By: J.D. Cook
At the Paley Center for Media in NYC
My third day back in Gotham found me attending a Batman related film premiere. Frank Miller’s classic the Dark Knight Returns was turned into a two part cartoon film. This story inspired a great deal of the Dark Knight Rises. The plot of an aging Batman returning to action is taken directly from this story and there are even a few lines in the Nolan film lifted right out of the comic. So how does the story translate to the cartoon format? Quite Well! The movies were broken up so that the first movie focuses on Batman’s comeback while the second film focuses on his battle against the Joker and Superman. Before I get into to the quality of the actual film I must say how wild it was to see a cartoon film in a theater as nice as the Paley Center’s. The seats were comfy and the after film panel was a very interesting mix of people who gave the audience a great insight into the adaptation of the Dark Knight Returns.
The film itself was awesome. Although it was made at virtually the same time as the Dark Knight Returns part one it seemed to be a lot more entertaining and interesting. This may have simply been because it was the second act of the story and the natural climax. For those of you who never read Miller’s epic tale it is widely credited with moving Batman past being perceived as an Adam West dominated children’s tale to a dark and gritty adult folk lore. The second act deals with Batman and the Joker’s often homo erotic relationship as it comes to it’s conclusion in the tunnel of love. The often friendly relationship between Batman and Superman comes to a close as Superman must stop Batman from making the government look bad by acting outside the law. It’s strange that Batman is portrayed as the ultimate right wing extremist in this story while the ultimate right wing President opposes him. I feel like Reagan and Batman would get along fairly well but of course no government or politician would really tolerate a masked vigilante imposing their order over the countries.
At first I disliked Peter Weller’s slightly monotone voice for the role but it really grows on you by the end of his performance. Especially in the final scene where he tells Superman he could have killed him. Michael Emerson delivered a completely cold Joker which was absolutely great! It took a bit to get used to not hearing Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker respectively but when you did it sounded great! The action was fantastically drawn and directed by Jay Oliva. He put a few Easter eggs in the film as well such as the 1989 Bat mobile. There was also a fantastically put together scene in which an Eagle lands on Clark Kent’s arm while Bruce pets his wolf dog showing the symbolism between the two as Superman is a tool for the United States government in this story. The film is more deserving of buying then the first part because it has all the most iconic moments from the story and you do not need to see the Dark Knight Returns part 1 to be fully interested and excited by this film.
After the film Andrea Romano (the Dialogue and Casting Director), Jay Oliva (the Director), and Michael Uslan (the Producer) sat down with moderator Gary Miereanu. This was a delightful group to listen too. Andrea Romaro had a huge amount of charisma and went on for long periods discussing what it was like to work with various voice actors. She even explained how she wanted to hear a little emotion from Batman during a scene in which the new Robin almost dies. She was over ruled on the decision but I agree with her that it would have been more interesting to hear a bit of emotion from him in that particular scene. Jay Oliva seemed to really love his job as an artist and everything he talked about had a great deal of art and story know how to it. I was most impressed with Michael Uslan though as he had been a producer on the Batman films since the 1989 Tim Burton classic. His knowledge on the subject and the character were completely inspiring.
So all in all it was a really fun night out in the frigid Gotham air. The Paley Center for Media is a really great venue to see something like this. The film was a fantastic and may have even rivaled the Dark Knight Rises on my first viewing. The Panel was interesting and a pleasure to watch afterwards. I look forward to future events at the Paley Center and future installments in the animated Batman film series. Lastly I’d just like to point out how strange it is to watch Cold War error stories as a child of the post-cold war era. It’s sad to think people thought of man’s extinction as imminent at one point and I am glad we have moved beyond that era.