DVD Review: Batman - The Dark Knight Returns / Director: Jay Oliva / Screenplay: Bob Goodman, Frank Miller / Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Michael Emerson, Paget Brewster / UK Release Date: November 26th
Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is considered by many to be the single greatest Batman story ever told. After a decade long absence, Bruce Wayne is forced to bring the Batman out of retirement to face the threat posed by a gang called "The Mutants" who have, to all intents and purposes, taken over Gotham.
If this sounds a little familiar to you, then you have obviously seen Christopher Nolan's final chapter of his Batman trilogy, which does its best to emulate, and in places downright steal elements of this classic story. Where Nolan's final movie was a bloated mess with pacing issues and plot holes you could drive a batmobile through, this faithful adaption of the classic graphic novel shows how it's supposed to be done.
And yes, this is an absolutely faithful adaption of the graphic novel. All of the elements are present, including an aged Lana Lang's televised arguments with Harvey Dent's psychiatrist and the numerous news reports interspersed throughout the narrative that look at the effect the return of Batman is having on Gotham's citizens. Even the timeframe is correct, with references to past historic events putting it slap bang in the middle of an alternate 1980s. In many ways, the feel of the narrative is reminiscent of Zack Snyder's adaption of Watchmen, which came out around the same time as The Dark Knight Returns, especially the use of classic frames from the comic book brought to life within the film.
Once things get moving, and Bruce dons the cape and cowl once more, the film cracks along at a hell of a pace. The action hardly lets up for a second, and watching the fights between Batman and the Mutant gang leader explode onto the screen will bring a little tear of geek joy to anyone familiar with the original comic book. The animation is first rate, matched by great voice performances from Peter Weller as an aging Bruce Wayne, and a pumping score that sounds a little like an ‘80s electronica remix of Han's Zimmer's work on The Dark Knight Rises.
This is the movie that batman fans have wanted to see for almost thirty years, and rest assured that DC have absolutely nailed it. There were no doubt some who would have liked to see the side content, such as the news reports, trimmed to bring the running time down, but DC have taken a brave decision in releasing a largely unaltered version of the story and it has paid off.