- Title: Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
- Director: Jay Olivia
- Voice Director: Andrea Romano
- Date: 2013
- Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
- Genre: Animation, Action, Drama
- Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Michael Emerson, David Seltz, Mark Valley, Robin Atkin Downes, Maurice LaMarche, Michael McKean, Conan O’Brien, Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, Tara Strong
- Format: Windscreen, Color Animation
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“Look, either shut it down or one of these days someone with authority is going to tell me to come to stop you. And when that happens…” — Clark
“When that happens may the best man win.” — Bruce
“Come on, finish me…. Doesn’t matter, I win, I made you lose control … and they’ll kill you for it.” — Joker
“Tonight, I am going to maintain order in Gotham City, you’re going to help me! But not with these [guns]! These are loud and clumsy! These are the weapons of cowards! Our weapons are precise and quiet! In time, I will teach them to you. But for tonight, you will rely on your brains and your fists. Tonight we are the law! Tonight I am the law!” — Batman
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is a classic graphic novel that’s been in print since it’s original publication in 1986. It’s excellent, and truly raised the bar for graphic story-telling and changed comics forever. It’s the first graphic novel I ever read and one I occasionally re-read. I’m very glad Warner’s allowed two movies to be made from this big and complicated graphic novel. I was worried though that Warners would “wimp out” with the more controversial aspects of the story. I’m happy to report they did not. The political aspects of the storyline are here in full. Hooray!
Whereas the first part (film) focuses on Bruce putting the Batsuit on again and Two-Face and the Mutant gang Leader as villains, the second part focuses almost exclusively on The Joker as the primary villain, though there is still a lot going on. Even more than Part 1, television newscasts are used as a narrative device in Part 2.
In Part 2, the remainder of the Mutant Gang has split into various groups. The Sons of Batman, with their blue face paint, declare Batman as their leader and attempt to save Gotham City from other criminals – violently. The Nixons, with their tall blonde female leader, “Bruno”, rob and steal without remorse. Bruno has red swastikas painted on her breasts. Batman sets up a sting to catch her and succeeds. Superman arrives in Gotham and saves a blind man who’s fallen into a subway track in the path of an on-coming train. But the reason he’s there is to encourage Bruce to hang-up the cape again. However, the majority of the film concerns Joker.
Jim Gordon retires. The new police commissioner, Ellen Yindel, as her first act as Commissioner, issues a warrant for Batman’s arrest. When Clark and Bruce talk, Clark has a bald eagle on his arm, and Bruce pets Clark’s white dog — which is a great image!
Joker is in an asylum, being treated by Dr. Wolper. He manipulates Wolper to get him a pass and an interview on the Dave Endocrine Show. Wolper does this, and soon Joker is free. He kills Wolper with a coffee cup during the show’s taping, as well as Endocrine and his audience with his deadly Joker gas. Batman and Robin (Carrie) had gone to the show’s taping to try to stop Joker, but Yindel’s police attack Batman. The police spend so much time trying to catch Batman that they fail to stop Joker.
After escaping the chaos at the television studio, Joker finds Selina Kyle and uses hallucinogenic lipstick to control her mind, as well as one of her girls. The girl gets a Congressman to declare the country should declare open war on the Soviets before falling to his death (while wrapped in an American flag).
The president announces on TV that American troops are battling Soviet troops in the South American Island country of “Corto Maltese”. As in the graphic novel, the president looks like Reagan, and he’s voiced in the animated film to sound like Ronald Reagan, including his “folksy wisdom”. He announces a war by saying, “Now those Soviets would like to see us turn tail and run, but we’ve got to protect our interests, I mean, stand up for freedom and the good people of Corto Maltese. So don’t fret… we’ve got God on our side.” This political conflict forms the backdrop of the entire film. News is blacked out “due to severe weather”.
Batman also finds out Joker’s next target is the local amusement park, which is just opening. Batman and Joker fight in the house of mirrors, where Joker shoots Batman in the shoulder. Joker escapes into the tunnel of love, and he and Batman fight again. Joker knifes Batman across the stomach and stabs him several times. Batman beats Joker, who finally collapses against a wall. Joker taunts Batman, then breaks his own neck. Batman passes out. Later, Batman awakes. He places incendiaries on Joker’s body and disappears, as Yindel’s police troops close in. Joker’s body burns and the entire tunnel blows up.
Carrie rescues Batman and takes him to the Cave where Alfred does surgery.
Reagan announces from an “undisclosed location” via television special report, American troops won in Corto Maltese, but the Soviets are “poor sports” as a missile’s been sent towards the Island nation. Superman deflects the missile and it blows up over Gotham City. Superman is irradiated, crash lands, and kills everything he touches — flowers, trees, grass, etc.
Gotham is blacked out and everyone panics. Bruce realizes it was an EMP blast. Batman and Robin ride on horseback into Gotham. Batman rallies the Sons of Batman, and later citizens and even former members of the Mutant Gang into keeping order in the city. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon organizes people in his own neighborhood to put out fires.
The country is buried under a cloud of smoke and ash. In Gotham, there is no sun, but electricity is slowly coming back on. Gotham is the only city not torn apart by crime, rioting, and looting.
The president (still Reagan) enforces martial law and sends a recovering Superman after Batman. Batman works with Carrie, Oliver Queen (formerly the Green Arrow), and Alfred on a plan. He fights Superman in Crime Alley, distracting him until Queen can fire a Kryptonite arrow at Superman. The arrow doesn’t kill Superman outright but weakens him. Batman somewhat defeats Superman, but then he falls victim to a heart attack. Superman, Diana (once, but no longer, Wonder Woman), Selina, and Jim Gordon attend the funeral. In the end, Carrie, heavily veiled, is the last to stand by Bruce Wayne’s grave.
Wayne Manor has burned to the ground, after Alfred, following Bruce’s instructions, hit the self-destruct. Alfred escapes the house but dies of a massive stroke.
There’s a cut to the sound of a heart monitor. Then, Oliver Queen begins to instruct the Sons of Batman in cleaning up the Bat Cave. Bruce arrives and states he will instruct the Sons of Batman (as well as former Mutants and other citizens who joined him the first night after the missile fell). They are now Bruce’s army.
I liked Part 1 slightly better; Part 2 seems like more of a slug-fest. However, kudos to Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Warner Brothers Animation, and DC Premiere for not shying away from the darker and more political aspects of Frank Miller’s classic book. The second half of Part 2 works really well. In the first half, Batman’s final confrontation with Joker seems almost anti-climatic. However, though the film is dark and violent, it is also really good — with an adult story and incredible animation that evokes the art of Miller’s classic. Recommended.
Recommendation: See it! (Though not for young children)
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Next Film: The Third Man