The Dark Knight Returns... to DVD in 2 parts

Unlike the well-thought-out efforts coming from Marvel Films, Warner-DC evidently has little clue when it comes to making live-action adaptations of their comic properties (besides Batman and Superman). This said, by golly, they sure know how to craft satisfying animated movies based on those characters.

Even at their weakest - Green Lantern: First Flight (my review)and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies - the straight-to-DVD DC Universe Animated Movies are still very watchable if you're in the mood for a simple, slick superhero slugfest. At their best, they burrow down to heart of the characters - as was the case with Wonder Woman (my review) and Batman: Under the Red Hood. There's a reason I religiously collect and watch these animated films, and that's because they demonstrate a respect of their source material, in all departments (script, appearance, tone), that's apparently difficult to duplicate in flesh and blood.

Anyway, given my admiration of the feature-length superhero work coming from Warners' animation departments, I'm naturally very excited for their next effort - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, based on Frank Miller's massively influential 1986 limited series / graphic novel. The film is currently set to release on DVD, Blu-ray and Download on 25 September, and the first trailer was unveiled last week.

"Oh God, another book adaptation split into 2 parts" I hear you groan. Well, in this case I feel it's justified . The average length of a DC animated movie is 75 minutes (Batman: Year One was only 65 minutes) and the film's source material is pretty dense.

Judging by the trailer (packed as it is with signature moments from the comic), The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 will focus on the first half of Miller's 4-issue miniseries, ending at a satisfying break point sans cliffhanger. In other words, in Part 1 we will watch the return of Batman after a decade of retirement. Pushing 60, Bruce Wayne can no longer sit idle and boozed up as Gotham City is terrorised by The Mutants, a gang so brutal and evil that they're without precedent. Meanwhile, a supposedly reformed Harvey Dent is unleashed back into society, and the Caped Crusader's return divides public response. On one hand, teenager Carrie Kelley is inspired to adopt the mantle of Robin; on the other Batman's resurgence wakens an old foe out of catatonia... setting up a dramatic showdown in The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2 (along with some dated, decidedly 80s Cold War concerns).

Replicating the "blocky" style of Miller's artwork, the The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 looks like it's faithful to the mature tone of its source material as well. Of course, with a reported PG-13 rating it will be interesting to see how dark the film goes, but I'm hoping Miller's cynical disdain for politically correct do-gooders at least remains intact, even if there's no sign of the comic creator's signature inner monologues in the trailer.

Then again, at the end of the day I'd probably be watching The Dark Knight Returns for one simple thing alone - and that's the opportunity to hear Batman speaking with the voice of RoboCop (Peter Weller). Geek squeee!


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