I've always been a fan of both MARVEL and DC animated movies. They allow for more things to be done than live action movies can accomplish. The voice acting is more often than not great and the animation has only gotten better over the years. Also they usually they always follow an origins story or a famous comic series. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (and subsequently Part 2) follows the Frank Miller story arc "The Dark Knight Returns" from 1986.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 follows the story of now 55-year old Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) after the death of Jason Todd, also known as [the second] Robin. A gang known as The Mutants have taken over and are terrorizing Gotham City. Wayne remains friends with the now 70 year old, and soon to be retiring, Commissioner James Gordon (David Selby). The two meet to talk one night and have drinks since it has been 10 years since Batman was last seen in Gotham. We also find out the the Joker (Michael Emerson) has been in a catatonic state since the last time Batman appeared and that Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face (Wade Williams), has had facial reconstruction surgery. Bruce decides to come out of retirement, ignoring the wishes of Alfred (Michael Jackson). While taking on Harvey Dent, who has had a breakdown, and taking on The Mutants, Batman meets a girl named Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter). He sees potential in her and takes her under his wing as the new Robin. The two then team up to stop the threatening Mutants from taking over Gotham City.
There was plenty I really liked about this movie. We'll start with the voice acting since no one really seemed out of place. Wade Willams voiced Harvey Dent well, David Selby did great as Gordon and Ariel Winter was really good as Kelley too. Michael Jackson, no not the deceased pop singer, was good as Alfred and Peter Weller was outstanding as Bruce Wayne. No one felt out of place as the movie went on and they all added emotion a depth to who they were playing. Kudos to Jay Oliva for putting this cast together. The animation was great as well. The city looked great, the characters looked good (the aging was perfect) and the fight scenes were amazing. The dark tones of any Batman movie, feature or show always add that Gotham feel. The music was also good and set that dark tone we've come to expect out of a Batman movie Speaking of fighting and violence there is plenty. The fights between Batman and thugs and or Mutants are brutal and real. While there is no shortage of blood or gun-play as well.
As much as I did like this though, there were a few things that irked me about it. I know Bruce isn't THAT old, but it seemed like he could just jump back into being The Batman with almost no backlash. Sure after the initial return we see Alfred doing some chiropractic work on him. But other than that, this now middle aged man is doing crazy acrobatics, fighting AND taking a beating with almost no repercussions. This thought does change with Part 2, so bear with me. Also this movie felt more like a set-up for Part 2 the whole time. Yes this is a stand alone movie and yes it's done pretty well. But there was always that thought in the back of my head, "This is Part 1, we're getting introduced to everything to set up Part 2." Part 1 does a great job or getting me into the Gotham, people, thoughts and characters, but left me feeling like Part 2 was gonna be more expansive with a better "ending." It still was a great first part that did leave me anticipating watching how everything would unfold.
All in all Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is a great animated flick. It's got the action, tone, characters and especially that same old Batman that we've all come to love. The voice acting was good and couple that with the good animation and good story you've got a decent animated flick. This will leave you hungering to find out how the rest of the story plays out in Part 2. If you like any of the MARVEL or DC animated movies so far you'll like this movie. But think it'll take watching both parts to get a casual fan on board with this movie.