In the world that exists post-Chistopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, it’s almost impossible to imagine the world before 1986 and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Dark Knight, set in a not too distant dystopian future, presents a Gotham City overrun by a criminal gang called The Mutants (a not so-subtle swipe at Marvel’s ascendant mutant superheroes The X-Men who were the trailblazers at the time), Batman is retired, Ronald Reagan is still the president and the world hovers close to nuclear armageddon. Into this world we see a grittier, darker Batman return and put things right, not before upending a number of comic-book cliches.
Legendary comic-book scribe Alan Moore suggests in his forward to the first collected edition that the remarkable thing about the story was that it was an “ending of sorts.” Unlike most myths, super-heroes have to be constantly rebooted/revamped/recycled and this put an ending on the story fitting for a legend. Chris Nolan adopted this stance when he took on the Bat mythos in his films and it resonates. I hope viewers appreciate this when watching DC Entertainment and Warner Home Video’s The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (part 2 will debut in the spring). As faithful an adaptation as there could be, my only reservation is that some of the innovative story techniques and tropes that Miller invented for his story have now become canon. But maybe I’m over-thinking things.
Certainly a great addition to the stellar animated films they’ve been putting out the last few years. Definitely check out The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, available on In-Demand and on Blu-Ray and DVD Tuesday, September 25th.
While you’re at it, you should check out the collected edition of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley. Stephen King called it ” … probably the finest piece of comic art to be published in a popular edition … ” at the time. Read the tour-de-force that came before.
The Dark Knight Returns stars Peter Weller (RoboCop) who leads a stellar voice cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Joining Weller behind the microphone is David Selby (The Social Network, Dark Shadows) as Commissioner Gordon, Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Carrie/Robin, three-time DCU veteran Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper.
Images courtesy of the author