It’s not an overstatement to say the The Dark Knight Returns might be the most influential story in comics ever. I say might because there are definitely other books that were important. (Watchmen for one, Days of Future Past for another.) But TDKR hit so hard that we’re still feeling the aftershocks.
Do you like Batman: The Animated Series? How about Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? Batman, as most people my age and younger know and understand him comes from Frank Millers ultimate Batman story. (Not ultimate because it was his last, but because it is meant to be the last.) Because of it’s iconic and revered status it makes sense that when Bruce Timm and the gang at DC animation decided to tackle it, they decided to split it into two parts, in order to preserve frame by frame, beat by beat, moment by moment, fight by fight, perfectly the GN.
But right now, let’s deal with Part 1, which opens as Bruce Wayne intentionally crashes a race car he’s driving, probably. Then we’re introduced to The Mutants, a gang of maybe teenagers who have been terrorizing Gotham. Jim Gordon is about to retire and Harvey Dent has been “cured.” (Also the Joker is Comatose.) But Gotham is still Gotham. A couple weeks ago I was watching The Dark Knight with Mary and Joe, and Mary just shook her head and said, “why don’t these people just move? Why still live in Gotham City?”
It’s a fair point, but I guess if you live in a comic book universe, that stuffs going to happen everywhere. But Gotham does seem to bear the brunt of it. (That’s why I want to live in Central City. As long as you stay clear of banks, you’re pretty much safe there…) I digress, the point is that despite the appearance of change Gotham City is still the worst place in the world. Also, I mean, Bruce may have retired as Batman 10 years earlier (there is a mention of some unpleasantness with Jason, but since TDKR came out before A Death In The Family, well, it set a ticking clock…again, with the digression, but see what I mean about the aftershocks?) Anyway, Bruce is still insane and suits up as Batman. While patrolling he stops a mugging, beats a pimp who’s about to cut one of his girls, and saves a young girl named Carrie Kelley.
Meanwhile, Harvey Dent disappears and begins his final crime as Two Face. The world explodes with talk about Batman’s return and Batman eventually tracks down the Mutant Leader and beats the crap out of him. Carrie becomes Robin. One day through the fog The Joker hears Batman’s name and he wakes up. End of Part 1.
It’s worth noting that I really love this movie, this Graphic Novel and Frank Miller in general. The heightened feeling of everything he does suits superheroes really well and Batman perfectly. This adaptation feels like Miller’s work, in it’s pacing, art and style. It just works. And of course, I’m me, so let’s talk voice cast. Peter Weller’s old Bruce is as tough and strong as possible, but also tired and world weary, it’s a style that works wonders. David Selby’s Gordon might just be my favorite. (All apologies to Mr. Cranston.) And Ariel Winter, who is one of my favorite people on TV ever is Carrie Kelley/Robin, and I love Carrie (She’s my 2nd favorite Robin…but let’s not talk about Damian right now, I don’t have the emotional bandwith for the tears) and Winter’s performance hits her exactly right. Michael McKean who really is just stellar no matter what he does plays Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, a pop psychiatrist who hates Batman.
Up next is Part 2, obviously. Also, I’m going to be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’m going to see how it goes this week, but I may switch to a Monday Wednesday Friday post schedule to manage my writing time depending on how things go this week!