Frank Miller’s now dated but quintessential Batman tale makes the transition into the first part of an animated full feature.
Written back in 1986 it’s the story many a Batman graphic novel fan will be well familiar with, as an aging Bruce Wayne comes out of a ten year retirement to battle a new mutant gang threat on the near future dystopian Gotham Streets.
Like many animated features of this nature the speed and ferocity of action is were TDK Returns excels, but not so much in limited and dated dialogue that holds true to the satirical nature of much of Miller’s source.
As one stop for what happens when Batman starts getting on a bit, it’s faithful, absorbing and vital, as was the source, in fleshing out additional characters with a returning Jim Gordon and a ‘corrected’ Harvey Dent; we are also treated to the bigger and better placing of The Bat mythology in Gotham and the legacy of The Dark Knight on the culture of the murky city, with frequent media commentary reporting escalating criminality, a theme central to the end of Nolan’s Begins.
Voices provided most notably by Peter Weller as Batman are solid enough, but sometimes when under the hood it’s hard to shake memories of Robocop!
Much of the narrative here doesn’t really provide anything that we have long known since the novels or dissected from Christopher Nolan’s most famous screen adaptations, but Returns isn’t at fault here as this was one of THE generating stories for the modern Batman we are most familiar with.
Loyalists and lovers of the media will lap this up and rightly so. As a fan of the written Batman my preference has long been to consume the pulp form and rely on the movie re-imagining as my chosen version; But this is no less entertaining or essential as a compelling Batman tale in a faithful adaptation with some highlight action best witnessed in two battles with the Bane like mutant gang boss revisiting the Rise of The Dark Knight once more.
A tantalizing final scene featuring a very familiar face builds anticipation for Part 2.
As a reworking though, it’s probably now unnecessary, with the movies borrowing heavily from both this and Year One, TDK returns has been beaten to the punch with the release of this timed to come shortly after last summer’s big movie release.
As a media that essentially animates Miller’s pages directly there are undeniable limitations when being so faithful and the formats are as ever, very close creative cousins. In recent times the themes within have been better portrayed, and more realistically in the live action of The Dark Knight universe.
But if you love your Batman animated this is the place to get your kicks; a better novel adaptation you could not imagine.
(BluRay, Lovefilm by post)