Tuesday 23 April 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 [Blu-ray] Review


After a great introduction in The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, the highly anticipated conclusion has arrived to end Batman’s epic journey. Does it meet the high expectations fans had? I have to answer that with a resounding yes. TDKR, Part 2 is a fantastic, action-packed adventure that concludes Batman’s epic quest on a very high note.

After the Mutant gang is disbanded and its leader dead, Batman rises as the absolute ruler of Gotham. However, a new menace resurfaces from obscurity to wreak havoc in the city: The Joker. Confined in Arkham Asylum after Batman’s retirement, he comes back to challenge the Dark Knight again and a chaotic battle ensures between the eternal enemies. Meanwhile, the White House isn't happy about Batman’s return and sends their top weapon to stop it. That’s right, Superman arrives in Gotham to stop Bruce, but he won’t be so easily dissuaded and a clash of titans follows in an ultimate battle that will decide the fate for everyone.

The Dark Knight Returns comes whole with this second part and director Jay Oliva and producer Bruce Timm had saved the best for last. While Part 1 was all set-up and introductions, Part 2 is completely action packed and provides exciting closure for the classic story. There’s not a single scene wasted and everything builds up to a spectacular and unexpected finale.

As in Part 1, the animators took inspiration from Miller’s drawings and the movie emulates the look of the graphic novel. The animation is fantastic and fluid and maybe the best for any DC animated film to date. As with any adaptation, not everything from the novel got translated to the screen but Oliva & Co. successfully translate the important elements and the feel and environment of the novel. Better still, many questions that the graphic novel asks (media control, government policy) are prevalent in the movie as well making it not only entertaining but also profound and relevant.

The cast is excellent all round. Those who were disappointed with Peter Weller’s voice in Part 1, are going to be more happy here, since he commands the screen with a more confident tone. Ariel Winter is still excellent as Robin, and newcomer Michael Emerson is wonderful as the maniacal Joker. I know that Mark Hamill will always be The Joker, but Emerson is an inspired choice and brings lots of fun and craziness to the role. Mark Valley is also good as Superman and his encounters with Weller’s Batman are very memorable.

As with Part 1, this might be an animated feature, but it’s certainly not for children. If Part 1 was intense, Part 2 is even more so, with gruesome battles and very visceral moments. This is a welcome relief, because the novel is dark and I’m glad that the filmmakers didn’t tone it down at all. The real standouts are the battles between Batman and The Joker, and Batman and Superman. Not only they are action packed but what they say in each battle is very memorable and important for the characters. This elevates the movie to new heights of grandeur and everyone should be satisfied with the result.

Even if the movie succeeds on nearly every level, its main success is that it presents a complex Batman that we don’t usually see in other incarnations (except perhaps in Nolan’s trilogy). Both Part 1 and 2 portrayed a much more complex superhero who isn't perfect and is not a “role model” like Superman is. He’s a man with traumas, disappointments and, above all, a commitment to clean the streets of his city of injustice. His main power isn't the ability to fly or indestructibility, it's his firm conviction that he has to do what is right, no matter what, and that’s what makes Batman the greatest superhero ever, and what makes this movie an undisputed triumph.

Video & Audio

Part 2 presents the same competent transfer that graced the first part. The picture is clear, the colours are bold and detail is very strong. As with Part 1, some minor banding appears here and there but it’s otherwise an excellent transfer.

Audio is also strong with a 5.1 lossless track that will envelop you in the ruthless world of Gotham. Directionality is effective and dialogues are clear without any disturbances; it's a nice and powerful sonic experience that will transport you into the story.

Bonus Material

While Part 1 was surprisingly lacking in this department, Part 2 offers a more substantial amount of bonus features - although I suspect a much more comprehensive edition including both films will be released further down the line. Here’s what is included:
  • From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process is a PIP commentary featuring director Jay Oliva. He discusses the challenges of adapting the novel and the differences between the last two books from Miller’s novel and this film. He uses sketches and visual aids making for an engrossing and interactive experience. Can’t be missed. (HD, 44 minutes).
  • Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide is a fascinating look at these two superheroes and their roles in Miller’s novel. Many participants shade light on this discussion and is a must watch for any fan. (HD, 9 minutes).
  • The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death is similar to the Heroes Collide featurette but this one features the Joker, from its inception to his role in Miller’s novel and his importance in Batman’s life. (HD, 14 minutes).
  • Additional Episodes: From the DC Comics Vault offers two classic episodes from Batman: The Animated Series – The Last Laugh and The Man Who Killed Batman – and an episode from Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Battle of the Superheroes!. (SD, 68 minutes) 
  • Sneak Peek: Superman Unbound offers an exciting extended promo to the next DCU animated movie. (HD, 10 minutes). 
  • Sneak Peek: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 offers and extended promo for the already released movie (HD, 10 minutes).
A DVD copy and an Ultraviolet Digital Copy are also included.

Closing Thoughts

The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is hands down, the best DCU animated film to date. Offering bombastic action, asking hard questions and featuring an array of beloved characters, this movie is top-notch entertainment from beginning to end. The Blu Ray offers great picture and audio quality and a nice assortment of bonus features so don’t wait any longer and buy this movie, alongside Part 1, and enjoy them as one superb film. Highly recommended!

Technical Specs:

Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH

50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD copy
UV Digital Copy

Region Free


You can order Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 from Amazon US and pre-order it from Amazon UK (Available on June 3rd):


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