Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Animated Discussions- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
After enjoying part one of the adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, I was very excited to see the second part.The second half of the story is the part that really excited me when I read it, and I'm glad to say I was not disappointed.
As with the first part, I'm not going to discuss too much about the plot, since it's well known and discussing a faithful adaptation is more about the style of the film than the plot. Stylistically, the movie is from the same director and animators as the previous film, so it flows seamlessly with the look of the first. It animates Miller's story, and keeps some aspects of his style, especially in the faces and hair, but makes it fluid.
The animation seems particularly suited to some of the especially creepy sequences of the comic. The Joker's flying dolls of death are even more grotesque than in the book, making me think of Jonathan Coulton's song, Creepy Doll. Superman's post nuclear explosion near death experience animates frighteningly well, the field around him withering as he sucks the life from it. And the panel that gave me nightmares as a kid, of the Joker's corpse on fire, is actually translated right to the screen, and still makes my skin crawl.
One thing with this part of the movie that I was very curious to see was how the movie worked with the narration, or without it. Miller's work is littered with purple prose in general, and especially within its captions/thoughts. While Batman: Year One used that narration to good effect, it is far less verbose in Dark Knight Returns; it is more akin to the narration in Sin City. The removal of it works really well here, and the big scenes that have a lot of that narration (the final fights with Joker and Superman) have even more gravity. The silence as Batman just pounds on the Joker, and as his plan to take down Superman reaches fruition makes you watch the animation closer, focus on the action.
While most of the voice cast are returning from the previous part, there are two major cast additions. Mark Valley's Superman is suited perfectly to this interpretation of the character. He's the boy scout, deep voiced and deferential to those he sees in authority. You can hear the almost beaten note in his voice as he speaks to the president, and yet he presents himself to Batman in the most confident way possible.
Michael Emerson's Joker is different from pretty much any Joker I've ever heard. Mark Hamill's Joker is the definitive animated Joker voice, and I've always found it interesting that while many voice actors have modeled their Batman after Kevin Conroy's Batman, Jokers tend to be wildly divergent. Emerson's Joker has much more of a controlled malice to his voice, keeping with the source material. he isn't manic, at least not until the very end, when he finally lets out a gale of laughter that is perfectly Joker. The lines he delivers while on the David Endochrine talk show, and in the scene where he confronts Selina Kyle are done in this very matter of fact, chilling way that is creepier than if he was cackling madly.
So, with the Dark Knight Returns adaptation now complete, I have to give it an unreserved recommendation. It's been many years since I read the source material, and it has made me curious to go back and read the original story again. This story was written as the last Batman story, but I hope that we see more of them from the DC direct-to-dvd animation if they can all be this good.