Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
In the Warner Brothers adaptation of the Frank Miller comic 'The Dark Knight Returns', this being Part One, it's been ten years since The Batman (voiced by Peter Weller) has hung up his cape, an action we can largely associate to the death of his sidekick Robin those years ago, though the details of this are purposely left blank.  Those who know… they know however. These days a fifty five year old Bruce Wayne gets his action fix by driving race cars to destruction, drinking a lot, and walking the dangerous streets of Gotham, but nothing can really tame the beast that is inside of him.  Also entering his salad years is Commissioner Gordon (David Selby), now seventy and about to shut it down, but there is a menace floating around Gotham known as The Mutants that Gordon still has to worry about before he can hang them up. 

These Mutants are bad news, stealing, murdering, terrorizing the weak and a couple of them even ran into Bruce Wayne one evening but the old man is still a good 6'5" and weighs an easy 250, so they wisely thought better of that.  Plus the old dude looked like he wanted to fight, and who wants to deal with that?  Another problem shows up in Harvey Dent (Wade Williams), completely healed, physically at least, from the injuries that turned him into Two Face and he is allegedly healed mentally at Arkham Asylum and set free to live out his normal life.  Like anything good can come out of Arkham Asylum.  We know better.

So with Harvey back on the street who happens to be the exact opposite of rehabilitated, the Mutants and their crazed leader (Dee Bradley Baker) making life miserable for just about everybody in Gotham and Bruce Wayne still haunted by the events in his life that caused him to become The Batman in the first place, it's time for a middle aged old dude to do what he
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does best.  Yes, Alfred (Michael Jackson) thinks this is a terrible idea… note that we thought for sure Alfred would be dead by now… but whatever old man, it's time for Batman to clean this mess up.  And what self-respecting Batman would be fighting crime without a plucky sidekick named Robin?  Now here's the thing, when Batman saved this plucky girl, Carrie (Ariel Winter) is her name, and she went home and put on a Robin's costume to help Batman fight crime, I thought Batman was going to send her home with a sound tongue lashing, NOT welcome her to the fray… a bit irresponsible if you were to ask me… and she did kind of save his life a little bit, but still…

Anyways, Two Face is trouble, this mutant is worse.  Way worse.  Somewhere along the line Batman forgot he was a middle-aged crime fighter who took ten years off.  He's lucky to be alive.  But if nothing else, the man is pretty bright and he figured out that he was a middle-aged crime fighter who took ten years off and he will make some adjustments as only Batman can.  Can't wait for Part II.

At this point in the game, when it comes to these Warner / DC animated movies, they are almost like Pixar and their 3D movies in the sense that we all know beforehand whatever we are about to sit down and watch is going to be pretty good, with the only question remaining is how good is this movie going to be in relation to the ones before it.  'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part I' if you were to ask me, is amongst the best the studio has put out.

It appears to me that these animated features have more freedom to stick closer to the source material than say the live action features, and adhering to the rules that are created in the world of the graphic novels makes it easier on the filmmakers, I believe, and it certainly endears these filmmakers to the film watchers who usually revere the source material that these films originates from.  'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns' stays about as faithful to the source material as one could hope.

Now pushing all that rigmarole to the side, the fact of the matter is that 'The Dark Knight Returns: Part I' is just flat out solid entertainment.  Director Jay Oliva takes the movie and runs with it, deftly combining the outstanding voice work, top notch animation, a solid adult themed narrative and enough animated mayhem to satisfy even the most jaded action junkie.  Peter Weller steps up the plate taking his turn as the voice of Bruce Wayne and knocks it out the park.  There is a weariness and a tortuous maturity to Weller's voice and he brings that to forefront as Bruce Wayne, and the way the story handled a middle-aged Batman putting on the cape once again was handled just about perfectly.  Only David Selby's voice as Commissioner Gordon took a little getting used to, but then Falcon Crest was one of my favorite shows when I was kid… my parents let me stay up on that night… so we could never be too hard on Mr. Selby.

'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One' is just about as good as a superhero animated film can get and needless to say, we will be near the front of the line when Part II gets released in the next couple of months.
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