The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2 Review:

His name is Batman, and he’s about kickin’ ass and takin’ names. He’s just finished taking names.

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Batman punch!

The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 follows on from exactly where Part 1 left off, with the Joker. The second part of the story was always more interesting and exciting than the first part, but how it comes across in film is outstanding.

Some of the problems I listed in the review for the first part still persist such as the lacking impact of the televisions and Batman’s inner monologue is still missing, but the key strengths of the first part are even stronger in part two.

Batman has to deal with the Joker and Superman in this half, while the threat of the Mutant gang has been diminished and he also has to deal with the new chief of police Ellen Yindel. If you have read the book, you will know that the story is fantastic, and each action has a reaction, Batman really is kept on his toes until the very end. However, I don’t really want to bore you with the details of plot intricacies or ruin it for people who have not seen the film or read the book so there will be no real plot discussion other than this: It is great fun.

The Joker is not played by Mark Hamill, but Michael Emerson, who brings his own disturbing qualities to the character incredibly well. The quality of voice-acting again is top-notch with every character sounding great for their representation on display.

Just like in the first part, each action scene is expertly choreographed, with every punch feeling as brutal as it should. But man, Batman’s fights with the Joker and Superman are handled extremely well, better than their counterparts in the graphic novel. This is animation over still images though, so there really can be only one winner.

Despite the fantastically brutal fight scenes, there are one or two aspects where the book did a better job. The Joker’s appearance on the David Endochrine (voiced brilliantly by Conan O’Brien) show for example does not quite carry the same disturbing weight as it did in the book, missing the scene entirely where the Joker rides on the boy doll after the horrific event, which added another layer of disturbing depth to this incredible version of the Joker.

The way the film dealt with Batman’s brutal fight against the Joker was incredible, but Carrie’s (Robin’s) face off against Joker’s right hand man – the Egg guy (unsure of his name) on the rollercoaster was left in the background and not given enough time to truly appreciate the tense nature of the scene.

However, we all know that really the star of the show in this film is Superman and his fight against Batman. I have never really got into Superman, but The Dark Knight Returns’ version of him is brilliant, and Mark Valley’s voice-work is excellent, really bringing Superman to life. But oh, the fight, it really is stunning and makes the whole thing worth it even more. The animation of the fight is top of the line and the editing of the scene is great.

Enough of waxing lyrical about the fight-scenes though, now for something more serious; there is something this film does better than the book: it gives closure on Gordon’s wife during the fire. Part of the narrative sees Superman stopping a nuclear device that cuts the power of Gotham completely, making an aeroplane fall out of the sky into a tower block, where Gordon lives. This happens while he is out of the house, getting some shopping and his wife stays at home; the book doesn’t really tell us what happens to his wife, but the film does, which is a big plus for me as it really closes off Gordon’s role in the narrative.

However, this scene also leaves out a fairly key scene that introduces us to a man on the street, someone who tries to stand up to Batman. In the book we are given a little two page spread of what happened to this man, and who he is to a limited degree while in the film he is just there, and we don’t know who he is. While this may not be the most important scene, for someone who has read the book, they may be asking why it was taken out of the film as it builds up a further sense of the Gotham we are seeing, and the people in it.

Summary:

The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2 is a hugely satisfying follow up to the great first part that improves on the book in certain areas, but misses certain parts and scenes from the book that added greater emphasis on the Joker, Robin and the Gotham in which the film is set. Despite this, the action scenes are fantastic, the voice-acting is superb and the editing and use of sound is brilliant. Also, Superman.

A brilliant adaptation of one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. Essential viewing.

90/100.

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