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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition Film Review
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The epic two-part adaptation of Frank Miller's classic story is now one, two-and-a-half hour epic film that stands as not just one of the best animated movies that I have ever seen, but a movie that stands among it's live action peers as simply a great movie, period. Director Jay Oliva did a magnificent job molding this animated film into a hybrid of Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan's directorial styles. Nolan's epic, detail oriented, and socially relevant Batman meets the visual style of Zack Snyder, where direct representations of specific scenes are recreated throughout the film. Shots of Batman flying through the air in his return, a shot of the Mutant Leader looking up at the Batmobile, a shot of Superman fighting in Corto Moltese, and the scene where Joker reveals himself to a television audience serve as examples.
The film tells the story of the return of Batman after Bruce Wayne had retired the cape and cowl ten years prior. He is coaxed back into action after sinking into a meaningless and empty existence after the violent actions of the Mutant gang and the disappearance of the "rehabilitated" Harvey Dent. His return leads to widespread debate about his place in the current society and strikes fear in the hearts of Gotham's criminals. He apprehends Harvey Dent and launches a one man war against the Mutant's, leading to a confrontation with the Mutant Leader where Batman is brutally beaten and nearly killed before Carrie Kelly rescues him. She becomes the new Robin and joins Batman's new crusade against the criminals of Gotham. Batman eventually defeats the Mutant Leader, causing the Mutants to become the Sons of Batman, a vigilante group loyal to Batman. The government takes notice and the President puts Superman on notice. Soon after, the Joker awakens from a catatonic state and tries to convince everyone that he's reformed when in reality, he just wanted to return to his murderous ways and kills hundreds of people. Batman and Robin intercept him at a carnival and Batman engages in his final confrontation with the longtime nemesis. Batman is heavily wounded and snaps Joker's neck. Joker tells him that now they'll come after him for having finally killed someone and he breaks his own neck. Batman escapes the police, now under the leadership of an anti-Batman Commissioner, and helps restore order in the city after a nuclear explosion causes a city wide blackout. Gotham becomes the safest city in the country, much to the federal government's embarrassment, and Superman is dispatched to take out the Batman. They get into a massive brawl where Batman is able to physically match Superman's strength with an enhanced, mechanical suit. Batman defeats Superman, but succumbs to a heart attack. Alfred dies, Wayne Manor is destroyed, and a funeral is held for Bruce who is revealed to the public as the true identity of Batman. Clark hears a heartbeat and realizes that Bruce isn't dead. He faked his death and went underground to train the Sons of Batman to continue Bruce's work.
The story for this film takes Bruce on a journey to rediscover his purpose. After retiring, Bruce feels useless and worn out. After a series of events convince him to bring back Batman, he finds his purpose. He unleashes a massive onslaught to restore order to a city that he defended for longer than he can remember. Jay Oliva and the creative team dis a fantastic job telling this story. Peter Weller does a great job bringing the character to life as the elder Batman. The decision to have him voice Batman was initially criticized by some fans who felt that Kevin Conroy should've been brought back to voice Batman again, but I think Weller's performance put those criticism's to rest. He was very believable in the role. Another standout performance was Michael Emerson as the Joker. Again, this decision was criticized because people wanted Mark Hamill to come back as Joker, despite the fact that he retired from the Joker role after the 2011 Arkham City videogame. Emerson had the effective creepiness of the Joker down to a tee and sounded kind of like a hybrid of the Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill Jokers. The action sequences were awesome from beginning to end as well, with Batman's epic fight with Superman providing an effective climax to a film ripe with great action. Batman's final showdown with the Joker and his battles with the Mutants are also standout sequences in the movie. Christopher Drake's music was every bit as awesome as Hans Zimmer's amazing music for the Dark Knight Trilogy and I will definitely be getting the soundtrack from Itunes as soon as I get a chance. The music used for the final showdown with Joker is one of the best placements of music in a movie. It was simply amazing.
Because of the success of this film, both as two parts and one epic film, I believe there is hope for a similar adaptation of the comic, Kingdom Come. I hope the creative team behind this film will take on the epic story about the return of the Justice League. I highly recommend this movie to all fans of Batman and of movies in general.