real and the perfect amount of sci-fi to make it surreal, and they nail that balance. It's a dirty, cruel world. It's a real world. The wealthy dine in top floor restaurants with beautiful views over-looking the city, and the poor hang around busted up arcades...

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
Outside of its overall presentation, the next overwhelming strength for the film, is the characterization of Batman himself. After reading the comic, I was hardly sold on the grizzled, militaristic Batman that Frank Miller made famous, but on film, and voiced phenomenally by Peter Weller (of RoboCop fame, ironically), the over the top characterization of the comic is, once again, transmuted into something much cooler, sleeker and simply exuding 80s cool and bravado.
While there are lines from the comic that I will always love and that I feel Miller nailed in the characterization of an older Wayne "This isn't a mud hole, it's an operating table... and I'm the surgeon," being one of the best -- some felt out of place and out of character. Here -- even some of the lines that I never felt worked in the comic, work. Weller is fantastic in this role.

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
To say that Batman is at his best - his coolest, his most violent, his most broken and intriguing - would not be a wholly incorrect statement to make. While I positively love Michael Keaton's portrayal of Batman, and while I respect the detail in which Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale explored their Batman's psyche, Weller's Batman has a fierceness that both of those interpretations lacked. He is, to be blunt, a bad ass. More RoboCop, John McClaine, Snake Pliskin than the wounded soul that Keaton and Bale were.
The soft-spokeness of batman is something that I've sorely missed. I love both the Bale and the Keaton Batmans. (Full-disclosure, I favor Bale's). But I always loved that Batman, in my head when I read him, doesn't need to yell or growl all the time. He can yell and growl like an animal when he has to or when he's angry, but he can also... almost whisper. John McClaine is a great example. Cool, reserved and collected but can always breakout a "yippie-ki-yay" if he has to.

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
The final striking aspect of the film, honestly has to be its direction and overall sublety of its screenwriting. During the opening act of the film, we're treated to several moments of Bruce Wayne's inner demons and his continued obsession with his parents death in several flashbacks and hallucinatory episodes that deliver that age old psychosis of Batman in possibly the most sophisticated yet troubled way I've yet seen on film.
I liked that we see it without ever really fully seeing it. I also loved the way that they handled Jason. Things the comic did well -- but I feel this did better.

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
On top of this surprisingly mature writing is a level of direction and shot selection that I've seldom seen in animated, direct-to-video filmmaking. It's balantly obvious that director Jay Olivia truly strove to make a movie that is more than just an hour-long marketing ploy. He really seemed to want to make something truly special and individual to the series of DC Animated movies; a love letter to the original work, to the action films of our collective, 80s childhoods, to Christopher Nolan's recent entries, and, of course, to the character himself.
This is a truly "live-action" feeling animated film. Watching it -- you forget you're watching a cartoon... 100% agreed.

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
All in all, this care, attention to detail and talent in adaptation, acting, and direction imbibes The Dark Knight Returns with a level of quality and maturity that is rarely seen in this genre of film.
I can't wait to see Part II. Agree with this review on all counts.

Originally Posted by CConn View Post
1. Under The Red Hood
2. Return of the Joker
3. The Dark Knight Returns
4. Year One
5. Mask of the Phantasm

Something like that. To me, it's very much to Under The Red Hood as Rises is to TDK, but then again, you don't like Rises, so that analogy doesn't really work.
I loved Under The Red Hood, totally agree with that placement, far and away the best of the batch.

My rankings would look about the same, maybe switch 4 and 5 -- but they are all so close.


Last edited by Robin91939; 09-28-2012 at 01:45 AM.
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