The second-half of DC Animation’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns feels a little closer to the source material than Part One as the story shifts from Batman‘s (Peter Weller) return and dealing with the Mutant gang to the return of the Joker (Michael Emerson) and the arrival of Superman (Mark Valley) in Gotham to put his old friend back into retirement.
Where I felt Part One tried to fit Miller’s adult tale into a PG-13 framework this second-half delivers on Miller’s vision (including the half-naked villain whom I’ll always refer to as “Nazi Boobs“). Looking at the final cut of the film I’m a little surprised it got away with it’s PG-13 rating.
The real highlight of Part One was Carrie Kelly (Ariel Winter), who once again is terrific here although the story’s shift does push her into the background for much of the action as Batman takes center stage in his final battles with both his arch nemesis and the Man of Steel.
The filmmakers choices still manage to mangle some of my favorite moments of Miller’s work as Part Two continues the project’s insane refusal to use any narration. This means Superman’s thoughts to himself of what happened to the other members of the old Justice League are butchered and placed awkwardly in Clark’s attempt to try and talk Batman back into retirement.
The film doesn’t skimp on either Batman’s deadly battle with the Joker or the Dark Knight standing up to, and beating, Superman in the middle of Crime Alley. It also gives gives us Joker adding another 200 murders to his career live on the air when Commissioner Yindel prevents Batman from making an appearance (although oddly absent is Yindel’s remark to add child endangerment to Batman’s list of crimes when Robin is placed in danger by Yindel and her men).
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is a definite improvement, although some basic choices (such as not letting us into the thoughts of Batman and Superman) limit how well certain sequences work on-screen. Although Part Two doesn’t include audio commentary (which I thought was very odd), it does include one of the best collections of extras of any DC animated film.
The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack includes a in-depth look at the adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic to the movie by director Jay Oliva, a discussion of the Batman vs. Superman fight which ends the story, an examination of the character of the Joker from conception to The Dark Knight Returns including an interview with creator Jerry Robinson. Also included are trailers for Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, commercials for DC Nation and Before Watchmen, two episodes from Batman: The Animated Series (“The Last Laugh,” “The Man Who Killed Batman)” and one from Batman: The Brave and the Bold (“Battle of the Super-Heroes!“), and an extended look at DC Animation’s next project Superman: Unbound starring Matt Bomer, Stana Katic, and Molly Quinn.