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Animated Movie Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2013)

Updated on March 1, 2021
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Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Blu-ray cover.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Blu-ray cover. | Source

Quick Info

Director: Jay Olivia
Distributor: Warner Brothers animation
Runtime: 148 minutes
Released: October 8th, 2013
Availability: on blu-ray, DVD, and digital, streaming on HBOMax

Story Summary

Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman after the death of Jason Todd. In his old age, he races and spends his time at Wayne Manor while Gotham City’s crime rate is at an all-time high because of a gang called the Mutants. Bruce finally has enough and comes out of retirement in his old age and once again dawns the cape and cowl to fight crime in Gotham City.

Gotham must decide whether or not they side with Batman as Jim Gordon prepares to retire from the police force as Batman prepares to take on the Mutant gang that has been ravaging Gotham City.

It’s an Interesting Take on Batman

This is a different take on Batman because Bruce Wayne isn’t the young, handsome billionaire playboy. He’s an old man who is just existing as Bruce Wayne.

After the death of Jason Todd, Bruce retired from being Batman, it’s interesting because in the normal timeline where he keeps fighting.

It’s an interesting take on Batman because he has to reemerge as a crime fighter when people don’t even believe that he’s real anymore. It’s also interesting to see how society reacts to his return.

The story is well written and it’s very entertaining. It’s a unique take on Batman because of the character’s age in the story and how everyone we know is older and wiser in their own way.

They also had a unique take on the character of Robin, creating a new character, Carrie Kelley to be the new Robin as Jason Todd’s replacement and I enjoyed her character a lot.

The writing is also very quirky with its own slang and lingo that is unique to the graphic novel and the movie that hasn’t been used by other authors when they write Batman stories.

It’s a little weird but you’ll get used to it while you watch the movie.

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 Trailer [HD]

The Art Style Is Pretty Unique and the Animation Looks Good

I like the art style that Frank Miller used in the comics that this movie adapted and I liked the art in the comic. The animated adaptation captured the art style very well, even though it’s not as detailed as the original graphic novel.

The fight scenes are taken straight from the comic book and have great fight choreography and animation.

Overall, I like the animation and art. It is very unique and you’ll either love it or hate it, but the art and animation are what make this animated movie a memorable experience.

The iconic visual from Frank Miller's graphic novel recreated in the animated film.
The iconic visual from Frank Miller's graphic novel recreated in the animated film. | Source

The Voice Acting Is Fantastic!

I really enjoyed the voice acting for this animated movie. The voice actors they chose for the roles suited the characters very well. Peter Weller is an interesting choice to voice an older Bruce Wayne/Batman and his voice acting fits the character. He was an excellent choice to voice an elderly Batman.

I loved Ariel Winter’s voice acting as Carrie Kelley. She gave a great vocal performance and I liked her voice work in this movie. She was a great choice to voice this iconic character.

David Selby did a great job as Commissioner Gordon and in this animated movie. I like his work in this film because he’s an excellent choice to play this character.

Michael Emmerson did a fantastic job voicing the Joker. He’s an interesting choice to play this character, but he did play Benjamin Linus on the TV show LOST, but he did an amazing job voicing the Joker and he was a great choice to voice an older version of the character.

The rest of the voice cast is excellent and it’s an excellent voice cast that will keep you engrossed in the story.

The Dark Knight Returns Theme

The Music Is Fantastic!

Christopher Drake composed the soundtrack for this animated movie and he has composed many soundtracks for DC Universe Animated movies. He did a great job composing music for this film and it fits the story perfectly.

It’s a great soundtrack that you can enjoy without the movie but I’m not compelled to buy it. It is a great soundtrack for the movie.

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President Ronald Regan as portrayed in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
President Ronald Regan as portrayed in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. | Source

Parental Warning

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2013) contains some profanity and violence. It’s mainly martial arts violence with kicking and punching people.

The profanity was toned down from the original graphic novel so it’s the equivalent of a PG-13 rating.

Frank Miller Did Make President Regan Look Stupid, but It Set up a Great Fight

I did notice that Frank Miller’s portrayal of President Ronald Regan did make him look like he was only looking out for his own interest rather than America’s, but Frank Miller’s a Democrat, they don’t like Ronald Regan anyway, but it did set up a fantastic fight between Batman and Superman, so that’s the only reason President Regan is in this film and the original graphic novel.

The fight between Batman and Superman is one of the iconic scenes in the movie adapted from the graphic novel and it is an interesting critique of Ronald Regan in the 1980s but it does feel like a caricature of what people think Republicans are like. But it is still an iconic moment in the movie.

It’s interesting political commentary, but it is dated since it’s set in the 1980s, which was current when it came out, but younger audiences might not understand all the references.

They Did Change Some of the Controversial Dialogue

The screen play writers did change some of Frank Miller’s more controversial dialogue from the original graphic novel where the man being interviewed said he hopes Batman goes after the gays next. It was changed to be about his landlord, but if you’ve read the original graphic novel, it is jarring.

Some of the stronger profanity was also watered down and it is a little weird but you wouldn’t know unless you read the source material

Bruce Wayne living in retirement from being Batman.
Bruce Wayne living in retirement from being Batman. | Source

This Is a Fantastic Batman Movie!

The Dark Knight Returns (2013) is an amazing film and one of the best Batman movies that have been made recently. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean you can just skip over it. It is an extremely faithful adaptation of the original graphic novel by Frank Miller and it is one that many Batman fans say is their favorite Batman adaptation.

It is not a perfect film, the writers did change a few things to make it more “politically correct” but you wouldn’t know about that unless you read the original graphic novel.

It may not be the perfect adaptation, but it is one that most fans, myself included, enjoy a lot. It’s a fun movie that even casual fans of Batman can enjoy.

Quick Summary

What Works:
What Doesn't Work:
Great story, characters, and world-building
Changed some dialogue to be politically correct
Great animatin and artwork
Portrays President Regan in a way that conforms to Frank Miller's Democratic bias (the original author)
Great voice acting

My Grade: A+

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2013) is a fantastic animated film that is an adaptation of a graphic novel that helped shape the way that people view Batman when it comes to his characteristics because of his dark, brooding nature and his relentless war on crime.

This movie did a great job of adapting the critically acclaimed graphic novel. It did a much better job adapting the original source material than BBatman: The Killing Joke (2016) did.

The production values are excellent, with fantastic animation and a great voice cast for the characters. The soundtrack is also very well done and it’s an enjoyable movie for any fan of Batman.

I highly recommend this movie, I’ll probably pick it up someday but I’ll probably just buy a digital copy on Amazon since I am running out of physical space to store blu-ray discs.

Conservatives probably won't like the way Frank Miller wrote President Regan but it did make the movie interesting because it set up the climax in a way that did make sense.

It is worth your time and money if you want to buy a great Batman movie. I’d recommend renting it digitally or borrowing it from your local library. I enjoyed this movie a lot and I’ll be buying it eventually, just not right now.

My Rating

5 stars for Animated Movie Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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