The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Review
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This past September, DC Home Animation embarked on a new challenge. Splitting a landmark story into two home releases. When The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 released, I wrote about how enjoyable I found the entire experience. It shed a lot of the issues I had with the source material while leaving a pretty remarkable movie. Now just a handful of month later, The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 is set to release, and after checking it out, I realized where all the stuff I hated about the source material went!
Let’s start with the positive. Like Part 1, the art and animation in this film is extremely strong. We’ve seen The Dark Knight Returns style adapted in various Batman stories, but none of them were as true to the vision as this version. Granted most of them don’t have over 2 hours to work with, but what can you do. A lot of the iconic scenes and images make the trek over to the film as well. Oddly enough, I found some of them stuck out a lot more in this half than the first half. Especially Superman/Clark Kent’s introduction at Wayne Manor, it just comes off as hokey here. Then again, I guess that’s the point.
Speaking of Superman, the voice acting throughout the project remains strong. I already gave praise to the voices of Batman, Alfred and Gordon in the original review. This half introduces Superman, The Joker, The President and more. All of the roles are interesting takes on the character. Mark Valley provides the voice of Superman, and I felt he was channeling his best Tim Daly for this film. My mind kept trying to think it was him. For the Superman in this story, he does a pretty solid job in the role. Ellen Yindel (who it never clicked with me was the inspiration for the character on the Batman) is voiced by Maria Canals Barrera, who does a terrific job as a tough as nails leader even in the grip of one of Gotham’s most troubling periods.
Finally, at least in major roles, there is the Joker, who is voiced by Michael Emerson, who is a completely different Joker in this film. Based on the source material, The Joker is shown to be a bit more down to Earth and normal character in this film. It’s interesting to watch his behavior, and Emerson does a terrific job with it. You are just waiting for him to kind of snap back to his maniac side, but it never really comes to that. I’m not sure if that makes him more or less scary.
Aside from those major roles, there are some minor but interesting voice choices. Conan O’Brien voices David Endochrine, the Late Night show host who interviews the Joker before things go to hell. He does a nice job in a job of basically playing himself. The President, modeled after Ronald Reagan does an interesting take in the role, but we’ll get to this in just a second. There aren’t any voices that really stand out as being bad.
Let’s start with the biggest pill to swallow, Batman is a TERRIBLE character in this. There are a lot of flaws with the Batman character/mythos when you actually try to break it down. Why doesn’t he use his vast fortune and power to help out Gotham’s law enforcement agencies. He could even train them better himself. Most of that is generally handled by making Batman face off against villains/threats that may be beyond the grasp of the Gotham Police Department. Sometimes, he just loans them support when there are tasks that are slightly beyond the control of the law, it happens.
Miller decided to ignore any of that because Batman vs Cops is a better story for him. It’s an old story as well, done all the time. There isn’t a problem with it, if done well within the context of the story. For example, the climax of The Dark Knight, which has a literal ticking clock and Batman having a short response time to work with so that the SWAT team didn’t kill the wrong people. In that situation, handling the SWAT was just a bit faster than trying to communicate with them all. He didn’t actively work against them trying to capture the Joker.
Compare that to one of the first major setpieces in this film. The Joker is going to make an appearance on the David Endochrine Show, Batman and the cops expect The Joker to make a movie, and both groups plan to be there to counter it. Instead of dressing up in disguise (which we see TWICE in this film), and hiding in the crowd to react quickly if/when the Joker makes his move, Batman decides its best to make an aerial entrance to do battle with the cops on the roof. A time-waster sure, but whatever. Once on the roof, he gets attacked and throws out some smoke pellets. Instead of using the cover of the smoke to duck into the building because again the main objective is The Joker, he spends all his time and energy systematically taking out members of the Police Force. Not only does this delay his and the cops reactions to whatever The Joker has planned, it will also weaken Gotham’s Police Force for other tasks they need to do. None of this is the best part though because during this all The Joker is able to attack and kill everyone in the studio. Never once does Batman or the cops actually make it into the show! To sum it up, Batman wastes his and the cops time just because he needed to make a grand entrance, which could have easily been avoided since he knew where the Joker would be and when he would be there. There were several other ways he could have handled the situation without drawing the attention of the cops in the city!
Just to prove that he really hates cops though, they once again encircle him during a later fight scene and he uses explosives to dist.. oh wait not to blow them out of their boats. A Batman without a concern for human life isn’t the man who thrives to be better than everyone else!
Character suicide isn’t just for Batman here either though. Since Superman is made to look like a giant government tool in the film as well. Remember the image I mentioned before, the hokey one? Yeah, Superman/Clark Kent is introduced at Wayne Manor wearing a white shirt with his top button undone and posing with an eagle on his arm.. who does that? I mean I get that Superman has been portrayed as the All-American Boy on numerousÂ occasions, but this seems to be taking it to the extreme. And it never fully pays off. There’s no moment of redemption for Superman nor Batman in this film, which is worthy of their character betrayal.
Finally, there’s the piece of the book that has aged poorly and wasn’t really needed here, but the political undertones of the US interventions in other countries. It feels dated and heavy-handed here, but this is over 20 years old. I guess they didn’t want to touch it, but they could have lessen its role in the film. Honestly, at the end of the day, the only thing it ADDS to the narrative is creating the EMP which leads most of the world to riot. One of the few scenes where Batman is actually heroic.
Recommendation: Avoid– Listen, I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t like The Dark Knight Returns, and while I was pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed Part 1, the same can’t be said for Part 2. While it has some cool action pieces, my mind could never get beyond the fact that theyÂ committedÂ so many character suicides to gain these moments.
If you’re a fan of The Dark Knight Returns, you may find this to be enjoyable and more power to you, but personally I can’t recommend this film!