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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012) - Blu-ray Review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 - Blu-ray review


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3 Stars

In the 1980s, DC Comics took their tales of Batman to new heights. Years before Tim Burton took the helm as director of Batman (1989), Frank Miller and Alan Moore took the Dark Knight to new heights and new intense worlds. Many of these graphic novels and mini-series would later become pivotal starting points for Christopher Nolan's recently concluded Batman trilogy. Before the 80s, Batman was primarily a detective with some quirky bad guys to take down every week. Story arcs like The Killing Joke and The Long Halloween went to great lengths to change Bruce Wayne's alter ego into not just a superhero, but most importantly - a man.

In light of the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, over the last 8 years since it began, DC Comics has produced under 20 animated films to showcase their heroes in some of their most promising arcs. After The Dark Knight Rises smashed some box offices this previous summer, DC released this direct to Blu-Ray/DVD The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 - the first of a tandem to retell the classic Frank Miller mini-series from 1986 into animated film enjoyment. The result is a mixed bag.

The animation is directly lifted from the comic books, which is not a massive achievement considering the 1990s animated series did the exact same thing. In fact, if there's anything Part 1 does correctly, it's pay homage to everything that was successful prior to this. The 90s animated series was wonderful on so many levels. It created the grim underbelly of Gotham that was established by Moore and Miller during the 80s, while enhancing the vision of Tim Burton through the textures. But where Part 1 falters the most is what it does so good at - paying homage. Most of the story is verbatim from the comics, a good and bad thing (thankfully the voiceover by Batman is left out). But other aspects are directly lifted from Nolan's films. Specifically the score. At times it feels as if Hans Zimmer wrote another score for this animated film but alas it's just a knockoff that tries too hard to sound similar. It's an association that the filmmakers of Part 1 are trying to instill and it's successful, but shameful at the same time considering it sounds so much like Inception and less like The Dark Knight.

Taking place 10 years after the last sighting of Batman, Bruce Wayne is now 55 years old, and has hung up the cape and cowl. Gotham is overrun by a terrorist group known as The Mutants. These cretins basically looks like Killer Croc wearing Cyclops' optic visor. There's a new Robin, played by a female, thus confirming everyone's beliefs that Robin was a woman. Commissioner Gordon is a week away from retirement, and Alfred is still working as Wayne's butler. Dividing the story up into two parts seems like an obvious cash grab from DC Comics. The story cuts right as  the juicy parts are about to begin, thus making Part 1 a somewhat trial to get through. The voice acting stands out the most here, as former Robocop actor Peter Weller voices the Dark Knight, a departure from the iconic Kevin Conroy who has voiced Batman for nearly 20 years across all mediums. After that, there's not really another big name voice actor for the series - just your typical cast which is a big disappointing considering the heavy hitters on previous films like Mark Hamil, Bryan Cranston, Neil Patrick Harris, and Dean Stockwell. Once can deduce that a majority of the films budget probably went to the adaptation rights alone.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 - Blu-ray reviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action.
: Jay Oliva
: Bob Goodman
Peter Weller; Ariel Winter; David Selby; Wade Williams; Carlos Alazraqui; Dee Bradley Baker
Genre: Animated | Action | Sci-fi
Old heroes never die. They just get darker.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Let's just say I'm glad you survived Batman's retirement and I was hoping you'd keep it that way."
Warner Home Video
Official Site:
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 25, 2012

Synopsis: Batman has not been seen for ten years. A new breed of criminal ravages Gotham City, forcing 55-year-old Bruce Wayne back into the cape and cowl. But, does he still have what it takes to fight crime in a new era?

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 - Blu-ray review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

3 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 25, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region-free

The DVD/Blu-Ray lacks any real special features at all. A couple of trailers, a few featurettes about Bob Kane and the inclusion of a female Robin, as well as a sneak peak at Part 2. All in all, the special features are lackluster, on an already disappointing watch. It's wonderful to see a beloved story adapted to the screen, even if it's animated. But the division of it into two parts is a slap in the face to the fans, and the special features hardly warrant a full 20 dollar purchase fee. It's a shame that DC Comics couldn't focus a lot of attention on this project and actually make this set more worthwhile. Methinks the release of Part 2 will be much better as they'll combine the two into one box set or single disc with a combination of features. Until then, this will have to do for those hardcore fans. For the casual one, despite some relatively pleasing ups, the overall project seems like a bit of a misfire.



  • None

Special Features:

  • Her Name is Carrie... Her Role is Robin
  • Batman and Me: A Devotion to Destiny, The Bob Kane Story
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Sneak Peek
  • Batman: The Animated Series Episodes
  • "The Dark Knight Returns" Digital Comic
  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Sneak Peek

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