The latest Batman film to hit screens (or video in this case) is the Dark Knight Returns animated films, split into Parts 1 and 2. To be honest, I am not the biggest western comic fan but have read the occasional DC and Marvel series.
The first part shows Bruce Wayne in retirement and quite aged – seriously, I’m not sure if he’s older than his butler Alfred. The new Gotham has record high crime rates and a brewing civil war with the resident mutant population. In time his rivals bring out the old Batman and we see equally aged villains such as Harvey Dent and Joker.
In returning to the streets Batman happens to save a pair of girls. One of the girls ultimately ends up taken under Batman’s wing as they attempt to take on old enemies and the mutant threat. Throughout numerous fight sequences his age and decreased power are evident, even being saved from a mutant leader by his apprentice. Throughout the film Gotham is heatedly debating Batman’s philosophy and the subsequent morality and legality of his actions.
The first film has both good art, acting and a great story. The combination of new and old characters, as well as the time jump make for an interesting experience.
The second film, Part 2, is a different animal all together though. Throughout this part Batman and his cause are at odds with public values and he is once again wanted by the police, whom he clashes with whilst pursuing the new villain Joker. Showing it’s age the film is marred with references to the (now gone) Soviet Union and a near miss at nuclear winter. It is herein that the film becomes highly controversial.
Superman is brought in by the political establishment to both deal with the Soviets and Batman who have become a problem. First Superman takes on the Soviets, an obvious cold war reference and fear mongering. Secondly he takes on Batman merely at the behest of his presidential puppet master. The narrative strays so far from generally accepted Batman and Superman personalities that it quickly breaks the immersion.
- Superman the puppet and warmonger?
- Superman and Batman actually fighting?
- That’s like Justin Bieber and Bach facing off…
The final confrontation was interesting with Batman donning a power suit and going toe-to-toe with Superman, but too many glaring issues arise. Batman ultimately has to rely on cheap tricks, his apprentice and old comrades to bring Superman to his knees, only to spin into a narcissistic pit in which he will lead his new minion army to bring justice to Gotham by force if necessary.
In conclusion the films were a fun watch, with Part 1 saving the day. I would however not recommend anyone taking Part 2 too seriously.