Adaptations of beloved books are hit and miss most of the time. Many people would say more miss than hit. DC Comics has again dodged what could've been a fatal bullet with "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2." What fans get is a faithful animated feature that captures the spirit of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's critically acclaimed graphic novel.
There's no break for the Dark Knight (Peter Weller) after his defeat of the Mutant leader. Batman is immediately thrown in to a battle with two of his biggest opponents: the Joker (Michael Emerson) and Superman (Mark Valley). The Joker has once again escaped imprisonment and is more obsessed with destroying Gotham City than ever before.
At the same time, the Man of Steel has been commissioned by the President of the United States (looking a lot like Ronald Reagan) to put an end to the Caped Crusader's vigilantism. Things get even more complicated when a nuclear missile combined with an EMP detonates and everything electrical shorts out. There are riots in the streets of Gotham and it looks like anarchy may reign supreme. Can Batman and his new army of Batmen get things under control before the city annihilates itself? Can the Dark Knight hold his own in a battle against the Last Son of Krypton?
Director Jay Oliva does a standup job of combining Bob Goodman's script and Andrea Romano's casting choices to come up with an action-packed and emotional film that perfectly captures Books Three and Four of Frank Miller's legendary work. There are many parts of this adaptation that follows the novel right down to the printed panel.
I'm not saying the animation matches the book to the tee. If that was the case, we might as well just have a motion comic. However, it certainly comes as close as possible without being a carbon copy.
I have to hand it to voice director Andrea Romano. She did an excellent job coming up with a top-notch cast for "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2." Peter Weller is superb as an older and angrier Batman / Bruce Wayne. Both Michael Emerson and David Selby give their characters of the Joker and Commissioner Gordon unique flavors we haven't heard before. Emerson does come dangerously close to impersonating Jack Nicholson in some spots, though.
The high-definition audio and video quality of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2" could be better. The 5.1 surround sound perfectly distributes the explosions, dialogue, and musical score to the far reaches of your home theater. However, there's quite a bit of horizontal banding to be found in the picture. There's also a strange haze over the animation that I've noticed I get with all DC Universe Animated Movies. It's a bit distracting, but doesn't keep me from enjoying the films ultimately.
The Blu-ray edition of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2" is loaded with some exciting bonus material. Three featurettes entitled "From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process," "Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide," and "The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death" go behind-the-scenes of the movie and explore the making of the film.
Three additional episodes from the DC Vault featuring the Dark Knight are included as well. They are from "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." We get extended previews of DC Universe's next animated project, "Superman: Unbound," and "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1." It also contains a 4-page excerpt from the graphic novel "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns."
The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy version of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2" will please fans of the Caped Crusader on all levels. The feature film is an energetic and faithful adaptation of what is considered one of the greatest Batman graphic novels ever written. An abundance of special features gives it greater worth for consumers choosing between which format to buy. I close my review with one question: "Are we ever going to see an animated feature film for 'The Dark Knight Strikes Again?'" Feel free to argue amongst yourselves, comic book geeks of all genders.