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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Film Review

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by Heath Hewitt (subscribe)
Writer and fitness enthusiast living in beautiful Redcliffe, Queensland.
Published September 23rd 2012
The Caped Crusader has aged well - very well
Batman fans have been spoiled rotten these past few years. We had Batman: Arkham City for our video games consoles last year and the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's epic take on The Caped Crusader with The Dark Knight Rises and now, this. Frank Miller's 1986 thrilling tale of an aged Dark Knight finally joins the DC Universe Animated Original Movie collection with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Frank Miller's epic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns makes for a fantastic movie
Frank Miller's epic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns makes for a fantastic movie


Consider yourself warned - this is not your campy 1960s Adam West-styled Batman or the recent television series, The Brave and the Bold. This is Batman at his gritty, hard nosed best. The story, based on the Miller graphic novel series of the same name, brings us Bruce Wayne 10 years on since he last donned the famed famed cape and cowl. Now in his 50s he's beckoned back into the shadows by his own inner demon and the threat of a rising enemy. Of course, his return sparks a series of reactions, from the emergence of new alliances to the return of old foes.

Ariel Winter of Modern Family fame is Carrie Kelley/Robin
Ariel Winter of Modern Family fame is Carrie Kelley/Robin


Batman voice regular Kevin Conroy has been replaced by Robocop star Peter Weller this time around. A pleasant surprise, I think fans will find. Conroy has been the voice of Batman for more than 20 years from the Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s right up to last year's critically acclaimed Arkham City. Picking Weller makes the role that much more exciting for fans - we've been keen to see how he would cope - and I'm pleased to say he does very well. He nails that grouchy attitude Batman is more than known for. His voice just has that feeling of experience - and hearing him deliver some of the well known lines from the graphic novel game me goosebumps ("This isn't a mud hole, son. It's an operating table, and I'm the surgeon.")

Peter Weller adds a gritty voice to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Hearing those memorable lines will give you goosebumps.
Peter Weller adds a gritty voice to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Hearing those memorable lines will give you goosebumps.


The animation is right up there with previous DC Universe Animated movies - the fight scenes for me in particular were the highlights. Miller's vision of a near-distance future Gotham has also be handled well - the near future in the 1980s is certainly different from today's vision. Like the story they've modernised it to make it applicable to today's world.

Soap actor David Selby lends his voice as retiring Commissioner James Gordon
Soap actor David Selby lends his voice as retiring Commissioner James Gordon


A lot happens in Part 1 - most of it relevant to the first part of the story but plenty that also set up the sequel. Part 1 can get bogged down sometimes in political talk and what felt like never-ending news bulletins, which were quite creative for carrying the story forward but went on longer than necessary I felt. Another thing missing was the internal dialogue of Bruce Wayne/Batman - it was there in drops but not to the effect of the graphic novel. The inner workings of Bruce Wayne/Batman were sorely missed for me.

The Mutant Leader - Batman's better?
The Mutant Leader - Batman's better?


It was another era completely when Miller wrote his take on a senior Batman but thankfully just like The World's Greatest Detective, the story has aged well. There have been many tales told of the Batman over the years but none perhaps as edgy and thrilling as The Dark Knight Returns. Part 1 was a satisfying film following such a lengthy wait from eager fans. Breaking up this massive story into two parts was perhaps the best thing done, watch this then keep an eye out for part two in 2013.

The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is a faithful adaptation to the Frank Miller classic
The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is a faithful adaptation to the Frank Miller classic


Score: 4/5 stars
Starring: Peter Weller, David Selby, Ariel Winter, Wade Williams, Michael McKean
Director: Jay Oliva
Writers: Bob Goodman
Producers: Sam Register Bruce Timm
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Why? A fantastic and faithful adaptation of the Frank Miller 1986 graphic novel. The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 will satisfy any Bat fan and make new ones in the process
Where: Available on DVD/Blu Ray from September 25
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