The Dark Knight Returns, Pt. 2,
directed by Jay Oliva
(Warner Bros., 2013)

In the immediate aftermath of The Dark Knight Returns, Pt. 1, Commissioner Gordon has retired, leaving in place a new commissioner who wants to arrest the vigilante known as The Batman. The Cold War with Russia is about to hit its apex. Neo-Nazi gangs are roaming the streets, vying for control with another gang who claim to be Sons of the Bat. The Joker, having convinced everyone he is reformed, is about to be released from the asylum. The President wants Superman to take out Batman.

But Batman isn't alone. He's got a new Robin, Carrie Kelly, and an old friend, the cantankerous and unrepentant Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow, to help him out.

The most amazing thing about this movie is how they managed to get it all done in under 75 minutes. From the first scene to the last, the action never lets up. This may be one of the best animated thriller action movies out there.

The perfectly executed animated fight scenes are breathtaking in their full-motion dynamism and fluidity. The action, which is essentially composed of two rather epic battle sequences, are so real and so unrestrained it's a wonder they didn't get an "R" rating. They are packed tight, well-paced and deeply suspenseful. The emotional content, dark as it is, is not overlooked nor relegated to background. It maintains the intensity and spirit of the tone of the actual books and, like the animation, is well if not perfectly represented -- the only major flaw being that the wall-to-wall text that makes up the inner dialogue of the characters in the books is missing in the movie. Without that insight, a good bit of the characters' motives, personalities and emotional states of being are somewhat hollow -- but no film version of any textual content can ever be a perfect match. What matters most is that the uber-gritty style of Frank Miller's work is preserved in tone and content, if not panel by panel.

This is not a film for children. It's brutal, and can at times be mind-numbingly nihilistic and violent. The lines between heroes and villains blur constantly, and it closes with an ending that's more "acceptable" than happy.

The Dark Knight Returns is not a perfect work. It has plot holes and questionable characterizations carried over from the books, but TDKR is truly one of the best Batman stories out there, if not the current best, because its moments of quiet subtlety are as intense as the sometimes visceral action scenes. The animated movie may have set the standard for cinematic excellence, as well. It's deep, dark and realistic, just like the source material, and the viewpoints hold up. Nothing against Christopher Nolan, but perhaps Batman is, after all, best represented in the medium in which he was created.

review by
Mary Harvey

14 September 2013

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