Saturday, March 22, 2014

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2

Directed by Jay Oliva.
2012. Rated PG-13, 76 minutes. 
Michael Emerson 
David Selby 
Mark Valley 
Carlos Alazraqui 
Paget Brewster 
Maria Canals-Barrera 
Grey DeLisle 
Michael Jackson 
Tress MacNeille 
Jim Meskimen 
Conan O'Brien 
Rob Paulsen 
Andrea Romano 
Tara Strong
At the end of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, we got the kind of tease that makes most Batman fans giddy. We found out the Joker (Emerson) was getting into the fray. The re-emergence of Batman (Weller) has inspired the Clown Prince of Crime to come out of the catatonic state he's been in for years. His first order of business is getting out of the looney bin. He manages this by convincing his doctor to arrange an appearance on a local talk show. Yup. Not surprisingly, this doesn't work out woo well for the people of Gotham. Our hero knew that would be the case, but can't quite get there to stop it. He has to deal with an army of Gotham's finest. With Gordon officially retired, Commissioner Yindel (Canals-Barrera), the city's new top cop has made it a priority to put Batman behind bars. Okay then, game on.

So far, it sounds like it's setting up another classic clash of the titans, right? It does. Eventually. this then leads to a showdown with none other than Superman (Valley). This is also epic. Unfortunately, there is just way too much other stuff going on. Worse, much of this other stuff is of too broad a scope and/or poorly executed. For starters, Batman is now a master of Mission: Impossible style disguise. I was cool with this until he miraculously hooks one up in seconds. Next, there was the Bruno, a topless female who looks like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, just with boobs. To preserve that PG-13 rating, her nipples are covered with swastikas. The scope comes into play as we start getting into a nuclear strike by Russia against the U.S. It's brought up then dropped as if it's resolved when it's not. It is just an overblown plot device to get Superman in the condition we need him. By the way, it's a world in which Supes works directly for the President of the United States. Youngsters who watch likely won't realize that this president is very obviously Ronald Reagan. Why? I understand this is an adaptation of Frank Miller's work from 1986 when Reagan was actually president, but an update would've been okay. By the way, the drawing of Superman as Clark Kent is just plain funny to me. The first time we see him he looks like he's posing for the cover of a romance novel.

So far, it sounds like I hate this movie, but that's not actually the case. In fact, when the movie focuses on the Joker and the subsequent battle with Superman, it's phenomenal. The Joker is as brutal as he's ever been, piling up an impressive body count. Everything surrounding him plays out in graphic fashion. It's often cringe worthy, but in a good way. Of course, the big question is does he finally win? Does he accomplish the one thing he's been after the most for all these years? There is certainly a case to be made that he does. The Superman stuff provides a similar dilemma. Both guys can feel like they won. I won't divulge why they're fighting, but the depiction of it is amazing.

Part 1 is a consistently solid effort. Part 2 over-reaches its boundaries on a number of occasions, giving it an uneven feel. In other words, it's spectacular in some spots, and pretty bad in others. There is loads of action which will keep some viewers excited, particularly because it is pretty visceral stuff. Lots of gore and unrestrained mayhem abound. It has led lots of viewers to gush over how great it is. I'm not quite on that bandwagon because even on this front, there are some letdowns. On a few occasions, police officers and bad guys alike are within five feet of the Caped Crusader spraying shots from automatic weapons. It is more than obvious our hero should be riddled with bullets. I know, I know. It's a Batman cartoon. Some impossible things are to be expected. This just gets to be a bit much. Again, I understand wanting to be faithful to the highly regarded source material. However, just because something is highly regarded doesn’t mean it’s perfect. This certainly is not. Like I said, it’s great in some spots, and nearly incoherent in others. When working with a mess, I think it’s okay to tidy it up a bit.

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