A scene from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, directed by Jay Oliva for Warner Premiere.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012, Jay Oliva)

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.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jay Oliva; screenplay by Bob Goodman, based on the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson and the character created by Bob Kane; edited by Christopher D. Lozinski; music by Christopher Drake; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Peter Weller (Bruce Wayne / Batman), David Selby (Commissioner Gordon), Ariel Winter (Carrie Kelley / Robin), Wade Williams (Harvey Dent / Two-Face), Michael Jackson (Alfred), Gary Anthony Williams (Mutant Leader), Michael McKean (Dr. Bartholomew Wolper), Paget Brewster (Lana Lang) and Richard Doyle as the Mayor.


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2 thoughts on “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012, Jay Oliva)”

  1. This sounds a lot more worthwhile than I was expecting. Watched the trailer; the animation is a pretty good semblance of Miller’s designs, although they clearly wanted it to be less stylized and dynamic (unlike the Batman Animated Series episode where they did the Mutant Leader mud pit fight as a vignette.) I’m looking forward to this now.

    1. I can’t remember the rest of Returns besides the Superman and Reagan stuff (not sure if Warner’s going to go all the way on Reagan, but they might) and the ending, but it’s possible Part 2 might be even better. The first half of this one is so good I was thinking of getting the Blu-ray….

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