The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition is one of the Best Blu-rays of 2013

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Warner Home Video and DC Animation made many Batman fans dreams come true last year by finally creating every Batman fans dream project: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Only problem was they decided to split the movie into two parts. Now, we finally get Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Deluxe Edition, come on its Warner Home Video you knew this was coming. This epic tale is finally the way it is meant to be shown.

Movie

One of Comics greatest epics has finally been translated into a movie that almost every comic fan should love. Frank Millar’s The Dark Knight Returns is one of those seminal works that along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen forever changed the face of comics. These two works from the early – mid 80s transformed comics from camp that it became in the 70s to what it is today.

Without The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton would have a) been able to revive the Batman movie franchise, he certainly would not have been able to create his “dark” vision of Batman. Millar’s Batman wasn’t the Batman of the 60s or 70s, his Batman, was dark, gritty, grim, not afraid to hurt people.  For decades this has been considered un-filmable.  But now, one of my dream movie projects has seen the light of day. Last year’s part one was one of my favorite films of 2012 and I was scared part 2 would be screwed up.

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I loved how the movie handles the public reactions to Batman. He is polarizing to the citizens and authority figures of Gotham. Some see him as a hero taking out the trash, while others see him as flaunting “authority” in a society that seems to like the ham fisted politics of the times. Remember The Dark Knight Returns was published in the 80s and reflects the morals of the times. We even get Regan as the President in this.  The movie is relentlessly dark, but Batman still serves as a symbol against that darkness.

The sound design is amazing; you can feel every inch of Batman’s age and wince at every punch or kick he dishes out and receives. I marveled at the great sound effects. I literally cringed when I heard the bones cracking during the famous Batman/Superman fight. Director Jay Oliva does a really nice job with the animation style. While basic and plain, it is fluid and fits the material perfectly.

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My only quibble with the movie is, I’m not sure if I liked the voice acting or not. It is really hard, basically impossible to top the voice work of the great Kevin Conroy who for many is the definitive voice of Batman, while Mark Hamill, is the definitive voice of The Joker. Peter Weller ‘s (Batman/Bruce Wayne) wasn’t consistent and didn’t sound as gravely or imposing as I would have liked. This movie features two of the all time great fights – Batman Vs. Superman and Batman vs. The Mutant Leader. Batman’s famous line “You don’t get it Son, this is an operating table and I’m the surgeon” still gives me chills.

When I interviewed Michael Emerson about his voice work as The Joker he sounded kind of disinterested and red flags went off in my head. I’m sorry to say that his voice was not right for the Joker at all. There was none of that maniacal menace that we’ve come to expect from the Joker. He actually sounded a bit bored which is the one thing you don’t associate with the Joker.  I did eventually grow to enjoy the subtleness in Emerson’s performance.

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The Joker is truly terrifying, while the epic battle between Superman and Batman is flawlessly executed, old Ollie and fat Selina are here. We get the Joker’s escape in all its gruesome glory.   Almost everything in the concluding chapter is perfectly handled. All the iconic moments and beats from the book are perfectly realized in here.  Like the comic, no punches are pulled in this. It is a truly brutal portrait.

Extras

  • This Blu-ray set includes a full length Commentary track with Director Jay Oliva, and Screenwriter Bob Goodman.
  • Additional Episodes: From the DC Comics Vault – One of the things that I love most about DC Animation home videos is that they always include episodes from the various Animated series. This time out they include 4 choice cuts from Batman: The Animated Series and 1 from the Brave and the Bold. I really wish they’d release HD Version of BTAS as those are really looking a bit dated, but the story telling and animation style is still brilliant.
  • Her Name is Carrie…Her Role as Robin (12 Min, HD) – Nice feature that talks about Carrie’s origins and the role women Heroes play in comics. It’s strange to think about that at the time Dark Knight Returns came out having a female sidekick was a unique thing. In many ways, all these years later, it still is.
  • Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story (39 Min, HD) – Exactly what it says, this is a 40 minute documentary about Bob Kane – the creator of Batman.
  • Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide (9 Min, HD)
  • The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death (14 Min, HD) – Creepy look at the history of the Joker
  • From Sketch to Screen: Exploring the Adaptation Process with Jay Oliva (43 Min, HD) – Very nice look at how scenes from the comic were translated into film and the thought process behind the translation.
  • Digital Comic excerpts from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Falls
  • Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (85 Min, HD) – This is a new full length documentary about Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns its history and impact.
  • DigitalHD Copy – Ultraviolet Format

Even though the inclusion of the tongue and cheek Brave and the Bold seems odd, it showcases the Campier form of Batman. I love the choice of extras on this set, taken all together they give a full 360 degree view of this movie and the character of Batman from every angle. At over 3 hours all of them feel meaty and necessary.

Conclusion

I was annoyed at the idea of buying this movie again but DC Animation pulled no punches to deliver one of the greatest Batman stories ever told in the full-featured complete format it deserved. You can’t help but walk away from this really admiring how epic this story is. The Blu-ray is packed to the gills with extras that actually mean something. Yes all the extras on this set were taken from the first two releases, but it feels so complete now. So far this is probably my favorite Blu-ray release of 2013.

Grades

  • Movie – A+
  • Audio/Video – A+
  • Extras – A+
  • Presentation – A+

Final Overall Grade – A+