Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Senior Batman vs eternally young Superman

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Part One/Part Two (/Video/2012 - 2013). Director: Jay Oliva.

Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, this two-part animated feature looks at the dark side and older years of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Batman has not appeared in Gotham city for a decade, but the threat of a homicidal gang that calls itself the Mutants, and whose activities are becoming more and more violent, bring him out of retirement. Eventually this brings him into conflict with the Gotham police department, which gets a new female commissioner in part two, and then with Superman in the final sequences. Taking care of the Mutants with blunt brutality, something the police were not able to do, makes the now-senior Batman a hero in the eyes of some Gothamites, and a fascist in others, such as the Joker's nutty psychiatrist, who thinks Batman is the real sociopath and is responsible for villains like the Joker. This is all played out before a backdrop of social and political commentary. A new, very young female Robin named Carrie at first seems like a frivolous character, as she comes out of nowhere and seems to have had absolutely no training, but she grows on you after awhile. There's more than one suggestion that the Joker in this might be gay -- his final confrontation with Batman is in a Tunnel of Love! -- as well as other sexually ambiguous characters, but whether this is to give them added color or is mere LGBT exploitation is debatable. [One villainess has a butch haircut and swastikas painted on her naked, substantial breasts!] Peter Weller makes a fine Batman, with David Selby also notable as Commissioner Gordon, and other voice roles are well cast.The animation is fluid and Oliva's direction is fast-paced and cinematic. This is not your father's Batman.

Verdict: Sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes childish, but it holds the attention. ***.

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