It’s interesting to hear Peter Weller voice Batman in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (is that title long enough?) since Dark Knight Returns, the comic, always felt like Batman meets Robocop. Not so much because of the tone, but because Frank Miller uses media intercuts to flesh out the setting just like Robocop does. In the film, director Oliva does the same thing. He and screenwriter Bob Goodman keep it all… even when the story turns into Miller’s fascist daydreams.
The film’s best at the beginning, with Weller and David Selby (as Commissioner Gordon) deal with aging. And then the return of Batman is well-done; the real stars of Returns, besides Weller, are director Oliva, composer Christopher Drake and editor Christopher D. Lozinski. They imagine Batman as an unstoppable slasher movie villain–Drake’s score even has the seventies synthesizers going–and the film transcends its low budget animation.
The problems arise once the story of Part 1 begin, which involve Batman fighting a big gang. Gary Anthony Williams voices the gang’s leader, so you have an obviously black guy voicing a big white skinhead. There’s a real disconnect.
Goodman’s script faithfully–at least as I recall–the comic, meaning the character development makes all sorts of silly jumps and the pacing is weak. The script gleefully wallows in Miller’s anti-progressiveness, like it alone will make Returns daring.
Weller and Oliva nearly make the entire thing worthwhile, but even they can’t combat the script’s insipid plot developments.