There are those of you who doubted he’d make it. Hah! Hah, we say!
Harlan Ellison, writer, raconteur, gadfly, screenwriter, actor, power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a character in The Dark Knight Returns, Freakazoid, Concrete, The Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, celebrates his 80th birthday today. Yes, he’s been striking terror into the hearts of mere mortals for eight decades.
We don’t even know where to start with his list of accomplishments. If you’ve never read anything from him, go read his [[[Dream Corridor]]] comic collections, or [[[Phoenix Without Ashes]]], or watch some of his videos from his days on the Sci-Fi Channel here.
He even thanks you for your birthday wishes:
And here’s the cover to his Incredible Hulk #140, drawn by Herb Trimpe, who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday! Congrats to both of you!
We should have seen this coming. Last fall, Warner Animation unleashed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, adapting the first two issues of Frank Miller’s seminal prestige format miniseries. In January, we finally got Part 2, completing the story of 50 year old Bruce Wayne being forced to don the cape and cowl once more, to bring justice back to a crumbling Gotham City. Out now is Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition, seamlessly editing the two sections into a 148-minute feature.
As previously reviewed, the adaptation is largely successful, recreating the bleak look and feel of a fascist world, protected by a Man of Steel working for a government Wayne no longer recognizes. The story is clearly Miller’s musing on the role of heroes in the time of Ronald Reagan but it is also a thrilling adventure, looking at a bitter, somewhat broken hero who has turned his back on the people he swore to protect. Events and destiny, though, have something to say about that choice.
So, the question becomes, is it worth buying the combined parts in a single disc? As a film, no, not really. Being a successful adaptation, it lays the ground work in the first half so things explode and rush along in the second., Splicing them together, it plays nicely and ramps things up and without waiting six months, delivers on the promised climax. It’s a satisfying adaptation from writer Bob Goodman and director Jay Oliva.
What you also get that’s new is a fun, interesting Audio Commentary track from Oliva, Goodman and voice director Andrea Romano and a second Blu-ray disc containing all the previous features plus a brand new lengthy documentary on Miller. Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (69 minutes), narrated by Malcolm McDowell, not only talks to Miller at length but includes colleagues including Jenette Kahn, Editor Denny O’Neil, collaborator Klaus Janson, admirers Grant Morrison, Michael Uslan, and Mike Carlin. We meet the Virginia fan boy who successfully found work as an artist at Marvel, getting noticed for his work on Daredevil, leading to coming over to DC for Ronin then Dark Knight, helping shape the next generation of storytelling. Unfortunately, we don’t see the remainder of his sporadic career in comics and Hollywood.
The documentary makes this worth owning while the combined feature is a more satisfying viewing experience.
Like my colleagues on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I have been confounded by the negative energy directed at Ben Affleck after the announcement by Warner Bros. that he would play Batman in the next Superman film.
The Internets almost always hate every announcement from Hollywood that has anything to do with nerd culture. I remember the howls when Christian Bale was announced to play Batman in the Nolan movies, and how Heidi McDonald ran photo number eight from this slideshow in her defense of the casting. Worked for me.
The objections seem to stem from fans’ displeasure with some of Affleck’s earlier work. They especially cite Daredevil, which I kind of liked, even though it’s overwrought, and Gigli, which I haven’t seen. And don’t intend to ever see.
I love Ben Affleck. I have loved him at least since Mallrats and definitely Chasing Amy. When I had a chance to talk to Kevin Smith at some industry event, I told him I thought Affleck would be a great Superman. He agreed. He even said Warner Bros. wanted Ben for the part. That was more than 15 years ago.
Which brings me to the reason I believe.
I can only imagine that the Internet complainers never saw Hollywoodland. It’s the story of a private detective investigating the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman in the original television series. Affleck plays Reeves in a performance that, in my opinion, should have earned him an Academy Award nomination. He not only creates a layered, believable portrayal of George Reeves, the man, but he vividly recreates the Reeves we knew from television. The way he holds his body changes when he is on-camera and when he is off.
This performance alone should tell us that Ben can be both The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne. I’m not the only fan of the character who thinks so. The actor previously rumored to be the next Batman agrees with me.
So does Patton Oswalt, whom I love very dearly (and chastely, from afar). He said:
“A Batman portrayed by someone who’s tasted humiliation and a reversal of all personal valences — kind of like Grant Morrison’s “Zen warrior” version of Batman, post-Arkham Asylum, who was, in the words of Superman, “…the most dangerous man on the planet”? Think for a second and admit that Ben Affleck is closer to that top-shelf iteration of The Dark Knight than pretty much anyone in Hollywood right now.”
That quote should establish Oswalt’s geek credentials pretty well. And make his point.
Like Denny O’Neil, I have my qualms about a movie that features both Superman and Batman. It could be fun, but I’m not sure that Zack Snyder, the director of Man of Steel, is the person to direct it. He has cited Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns as his inspiration, and that’s not my favorite interpretation of the characters. I like it when Batman and Superman are friends, when Superman’s optimism lightens Batman, and Batman’s realism ground Superman.
I’m less happy when they fight. Especially if they aren’t going to team up and save the world together at the end.
This is the comic book event that either propelled DC Comics towards the New 52 paradigm or sent the company spinning off the rails, alienating the very core audience they sought to retain. Now it is being adapted into animated form from Warner Home Entertainment in July. Some speculate this direct-to-video movie will transition the animated heroes towards New 52 incarnations but that has not been confirmed. Here’s the release:
BURBANK, CA (April 17, 2013) – The world is turned upside down as one of earth’s greatest super heroes – Flash – wakes up devoid of his super powers in the all-new Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Original Animated Movies. Produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, this all-new, PG-13 rated film arrives July 30, 2013 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP), DVD ($19.98 SRP) and Digital Download. The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack will include UltraViolet™*.
When time travel allows a past wrong to be righted for Flash and his family, the event’s temporal ripples prove disastrous, creating a fractured, alternate reality where the Justice League never formed, and even Superman is nowhere to be found. Amidst a new world being ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Flash must team with a grittier, more violent Batman and government agent Cyborg to restore the continuity of Flash’s original timeline.
“Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has all the elements of another great film – dynamic forceful villains, treacherous twists and turns and internal tensions amongst heroes,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Home Video Vice President, Family, Animation and Partner Brands
Marketing. “Showcasing a cast that brings together some of today’s popular primetime television actors with many fans’ favorite voices from the original series, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is proud to release this title as the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie.”
Primetime television stars Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy) and Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy), the voices of Barry Allen/Flash and Thomas Wayne/Batman, respectively, unite with numerous greats of television and film to fashion the famed animated roles. Adding to the celebrity-laden voice cast and providing thrilling additions to the Justice League series are Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale, Friday Night Lights, Chronicle) as Cyborg, C. Thomas Howell (Southland, The Outsiders) as Thawne/Professor Zoom, Nathan Fillion (Castle) as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as Slade and Deathstroke, Dana Delany (Body of Proof) as Lois Lane, Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) as Aquaman, Danny Huston (Magic City) as General Lane, Sam Daly (The Office, The Daly Show) as Superman, and Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) as Batman.
Screenwriter Jim Krieg delivers an action-packed vision of the legendary comic book miniseries Flashpoint, by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert, adding to the over 13 million DC Universe video units produced to date. Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) is director and
James Tucker (Superman: Unbound) is producer.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Blu-ray™ has over three hours of exciting extra content, including:
A Flash in Time: Are there other dimensions? Can time travel get us there? And if The Flash existed, could he really travel through time? Interviews with experts in mythology, theoretical physics and top DC writers will examine the science and legacy of the storytelling behind the fiction.
My Favorite Villians! The Flash Bad Guys: Acclaimed DC Comics writer Geoff Johns and others share their favorite Flash villains in this short film that gives viewers a glimpse into the Flash’s world through the eyes of some of the nefarious characters he has encountered over the past 70 years!
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe animated movie:. An in-depth look into the next DC Animated feature film, spotlighting the cast and crew.
Matt Bomer, star of USA Network’s hit series White Collar, has joined the panel for the World Premiere of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Superman: Unbound this Friday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m. as part of the WonderCon marquee evening event in the Anaheim Convention Center.
As the voice of Superman, Bomer will headline the post-screening panel discussion alongside Castle star Molly Quinn (the voice of Supergirl), producer/director James Tucker (Justice League), screenwriter Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and eight-time Emmy Award-winning dialogue director Andrea Romano (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). Moderator Gary Miereanu will guide the proceedings, offering glimpses into future DC Universe Animated Original Movies, and exclusive prizes for some lucky fans in attendance.
In Superman: Unbound, a destructive force is devastating planets across the galaxy – with Earth next in its sights – and even Superman may not be capable of halting the destruction alone. Based on the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank 2008 DC Comics release “Superman: Brainiac,” the film’s stellar voicecast also includes John Noble (Fringe, The Lord of the Rings films) as Brainiac, and Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Superman: Unbound will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and For Download on May 7, 2013.
Prior to the premiere, the Superman: Unbound panelists Quinn, Tucker, Goodman and Romano will sign WonderCon-exclusive mini-posters from 3:00-4:00 p.m. at the DC Entertainment booth.
The trailer for this May’s release was missing from The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 but was subsequently released online. Now come the complete details of the next direct-to-DVD film from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The fun vocal casting takes television stalwarts from popular genre series and uses them in other iconic roles. Here is the complete press release.
BURBANK, CA (February 21, 2012) – A destructive force is devastating planets across the galaxy – with Earth next in its sights – and even Superman may not be capable of halting the terror in SUPERMAN: UNBOUND, the next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated film arrives May 7, 2013 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP) and DVD ($19.98 SRP), On Demand and for Digital Download. The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack will include UltraViolet™*.
Based on the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank 2008 Action Comics storyline “Superman: Brainiac,” SUPERMAN: UNBOUND finds the Man of Steel aptly handling day-to-day crime while helping acclimate Supergirl to Earth’s customs and managing Lois Lane’s expectations for their relationship. Personal issues take a back seat when the horrific force responsible for the destruction of Krypton – Brainiac – begins his descent upon Earth. Brainiac has crossed the universe, collecting cities from interesting planets – including Supergirl’s home city of Kandor – and now the all-knowing, ever-improving android has his sights fixed on Metropolis. Superman must summon all of his physical and intellectual resources to protect his city, the love of his life and his newly-arrived cousin.
The film’s stellar voicecast is led by Matt Bomer (White Collar) as Superman, John Noble (Fringe, The Lord of the Rings films) as Brainiac, Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane and Molly Quinn (Castle) as Supergirl. Additional voices in the cast include Golden Globe Award winner Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as Ma Kent, Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises) as Perry White, Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, Office Space) as Steve Lombard, Stephen Root (Boardwalk Empire, Justified) as Zor-El, and Alexander Gould (Weeds) as Jimmy Olsen.
Supervising Producer James Tucker (Justice League, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) also directs the film from a script by Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns).
“SUPERMAN: UNBOUND adds an all-new chapter to the growing legacy of animated films featuring the Man of Steel and his epic challenges to maintain peace on Earth,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Home Video Vice President, Family & Animation and Partner Brands Marketing. “Matt Bomer’s voice epitomizes the All-American hero that is Superman, and John Noble counters that tone with a commanding, chilling delivery for Brainiac. A superhero is only as good as the depths of his opposition, and Noble brings out the best in his villainous portrayal of Brainiac.”
SUPERMAN: UNBOUND Blu-ray™ Combo Pack has over 4 1/2 hours of exciting content, including:
Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
Sneak Peek at Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
Featurette – “Kandor: History of the Bottle City” – An all-new featurette. Kandor: a peaceful scientific community dedicated toward the preservation of all that is good on Krypton, the home world of Superman. That is, until the city was ripped from its world and placed into a small glass bottle! This is the short story highlighting the shrunken city of Kandor. Its history just as fascinating as it is unique, here is how it ties in directly with the Man of Tomorrow.
Featurette – “Brainiac: Technology and Terror” – An all-new featurette. Mostly machine, but part sentient being, Brainiac steals cities and destroys worlds. Is he the most vile of Superman’s villainous foes? Experience the Brainiac mythology and find out why Superman barely stands a chance!
Audio Commentary – Featuring members of the creative team: Mike Carlin, Bob Goodman and James Tucker.
Four bonus episodes from Superman: The Animated Series (“The Last Son of Krypton, Part 1”; “New Kids in Town”; and “Little Girl Lost, Parts 1 & 2”), all handpicked by producer Alan Burnett.
Digital Comic – Excerpt from the graphic novel Superman: Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
* Spuerman: Unbound UltraViolet offer is a limited time offer. Restrictions and limitations apply. Go to ultraviolet.flixster .com/info for details.
The second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns demonstrates how the world has changed since the graphic novel source material was published in 1986. Frank Miller’s reinvention of Batman was also his personal reaction to the conservative, jingoistic United States of America of the decade. President Ronald Reagan was a folksy president, good with a quip, and saw the world in stark black and white terms, which was feeling wrong in the final years of the Cold War. Miller also questioned all authority figures from know-it-all doctors who loved to hear themselves on the growing number of vapid talk shows to the unformed law-enforcement representatives who fired first and then questioned orders. While some of this was evident in part one, which was released last fall, this installment, out on Tuesday, really shines a spotlight on the themes.
A visual tour-de-force, Miller’s four-part The Dark Knight took the storytelling techniques he developed for Daredevil and applied them to DC’s two biggest icons. Readers had seen nothing like it before and heralded the work an instant classic. Here we are, more than twenty years later being given a two-part adaptation of this story and suddenly it feels dated. Here’s no question screenwriter Bob Goodman and director Jay Oliva honored the source material and its satisfying as an adaptation.
But the notion that Superman, the ultimate authority figure, was blindly taking orders from the President, and allowed himself to take lives in an international conflict feels wrongheaded. That Batman and the other costumed heroes and villains would all willingly vanish into the shadows that spawned them feels wrong, as well. Much as it felt wrong for Batman to vanish for eight years in the Christopher Nolan films, it also now feels like Bruce Wayne would never stop fighting crime in his city.
But he’s back, pushing fifty, and feeling the effects of time on his bulky form. He’s dealing with a city that needs him but an administration that does not want him, especially as Commissioner James Gordon steps down, turning the police over to Ellen Yindel, who immediately wants Batman shot on sight. Where Oliva’s action sequences totally fail is that the criminals and police alike fire endless streams of bullets with little consideration of the collateral damage being inflict or civilian lives being endangered. Thousands of bullets are fired, but none strike Batman or Robin, which is stunning incompetence (and bad storytelling).
The conflict on the island of Corto Maltese is the backdrop as the Joker talks his idiot doctor into bringing him to a talk show to tell his side of the story. Michael Emerson’s clown prince of crime is cold and maniacal but depicted, he is a homicidal figure, nothing funny about his actions or methods at all. The character design may be Miller inspired but he’s too normal looking, just a muscular specimen in makeup which feels wrong. The criminal madman is free and after Batman after making a stop to humiliate a gone-to-pot Selina Kyle, now a Madame. The Joker and Batman face off one final time and this is when the Dark Knight finally gets hurt, in the Tunnel of Love of all places, a subtle nod to the homoerotic subtext Miller added to their relationship.
All the episodic explosive action leads up to the inevitable conflict between the symbol of conformity and the agent of justice. Their climactic battle is nicely handled as is the denouement, bringing the 76 minute story to a fine ending.
Peter Weller’s Batman is okay but nothing special while Mark Valley’s Superman works much better. Ariel Winter’s Robin doesn’t get nearly enough to say but plenty to do in the film. The rich voice cast blends well together, aided by a good score from Christopher Drake.
The combo pack contains the Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet versions of the film. Special features include a too-short 9:24 Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide, as the usual suspects talk about why these two fight and who should win. The longer, 14:07, The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death nicely uses archival material so his creator, Jerry Robinson gets his say. While it’s good to have Emerson’s take on the character, Mark Hamill’s absence is missed as are his current handlers such as writer Scott Snyder. Oliva takes us through numerous sequences in the 43 minute From Sketch to Screen and he gives kudos to those who took Miller’s work and brought it the screen. Oliva is well-spoken and some of the information provided is interesting to hear and see.
Three episodes from Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Brave & the Bold are included on the Blu-ray disc. On the other hand, the promised preview of Superman: Unbound is curiously absence from the disc. Instead, there is another digital excerpt from the graphic novel.
Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes has won the Costa Book Awards biography of the year. They won the £5,000 biography prize for a book that interweaves the true and tragic story of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia with Mary’s own troubled relationship with her father, the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.
The Talbots have known of the win for several weeks. “It has been really hard keeping quiet about it,” said Mary. “We were astonished. Just being shortlisted was amazing and hearing we’d won the category was stunning. We’re delighted of course, both personally – it’s the first story I’ve had published – but also for the medium, I can’t believe a graphic novel has won.”
It is not the first graphic work to win a major literary prize – Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Pulitzer in 1992 and Chris Ware won the Guardian first book prize in 2001 for Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth – but the Costa award is still a significant moment for the graphic medium.
“It is a good thing for graphic novels as a whole,” said Bryan Talbot whose prodigious output includes The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Alice in Sunderland as well as strips for Judge Dredd and Batman. “Graphic novels are becoming increasingly accepted as a legitimate art form.”
The last graphic novel spike came about 25 years ago with the popularity of books such as The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Maus. The problem then, said Talbot, was that there were not enough books to feed this. “By the time you’d read a dozen or so of the best titles, there wasn’t enough left to keep this nascent interest going. Since then, there has been an increasing number of graphic novels published and now we have this whole canon of quality work.
“We are living in the golden age of graphic novels. There are more and better comics being drawn today than ever in the history of the medium and there’s such a range of styles of artwork, of genre and of subject matter.”
Judges called Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes “a beautifully crafted” work “which crosses the boundaries between literature and the graphic genre with extraordinary effect”.
It’s going to be a whirlwind 24 hours for Ariel Winter.
Sunday night, the young actress was on stage at the Emmy Awards along with her cast of Modern Family to clam the prize for Outstanding Comedy Series, and tonight she’ll be walking the red carpet at the premiere of her new animated film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1.
Winter gives voice to the first female Robin, Frank Miller’s stroke of genius for his landmark comic book story. She’ll join co-stars Peter Weller and David Selby on the red carpet at the Paley Center in Los Angeles tonight, September 24, for the West Coast premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Also on hand will be a quartet of filmmakers: executive producer Bruce Timm, director Jay Oliva, writer Bob Goodman and dialogue director Andrea Romano. The event is completely sold out.
Now in her fourth season as Alex Dunphy on Modern Family, Winter has already carved out quite a career in her brief 14 years. On the big screen, Winter has been seen in films as varied as One Missed Called, Speed Racer, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and A Thousand Words. Anchored by a recurring role as Lucy Moore on ER, Winter’s television career includes guest roles on Criminal Minds, Nip/Tuck, Monk, Jericho, Bones, Crossing Jordan and The Ghost Whisperer.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 represents Winter’s second foray into animated DCU entertainment. Winter provided the voice of the savvy 10-year-old Princess Perdita of Vlatava, whom Oliver Queen races to protect in the DC Universe Animated Original Short, Green Arrow. She reprised the role for an episode of Young Justice. She has been particularly active in animation, providing voices for films such as ParaNorman, Ice Age: the Meltdown, Over the Hedge and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and TV series like Phineas and Ferb and The Penguins of Madagascar.
In many ways, Winter is a spunky teenager with equal amounts of smarts and sass. She is honest at every turn. So you know her answers were fun when we sat down to discuss Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 …
QUESTION: Imagining many of your fans are experiencing Batman: The Dark Knight Returns for the first time, describe your character Carrie Kelly’s place in the story.
ARIEL WINTER: Carrie is sort of a street kind of gangster girl who lives in this shady part of Gotham City. She’s always dreamed to meet her hero, Batman. One day she’s walking with her friend Michelle, and they get mugged by the Mutants – but Batman saves her. So she then sets out to be Batman’s partner in crime, er, crime-fighting. And eventually, she succeeds and becomes Robin.
QUESTION: How do you see Carrie’s sense of Batman?
WINTER: I think Carrie feels super ecstatic when Batman includes her in his little facade of Batman and Robin. She feels so honored – it’s a really big deal for her. I think she’s not really not just a crime fighter, though – she’s kind of like his daughter. She really cares for him, and he really cares for her. They’re like family.
QUESTION: Are there similarities between Ariel Winter and Carrie Kelly, and how did that help/hinder getting into character?
WINTER: Carrie and I share a lot of characteristics. We both like crime fighting. We both like Batman. We would both blow off school for crime fighting. (giggles) Actually, no, I would do my school during the day and then crime fight at night.
It wasn’t really hard getting into Carrie’s mindset because I’ve always wanted to play the sort of Tomb Raider, Kick-Ass role where the girl is really the brains behind the power. So I was excited when I got to do it. I just devoured the script. I was surprised. It was pretty violent. I read it and I saw some of the things and I was like, “Woah! That is so cool.” I’m a big fan of that action, thriller sort of thing, so it was exciting for me to read.
QUESTION: How important to you is being the first female Robin?
WINTER: It’s really cool to be the first female animated Robin. There’s been so many amazing boys, but I think I can just bring something new that the fans have never experienced. So I’m really honored to be part of such a fantastic project.
Female empowerment really is important to me. I’m a big nerd of the books from the 15th Century and 16th Century, when the men had all the power and the women had none of it. So to have Robin be a girl is cool because it gives girls a chance to know that they can do everything boys can do, and even better. No offense (laughs), but it’s true.
QUESTION: Are you into comic books?
WINTER: I’m an avid reader, so anything I can read is awesome. I go into comics stores and I can be in there for hours. It’s truly amazing when you open a comic book, because you’re immediately sucked in from the first line. The writing, the graphics, the artwork – it makes you feel like you’re inside the story.
QUESTION: You’re 14 and acting all the time. How do you balance acting with education?
WINTER: You have to be really smart to be an actor. It’s not just saying lines. You have to know the thoughts behind each line, to know what you’re saying. So I think it’s very important to get an education. And I won’t be going to college for acting or film school – I will probably go to college for medical research because it’s something that really interests me. I always tell kids that you’ve got to have something else to fall back on. Acting is my first love – I hope I can do it for the rest of my life. But I’m going to go to college and get a degree in something else. I really feel school is important.
Years in the making, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was never intended to rewrite the rules for the Caped Crusader or become the template for a generation of storytelling. It was, though, the culmination of a series of events that occurred at DC Comics and in Miller’s professional development that nicely dovetailed together. The right book, character, and creator all arrived at the right time, when an audience was ready to accept the radical re-imagining.
Ever since the four-part story heralded the arrival of the Prestige Format and was the first entry in the current field of graphic novels, The Dark Knight Returns has been an influential touchstone to storytellers. Its use of character, page construction, color, and theme showed that four-color heroes can be used for darker concepts, exploring new ideas. As a result, people have been clamoring to see it adapted for the screen, any screen, so it could continue to thrill us. We were teased with the folk at Warner Animation paying homage to Miller’s art style and now-iconic imagery in Animaniacs and Batman the Animated Series.
At long last, Warner Premiere has delivered their finest effort, paying tribute to the story written and pencilled by Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, and colored by Lynn Varley. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is out on home video, as a Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet) and shows the affection from the first frame.
Bob Goodman remained utterly faithful to the story, compressing the first half of the graphic novel into a brisk 76 minutes that still contains the moments you want. Commissioner James Gordon and Bruce Wayne have a nice, warm friendship, Alfred remains his acerbic self, and Carrie Kelly is gung-ho and awkward. The first half of the story deals with several threats to Gotham City, first the gang known as the Mutants and their muscle-bound leader who wants to own the town; and Harvey Dent, seemingly physically cured but proving his mind is as fractured as ever. And watching from confinement is a homicidal maniac long-thought drugged into submission.
The best thing director Jay Oliva, who cut his teeth on Man of Steel and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), did was show us what Miller could only hint at: a 50-year old man who really has to struggle to keep up. He strains to climb a rope and isn’t fast enough to take down the mutant leader the first time they brawl (in fact their two fights is almost a template for the Batman-Bane confrontations in The Dark Knight Rises). This is a 50+ hero who hasn’t seen action in a decade, but we know from the opening scene he remains addicted to adrenaline and action. His return evokes the creature of the night that first established his reputation in the city and once more inspires the populace.
Visually, Miller’s beefed up main characters and gritty style is nicely replicated, complete with making Batman larger-than-life so he dwarfs Carrie and most other mortals. The story remains a future from the fixed point of the 1980s since the story is dependent on that particular view of America, which means so much of the technology appears antiquated by today’s standards but works wonderfully. There’s also a nice meta shout-out to other titles from 1985-87 that helped reshape comics: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta.
As usual Andrea Romano has assembled a stellar cast for the voices and while most will lament the absence of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Peter Weller more than ably fills the cape and cowl with gravitas. He’s older, wearier. David Selby’s Gordon has much of the same feeling which is nicely contrasted by Ariel Winter’s Carrie. Wade Williams as Dent and Michael McKean as a blowhard psychiatrist nicely round out the cast.
Interestingly, the packaging avoids imitating Miller’s style, a curious choice. Similarly, Miller, Janson and Varley’s lack of participation in the extras is glaring. They are merely represented with a digital comic excerpt from issue one of The Dark Knight. Instead, we get “Her Name if Carrie…Her Role is Robin” (12:00) with Grant Morrison, Mike Carlin, Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, and others discussing the radical use of a girl as the new sidekick. There are some nice bits placing this in an historic context. The 2008 “Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story” (38:00) is reused here and we’re reminded of the egotistical Kane avoiding sharing credit with anyone.
On the Blu-ray is a Two-Face two-parter from Batman the Animated Series. There’s also a sneak peek of part two, due out in early 2013.
It’s a shame Miller wouldn’t participate and the film lacks a commentary track since bringing this to life appears to have been a labor of love for all involved.