Grade A

Adapted from the legendary, comic book, mini-series of the same name written by Frank Miller, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” is a tale of a middle-aged Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Peter Weller) who has been out of the crime-fighting scene for a decade.  Gotham City has become what NYC was in the 1970s: a dirty, crime infested city where people were terrorized by packs of gangs.  Superheroes are banned — except for Superman, who is the U.S. government’s enforcer — and America is on the brink of a nuclear war against the U.S.S.R.

Everywhere he turns, Wayne is reminded of what a cesspool G.C. has become; and how even the good people have turned a blind eye to all the crime around them, afraid to do anything.  But most of all, Wayne is reminded of how his parents were killed…and what he became so that decent people would not be afraid to walk the streets.   The voice in his head…the visions…the anger…it all becomes too much to bear.  One stormy night, the Dark Knight returns, and criminals will have much to fear.

Many challenges and threats await Batman: his old age; the giant leader of the largest gang in G.C.; a girl who puts on a Robin costume to fight crime by herself, but ends up fighting alongside Batman and taking over as the new Robin; a new, police commissioner who sees Batman as a vigilante who must be arrested; an escaped Joker, revitalized by Batman’s appearance; and Superman, sent by the President to stop Batman’s crusade by any means necessary.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “TDKR” is the scene when Wayne stares at Robin’s costume on display in the Batcave.  Where is Robin?  What happened to him?  Many guesses have been made, with many thinking Robin was killed in the past.  A few years after the comic books of “TDKR” were written, the Batman comics had a storyline where the second Robin (Jason Todd) was killed by the Joker.  Many Batman fans link these two stories together.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Dark Knight Returns” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Batman has beaten Superman — Batman did cheat on many occasions, but considering his opponent, it’s understandable — and Batman tells Superman “In all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”  Oh, snap!

“TDKR” has many shenanigans…come on, it’s an animated movie based on a comic book!  But those shenanigans were found in the comics also.  This is a story where you have to let a lot of things go.  It is also a story that one can spend many, many hours analyzing, e.g., the justification Batman makes to allow a girl dressed as Robin (voiced by Ariel Winter) to join his extremely dangerous, possibly suicidal crusade against crime.  Also, Peter Weller’s acting leaves much to be desired — he mostly sounds like he’s doing his lines while still in bed and barely awake.  Overall, this is a faithful adaptation of a beloved comic book mini-series that crushes any of the Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney Batman movies, and is as good as the Christian Bale Batman movies.

“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” parts one and two is a must see for any Batman fan!

— M