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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (2013) Direct to DVD animated movie

Overall verdict: 8.5/10
The Good: Faithful to the source, elaborates and expands on the original comic book, superb animation and artwork, talented voice cast,

The Bad: replacing the original muted colors with a more generic animation color style, dips in animation near the end

Current Availability Status: On DVD and Blu Ray

******************************Review*****************************
The animated adaptation of Frank Miller's epic classic Batman tale concludes in "The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2". Whatever made part one great makes this one just as enjoyable. The producers continue their policy of adapting 100% the critically acclaimed graphic novel while expanding on story elements that could not have been expanded upon due to a lack of space in the original 4 issues worth of comics.

Spurred on by Batman's actions in the first part, The Joker uses a clever ruse to return to crime and senseless murder. As Batman attempts to bring the increasingly chaotic city under control, numerous forces are out to get him. The Joker wants to bait him into the ultimate showdown, the Cops under a new commissioner want to arrest him, the United States Government wants to end him. All the while, a war is brewing that would tear the country apart. Driven to the brink, Batman does the unthinkable and the government brings in a red and blue secret weapon who is faster than a speeding bullet.

Easily the most powerful conclusion and the finest animated production from Warner Premiere, the whole thing looks superb. Animation is of the highest quality, rivalling that of big budget anime movies. Fight scenes are in full motion, bristling with a kinetic sense of energy and without a single short cut. All of it set to a unique score by composer Christopher Drake which combines blockbuster orchestral tunes with a futuristic noir inspired synthesizer sounds. Again, the main complaint is more with the art than the animation. Frank Miller's art is faithfully replicated but in certain scenes, the quality of the art takes a nose dive. One such scene involves superman taking on a naval fleet; the way the ships are drawn look pathetically cheap compared to the rest of the movie.

And the final fight between Superman and Batman has some laughable dips in quality too. 

Telling a story in a new medium would warrant some tweaks. For example, Fans would remember that the comic featured walls of text to give exposition and explanation. In animation, the story is expanded enough so that said exposition is not necessary. Events flow naturally into each other and scenes that were slightly confusing to the casual reader makes perfect sense: scenes like Joker's final moments, the war with the Russians, why Gotham is suddenly snowing when it was a heat wave in the first movie etc. Just one of the examples of how this movie expands and improves on the original. The only thing lacking is that Frank Miller littered his narrative with characters' inner monologues. These give us an insight into the thoughts and personality of the characters; these are also, sadly, missing. And with it goes that insight that audience could have been given.

The voice cast are just as top notch as the previous installment. Michael Emerson's Joker is oozing with a certain homoerotic creepiness, quipping in a psychotic slur. Just listen to his dialogue during his climatic hand to hand showdown with Batman, it is almost traumatising. On the downside, Peter Weller seems to gave grown a little bored of the role as Batman. His deep baritone becomes almost monotone and his inflection is.....all wrong. Just listen to that half hearted "I Am the Law" speech he gives to the ex-mutant gang. Yes the script is the same as the book, but the delivery is below expectations.

Yet with its strict adherence to the source material, this animated movie also carries over the flaws of the source material. A good number of going-ons require some suspension of disbelief. Like how does Joker get his hands on lip stick that can mind control people? How does someone make near sentient robot dolls that spew poison gas and flies and has the strength of Superman? Oh well.....

It can be said that Dark Knight Returns, when both parts are viewed as one whole movie, is a true animated epic worthy of some awards. Perhaps the slight dip in some animation quality was due to the fact that they were producing Part 2 concurrently with the "Superman Unbound" animated feature. Nevertheless, this is a solid animated feature with good production values. DC and Warner Premiere keeps topping themselves, and the next animated feature will be hard pressed to keep this level of quality. The Dark Knight Returns duology is a must watch for any comic book fan.

*****************************Review End***************************

Go For it: if you loved part 1
Avoid it: if Frank Miller's squarish, squat and musclebound art puts you off

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Characters: A-
Animation: A
Art: B+
Music: A-
Voice work:A-
Replay Value: A
"Brains": B+


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