This is what they mean when they say “EPIC!” I’ve always wanted to say that. Now, on this edition of the Hardcore Review, I tackle arguably the single greatest comic book story ever told… but not as a comic book, the DC Animated movie, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1. Now for us animated Batman fans, we probably never felt the voice talent would get much better than Batman The Animated Series’ Kevin Conroy. The first voice actor or actor in history to give us separate voices for both Bruce Wayne and his masked alter ego, the Batman. But I argue that we just may have truly heard The Dark Knight. Most of us will even think way back to the closest we ever thought we would get to this moment during an episode of BTAS called, “Legends of the Dark Knight,” where a group of kids regaled each other with who they thought Batman was, and there was a five minute snippet of the Dark Knight Returns. Michael Ironside voiced the aged Batman during the short, and it was so close to perfect. Ever since then, we fans have salivated at the thought of an animated feature of the best selling story.
In fact, writing this review, makes me think of a time when me and my friends would gather on a weekly basis to draw. We called it Sketch Group and we met at a plethora or places within the 520. We would usually talk business around the comic books we loved the characters we always read. A usual topic was a list of “Top 5′s.” And one time we dared to give our top five favorite comic book stories of all time. The common denominator in this series of lists was Batman The Dark Knight Returns. After three or four straight people had put DKR on their top fives, we decided the list should be “Top Five Favorite Comic Book Stories, Other Than The Dark Knight Returns.” In fact, this classic tale is something that still lives on in comics, especially during the early 1990′s craze of everything becoming grim and gritty.
Face it people, Frank Miller created a monster when he got the crazy idea that he kept getting older while Batman and Bruce Wayne stayed the same age. It was a concept that quite frankly, as he will admit, pissed him off.
Well, this adaption of the acclaimed graphic novel won’t leave you disappointed. As usual, Andrea Romero does a fantastic job with the voice casting. 80′s icon, Robocop himself, Peter Weller dons the proverbial vocal cape and cowl, bringing our uber grizzled veteran to life. And Modern Family’s Ariel Winter voices the greatest Robin of all time in Carrie Kelly. The rest of the cast is amazing as per usual with an DC animated feature. But the artwork was spot on. As much as it mimicked Frank Miller’s iconic line work with the classic graphic novel, it was completely all it’s own. And I loved every minute of it. And this was only the first half of the Dark Knight Returns.
There was the two huge fights with the leader of the Mutants. Both of which were amazingly close to those depicted in the superior graphic novel. That’s the awesome thing about animation, it is probably the closest to getting what we see in the four color universe on a big screen. That’s something a few, or most comic book fans will complain about big budget, live action comic book movies. What works in a comic book is not necessarily feesible in a live action environment. And not even that it cannot be done. It’s just not always passable in a movie. It’s like in 1989 when I first saw Tim Burton’s take on Batman, IT WAS AMAZING. However, I was only 11 at the time. Now when I see a rubber suited Michael Keaton running through Gotham City while holding the hand of Vickie Vale, I laugh. Cause when you think about it, a grown man dressing up like a bat and running through a city if pretty ridiculous.
This animated film had everything the book had. Not to mention the release of the supposedly reformed Harvey Dent. The Joker is only seen as a peripheral character in this first part. And Superman, the now G-Man is nowhere to be seen. Commissioner Gordon retires and then shoots and kills a Mutant gang member trying to take him out in a small grocery store. The story, although altered slightly, I mean you can’t really have a gigantic topless women with Swastikas tattooed on her breasts and not be begging for an R rating. I own the Absolute Edition of The Dark Knight and even though it’s been a while since I have read this amazing tale, I don’t recall a whole hell of a lot of cursing in the dialog. And even though I would never expect the Dark Knight to ever utter the words, “I’m the goddamn Batman” and run over police officers, corrupt or otherwise….. wait a minute, Miller wrote that too. That oddity aside, and let’s be honest, any person who would dress up like a bat and fight criminals without any actual powers whatsoever, is probably off his rocker. The second part of this detailed epic is set to come out the Winter of 2013. My only question is if that means January/February of 2013 or if we have to freaking wait until next December. I can only hope for the former.
As for the grade, I need to go for something as equally epic in scope. And I just watched this freaking amazing wrestling match that took place in the first quarter of 2009. Nigel McGuinness has been the Ring of Honor World Champion for damn near a year and a half, and is the only man who ever held that belt for an entire calendar year. While other, even longer reigning champions, Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe got weaker and more worn out as their title reigns got longer, Nigel only seemed to get better and stronger. This was a real quandary, since McGuinness sustained a number of injuries, including tearing TWO biceps muscles. During this match, McGuinness fought the amazing KENTA from Pro Wrestling NOAH. Just the night before Nigel tore his right biceps executing a lariat on KENTA in a tag team match. Nigel showed up sporting these strange adhesive bands on his arm that were supporting the devastating injury that would have sidelined another flat top sporting champion from another promotion in the Northeast. McGuinness and KENTA worked for more than 20 minutes, with KENTA going to work instantly on the injured left arm of the Champion. The entire time during the match all I could ponder was how did Nigel keep going. He was like a machine, delivering multiple Tower of Londons (Ace Crushers from an elevated position) and he himself getting kicked in the injured biceps dozens of times, not to mention KENTA working submission style holds on McGuinness’ arm quite a few times. The reason I equate this match with the animated Dark Knight Returns is that like the aged Bruce Wayne, McGuinness had been carrying the company and the belt for over a year and dispite being seriously injured, continued on, defending the World Title dozens of times. And like every great champion, Nigel faced the additional challenge of getting hit with the World’s Best Edition of KENTA’s “Go To Sleep,” which may be more famous, but not better executed, for being used by CM Punk. McGuinness was able to pull out the win by working on KENTA’s left shoulder, hitting the Tower of London numerous times and finally getting KENTA to submit using the London Dungeon submission hold. Being the consumate heel, even after surviving this epic battle, McGuinness razzed the crowd and left the ring without shaking the challenger’s hand. That’s something the Dark Knight would do too.