Friday, April 8, 2016

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1

Year 8, Day 99 - 4/8/16 - Movie #2,299

BEFORE: My wife's away for three days at a management training seminar in Chicago, so for me, it's a weekend full of drugs, hookers and guns - in video-game form, of course.  If I buckle down I might be able to get through the whole of "GTA 3" in 3 days.  It's been a few years, since I've been spending my video-game hours on "Lego Star Wars", "Lego Batman" and "Lego Pirates of the Caribbean", this could be a nice break before I start "Lego Batman 2" or "Lego Hobbit".  

And see, I told you, Frank Miller is back.  This film is based on the 4-issue limited series he wrote in 1986, around the same time they were re-booting Batman with a new origin, they were also giving a peek far into the future - OK, a possible future.  But the series really took off once it was released as a trade paperback, for a while there I made sure to re-read it every couple of years, like I do with "Watchmen".  And a fair number of the ideas made their way into the recent "Batman v Superman" film.  More on that in a bit.  

Three voice actors carry over from "Under the Red Hood" - Wade Williams (as Black Mask last night, and Harvey Dent tonight), Carlos Alazraqui (as Chi Chi last night, Hernando tonight) and Bruce Timm (as the Riddler last night, and Thomas Wayne tonight).  

THE PLOT:  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?

AFTER: It's very smart, setting a storyline far into the future like this - the writer then doesn't have to worry about all this continuity.  By now, Jim Gordon totally knows that Bruce Wayne was Batman - when did he figure it out, back in "Year One" or somewhere along the way?  It doesn't matter.  Jason Todd is dead, and Bruce still feels bad about it - was this from his first "death" or did he die a second time?  Again, it hardly matters.  

What's really significant now is probably what was "borrowed" from this storyline to appear in "Batman v Superman" - the bulky costume, for one.  And the fact that Batman is older, 55 here and retired from crime-fighting, I think the Affleck Batman was supposed to be in his 40's, it's funny that being only 10 years older, Bruce Wayne is portrayed here like he's a senior citizen.  All that street-fighting and getting shot at takes its toll, I'll wager.  The recent film also used a shortened version of Batman's origin, very similar to the one first seen in this comic.  And if you read the comic-book and you know what happened in issues 3 + 4, you know there are more elements in common, which I'll discuss tomorrow.  

You can just feel from the pacing here that this film covers issues #1 and 2 out of four, there are two climactic battles, one with Two-Face and one with the Mutant Gang leader.  Two-Face gets plastic surgery here and is believed to be reformed, but you can change the man's outward appearance and still wonder if he's the same criminal under the skin.  And the Mutant Gang leader is a gigantic, overly-muscular bald brute with sharpened teeth and incredible strength - Batman learns that fighting skill alone isn't going to take him down, he needs to fight smarter.  And that's exactly who Batman is, the perfect combination of intelligence and fighting skill.  

I never really noticed before that most of the "Mutant" gang aren't mutants at all, not in the "X-Men" sense of the word, anyway.  But most of them wear visors similar to Cyclops', many have bald heads like Professor X, and the leader has sharp teeth like, umm, Wolverine?  I wonder how much of this was intentional, was Batman supposed to be fighting some amalgam of the X-Men?   

NITPICK POINT: Commissioner Gordon talks about the U.S. entering World War II, as if he were there.  But if he's 70 years old in the future, at a point where Bruce Wayne is 55, I can't quite get the math to work out where Jim Gordon is old enough to be politically aware in 1941.  It only works if this takes place in an alternate version of 1986, and Gordon was 25 in 1941, then he'd be 70 in 1986.  That means Bruce Wayne was born in 1931, which kind of works, but it calls to question how far in the future this is set, if at all. Why not just remove the mention of F.D.R. and leave it ambiguous?

Also starring the voices of Peter Weller (last seen in "Star Trek Into Darkness"), Ariel Winter, David Selby, Dee Bradley Baker, Paget Brewster, Michael Emerson (last seen in "The Legend of Zorro"), Townsend Coleman (last heard in "Lego Batman: DC Super Heroes Unite"), Maria Canals-Barrera, Richard Doyle, Grey Griffin (last heard in "Batman: Year One"), Michael Jackson (no, not that one...), Michael McKean (last seen in "The Brady Bunch Movie"), Sam McMurray (last seen in "The Front"), Maurice LaMarche (last heard in "Frozen"), Frank Welker (last heard in "Big Hero 6"), Gary Anthony Williams (last seen in "The Internship"), Tara Strong, James Arnold Taylor.

RATING: 5 out of 10 packs of nicotine gum

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